Public urged to 'be on their guard' against coronavirus-related scams as fraudsters target vulnerable
Trading standards experts are warning people to beware of criminals and rogue traders who are trying to con people with coronavirus related scams.
Fraudsters are praying on people's uncertainty and fear to convince them to hand over their money for substandard goods, services they don't need, and scams.
In Lancashire, the county council received a report of a doorstep cold caller in South Ribble who attempted to charge an elderly man £3,500 for power washing his driveway. Trading standards is looking into this issue.
The police have also received reports of door to door sales people offering "home coronavirus testing kits". Please be aware, such items are fake, no such testing facility is currently available to the public in the UK.
The police have also received reports of cold callers selling hand sanitiser, masks and rubber gloves and, while this may not be a scam, Trading Standards would warn people against buying these items from anyone other than recognised retailers.
Meanwhile, school meal scam reports are emerging. Parents are being asked to provide bank details to retain a free school meal entitlement. People should never do this and report these scams to the county council.
County Coun. Albert Atkinson, cabinet member for technical services, rural affairs and waste management, said: "There really is no limit to the lengths fraudsters will go in order to con people out of their money.
"Unfortunately, they are taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak to scam vulnerable people.
"We're doing everything we can to make people aware of these scams as they are reported. I'd urge people to be particularly vigilant at the moment and keep a look out for their neighbours.
"Always say no to cold callers, and be suspicious of any unsolicited communications via phone, email or post.
"People can always call our Citizen's Advice Consumer Helpline if they're unsure and need advice, or to report a scam.
"Keep an eye on our Scambuster Stan Facebook page for the latest scam alerts."
Other national and international scams include
• Callers and emailers advising that they have coronavirus symptoms, have large amounts of money waiting in a bank account to be claimed and asking people to email for further information – at which point they may part with key personal details, leading to them losing money via the scam.
• A fraudulent COVID-19 tax refund offer. People are being invited to click on a link to a bogus government web page and complete with key personal/financial details
• Scam emails claiming to be from researchers asking for donations - downloading to a fake Microsoft login page requesting email and passwords.
• Fraudulent sellers offering facemasks and other safety equipment. People should always use known, reputable online suppliers. Trading standards recommends that any transactions over £100 should be paid by credit card for extra protection.
• Hackers are sending emails pretending to be from the World Health Organisation. The email claims that the attached document details how recipients can prevent the spread of the disease. Clicking on the attachment gives the hackers the opportunity to infect the computer with malicious software. If you would like to read information given out by the WHO, go directly to their official website.
Trading Standards advice is to be alert. Never respond to emails if you don't know the sender and don't click on links and divulge personal details.
County Coun. Atkinson added: "Suspicious websites and fake emails are also being used to spread scams around.
"Don't act on the emails if you don't know the sender or think the email looks suspicious. Never click on the link.
"Please check with Trading standards if you are unsure."
Contact the Trading Standards Service via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 2231133 or at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/get-more-help/report-to-trading-standards/.
Lancashire County Council's Safe Trader Scheme can help you find a trader in your area, contact 0303 333 1111 or go to www.safetrader.org.uk.
Follow the Scambuster Stan Facebook page to keep up-to-date with all the latest scam alerts: https://www.facebook.com/StanleyDards/