COVID19, Trading Standards

Scams on the rise in the wake of Coronavirus

Fraudsters have been buying fake NHS and care provider lanyards so they can attempt to enter the homes of vulnerable people, Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards has warned.

Officers have advised residents to never let anyone they’re not expecting or don’t recognise into their home – check first with the caller’s employer either by ringing a number in a phone book or website, or from any existing paperwork. If there’s any doubt then don’t let them in.

The lanyards are being removed from sale by companies like Ebay, after they were alerted by a Surrey resident.

Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards has seen a 40% increase in complaints since March with residents being targeted by serious coronavirus related frauds. Action Fraud estimates over £930,000 has already been lost nationally to coronavirus scams since February.

Statistics show that victims of previous scams are more likely to be targeted or fall victim again. Fraud can destroy people’s life savings, health and independence and could require additional community and NHS support.

Scams which have been reported to trading standards include:

  • A COVID19 voucher informing the email recipient that they can receive money-off vouchers to help with purchases during the pandemic.
  • Automated calls (sometimes from a spoofed local number) telling people that the Government have advised everyone to wear face masks.
  • Sales of miracle cures for coronavirus and fake face masks.
  • Fake charity collectors.
  • COVID19 quizzes on social media claiming to test your knowledge while trying to steal your personal data.
  • Cyber attackers targeting businesses and people working from home.
  • Fake health care workers offering home testing kits.
  • HMRC phishing emails and texts that offer a tax refund to help people protect their finances during lockdown
  • Thieves offering to shop for the elderly and vulnerable and keeping the money.

Denise Turner-Stewart, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Fire and Resilience, said: “At a time where community spirit is vitally needed to support and help the more vulnerable members of our society, we are sadly seeing an unprecedented rise in scams and fraudulent activity. Trading standards has seen a 40% increase in complaints since March in coronavirus related frauds with criminals, offenders and wrongdoers exploiting this outbreak by targeting our most vulnerable residents.

“Since the outbreak started, trading standards has written to 300 residents with tailored scams advice. These letters are being followed up with weekly telephone calls to reiterate scam prevention messages, and to provide human interaction.

“I would like to thank all of our residents who have told us which scams they, members of their families and neighbours have received, enabling us to give warnings to all of our communities in Surrey.”

It’s more important than ever for residents to remember advice from trading standards to protect themselves from fraud. Key advice is:

  • Be sceptical, don’t be afraid to hang up, bin it, delete it or shut the door
  • Take your time, don’t be rushed
  • If you are online, be aware of fake news and use trusted sources such as gov.uk or NHS.uk
  • Know who you’re dealing with, if you need help talk to someone you know or get in touch with trading standards on the numbers below
  • Be aware of advice online about home remedies and treatment for the virus – only see medical advice from qualified doctors.
  • Protect your financial information, especially from people you don’t know and particularly in light of the recent government announcement – key workers and their families can now book to be tested for coronavirus.
  • Do NOT give money, your bank card or PIN to a stranger
  • If you think you have been scammed then call the police on 101 (999 only in an emergency)

Denise Turner-Stewart added: “Now more so than ever, it is important for residents to be aware, be vigilant, know who to trust and remember that not everyone out there is trustworthy. We ask residents to remember trading standards’ advice and check in with friends, family and neighbours to check they’re alright.”

If you think you have been scammed, call the police on 101 (999 in an emergency). To report a scam, please email trading.standards@surreycc.gov.uk or call 01296 388788. For more consumer advice, support or for Surrey County Council’s Coronavirus Information Hub, visit surreycc.gov.uk/coronavirus

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