Coronavirus: watch out for scams

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.

Officers from H&F Council will never ask you to share your bank details (or other personal or financial information) over the phone. If you receive a call that you feel is not genuine, please hang up and report it to Action Fraud.

Scams to look out for

Be aware of people offering or selling:

  • virus testing kits - these are only offered by the NHS
  • vaccines or miracle cures - there is currently no vaccine or cure
  • overpriced or fake goods to protect yourself from coronavirus such as anti-bacterial products
  • shopping or medication collection services
  • home cleaning services

You should also be aware of:

Track and trace scams

Some residents have received calls from people claiming to work for the NHS and suggesting that the resident may have been exposed to COVID-19. The fraudster has then told them that they must pay for a testing kit which is not true.

NHS workers or contact tracers will never ask you:

  • to dial a premium rate number to speak to them (for example, those starting in 09 or 087)
  • to make any form of payment
  • for any details about your bank account or credit/debit card number
  • for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts
  • for any passwords or PINs, or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs over the phone
  • to purchase a product
  • to download any software to your device or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet
  • to access any website that does not belong to the Government or NHS

The only website the service will ask you to visit is the NHS test and trace service.

Phishing emails

There are also COVID-19 themed phishing emails attempting to trick people into opening malicious attachments, or revealing sensitive personal and financial information.

This includes:

  • fake articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website to sign up for a newsletter
  • investment schemes and trading advice encouraging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn
  • emails purporting to be from a research group that mimics the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • emails purporting to be from HMRC offering a tax refund and directing victims to a fake website to harvest their personal and financial details

Read this BBC News article on COVID-19 themed phishing emails.

How to protect yourself and vulnerable family members

The most important thing to remember is: 

Be cautious and listen to your instincts if you are contacted by someone you do not know, either in person, by phone or online.

Don’t be afraid to hang up the phone, bin the letter or delete the email or text - if something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t.

If you cannot be sure, check with someone you trust, or contact Citizen's Advice or Action Fraud.

The Alzheimer’s Society has produced a handy guide to avoid scams, including a dementia friendly postcard.

Top tips to avoid being scammed

  • Do not open the door to anyone you don't know - talk through a closed window
  • Do not be rushed into making a decision. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is
  • Only purchase goods from legitimate retailers and take a moment to think before parting with money or personal information
  • Do not assume everyone is genuine. It's okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

Don’t click on links, or attachments in suspicious emails or texts and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal, or financial details.

Contacts and reporting a scam

For advice on scams call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 11 33 or use their online service to check if something might be a scam.

To report a scam call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

You can also contact your bank if you think you have been scammed.

To learn more about different types of scams visit the Friends Against Scams website.

For more on common types of scams and other scams happening now visit Scams and doorstep crime.

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