Residents in H&F are being warned to keep vigilant as fraudsters are exploiting the relaxed lockdown measures to try and scam people.
The appeal comes after two recent incidents in the borough, one over the phone and one visit in person.
Fortunately, in both those cases, the residents knew what to do to avoid being duped by the deceitful scammers.
“As the lockdown restrictions ease and life begins to return to normal, unscrupulous scammers are trying to take advantage of residents and we won’t tolerate it,” said Cllr Wesley Harcourt, H&F Cabinet Member for Environment.
“We urge residents to remain alert to these criminals and if in doubt, call the authorities. A genuine caller will have nothing to hide.”
For the phone scam, the resident who banks with NatWest received a call from a number showing as ‘NW’.
The caller said he was from the fraud team and gave the customer's name saying there had been suspicious activity on the account. They named two payments from the customer’s account, but these were fictitious and quoted just so they could justify ordering the resident a new bank card.
The caller knew the resident’s email address and some financial details such as the overdraft limit, account number and their mother’s maiden name. However, when the caller asked for security numbers, the resident became suspicious. When they challenged the caller, he hung up the phone.
By this point the fraudster had enough information to be able to set up an online banking account they alone could access. Luckily, the resident called the fraud team for their bank and they confirmed no withdrawals had been made and made the account secure.
A Fulham resident received a visit from a builder who offered to do some guttering work for an agreed small fee. But once on the roof, they claimed there were major faults, which required a full replacement.
The builders insisted on cash payments, totalling £9,000. Thankfully the bank and a concerned neighbour contacted the police and Trading Standards respectively. After a visit from the police, the builders were still demanding payment for VAT.
But on a follow-up visit from police and Trading Standards, the builders eventually left and the resident did not pay any additional money for work that was done.
If someone who phones you appears to know your details, always try and call a fraud team yourself, ideally on a different line. If you can’t do that, simply dial some random numbers into the phone and call those first, to ensure the fraudster is not still on the line. Never use a number they have given you.
Check your bank’s online help pages, where you can usually find excellent advice.
Do not allow strangers that call at your door to do work, regardless of how cheap it seems. If you’re told that someone suspects you have a problem with a roof or anything else, it’s safer to refuse and perhaps tell them you have a regular handyman who does jobs like that for you.
Unfortunately, there are fraudsters exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to scam the public.
These criminals are taking advantage of people’s vulnerability at a time when they are likely to be distracted by concerns regarding coronavirus. Victims of these scams have already lost over £1 million.
It’s worth taking time to make sure you are protecting yourself and your family from those trying to take advantage of this situation.
For further advice on staying safe and avoiding the scammers, check out our Trading Standards pages.
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