7 of the biggest scams targeting vulnerable people during lockdown
Our thanks to Solihull Safeguarding Adults Board (SSAB) for the following information.
In response to the increasing and ongoing threat from scams linked to COVID-19, Solihull's SAB has collated details of seven common scams reported nationwide - that people should be aware of:
- Fake faces masks: A desperate shortage of PPE has led to some people selling bogus items. This was in fact one of the first scams to be flagged up when the number of Covid-19 cases had started to rapidly escalate in March. In some cases the con merchants are going door-to-door and use their sales pitch as an excuse to gain access to a property. Other counterfeit products which could be offered include hand sanitiser - also in short supply - or swabbing kits.
- Bogus Red Cross workers: Some cold callers are taking the scam a step further and actually calling on residents pretending to be from either the Red Cross or NHS. They claim to be carrying out mandatory testing, again in hope of getting into people's houses. The charity said it was "really troubled" by reports. "To be clear: the Red Cross is NOT conducting coronavirus tests anywhere in the UK," said a spokesman.
- Scam police warnings: Some people have received text messages claiming to be from police and government and warning they face fines for leaving their home during the lockdown. There have also been less frequent reports from around the country of people actually being approached in person and ordered to hand over cash by crooks who pretend to be undercover officers.
- Made-up tax rebates: Even in normal times it's not uncommon for criminals to pose as officials from HM Revenue & Customs. And with many residents seeing a squeeze on their finances, its not surprising that attempts to entice them with bogus rebates continue. Last month Action Fraud claimed that almost £2 million had already been lost to these types of swindles.
- Government giveaways: Along similar lines are texts and emails which purport to be from government departments. These are often branded to look like official messages and direct people to a fake gov.uk website. Its via this that people will be asked to enter sensitive personal information, such as bank details.
- Vaccine fast-tracking: Some members of the public have reported calls offering "priority" vaccines. It's worth noting that there is currently no vaccine available for Covid-19, with official estimates suggesting any inoculation programme could still be 12 to 18 months away.
- Missed parcels: Many more residents are having deliveries to their home due to self-isolation. But some scammers are using this to their advantage by leaving fake "missed parcel" notices on the doorstep. This encourages people to call a premium-rate phone number to arrange for another delivery.
The Norfolk Against Scams Partnership are running an anti-scamming campaign over the next three weeks with a different focus on partners’ social media platforms each week, using the hashtag #NorfolkScamAware.
The three themes are:
- Trusted information – to guide the public to useful information and support agencies.
- Protect – to give advice on how people can better equip themselves to identify the signs of scamming.
- Watch Out – to make victims aware of the Norfolk Scam Prevention Service and the new scams that have emerged due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Information will be shared on Twitter, Facebook and the weekly Norfolk Trading Standards alerts.