Events such as the recent floods and the coronavirus outbreak, sadly, bring out the scammers and fraudsters. They will do almost anything to prey on vulnerable people and we are all in that situation at the moment. Whether worrying about jobs, looking after children, protecting loved ones or just trying to stay on top of things at this difficult time.
National Trading Standards (NTS) issued a summary of scams seen so far - NTS: beware of COVID-19 scams. The message is to stop and think before responding to something, which might, at first sight, appear to be trying to help at a time of crisis. Scams come in all shapes and sizes, at the doorstep, online and over the phone (cold calling) - check if something might be a scam. Examples of identified scams include:
Criminals targeting older people on their doorstep and offering to do their shopping. Thieves take the money and do not return.
Doorstep cleansing services that offer to clean drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus.
Email scams that trick people into opening malicious attachments, which put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details at risk. Some of these emails have lured people to click on attachments by offering information about people in the local area who are affected by coronavirus.
Fake online resources – such as false Coronavirus Maps – that deliver malware such as AZORult Trojan, an information stealing program which can infiltrate a variety of sensitive data. A prominent example that has deployed malware is ‘corona-virus-map[dot]com’.
Companies offering fake holiday refunds for individuals who have been forced to cancel their trips. People seeking refunds should also be wary of fake websites set up to claim holiday refunds.
Fake sanitisers, face masks and Covid19 swabbing kits sold online and door-to-door. These products can often be dangerous and unsafe. There are reports of some potentially harmful hand sanitiser containing glutaral (or glutaraldehyde), which was banned for human use in 2014.
As more people self-isolate at home there is an increasing risk that telephone scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.
There have been reports of thieves extorting money from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a COVID-19 ‘vaccine’.
Illegal money lenders are expected to prey on people’s financial hardship, lending money before charging extortionate interest rates and fees through threats and violence
We should all be initially wary of anyone knocking on the door, calling out of the blue or sending emails and pop up adverts. DON’T click on unknown links, DON’T feel you have to respond to someone on the phone and DO check who is calling at your house - only use trusted sources of information and help. Take a few minutes to think it through and do a few checks as this might save money and emotional distress in the long run.
Every UK mobile subscriber should receive a text message from the government on 24th March, telling them to stay at home and linking to the new restrictions - this one is not a scam.