The Public Protection Partnership (PPP) Trading Standards team is hearing increasing reports of scams relating to the Coronavirus crisis. These 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.
An example of this are fake emails from scammers claiming to represent HRMC. These emails regard claiming tax back or grants and are another way of attempting to attain bank details. Do not respond to these emails, as HRMC will never contact you out of the blue.
Another report has seen email and SMS messages targeting parents with a ‘free school meals’ scam. This is another way of scammers trying to attain banking information, as it requires having to enter bank details to claim free vouchers.
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’.
Do not click on any links or open any attachments unless you are 100% positive you know who they are from.
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.
Attempts to sell miracle cures and vaccines, of which, none exist.
Telephone/ email scams
As more people self-isolate at home there is an increasing risk that telephone, text and email scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company. There is one going round claiming to be from your bank saying a payment hasn’t been taken e.g O2, Vodafone, 3, Giff Gaff or EE and to click here. As soon as you click, your money is gone.
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.
There have been reports of scams involving mobile phone apps, which purport to provide updates on COVID-19. They instead lock the phone upon installation and the device can only be released upon a payment.