Scams

Coventry Trading Standards recently stated, “Unscrupulous criminals are exploiting fears about COVID-19 to prey on members of the public, particularly older and vulnerable people who are isolated from family and friends. Trading Standards is warning people to remain vigilant following a rise in coronavirus-related scams that seek to benefit from the public’s concern and uncertainty over COVID-19”.

Unfortunately, a rise in scam crimes has been one noticeable effect of successive pandemic lockdowns and a move towards online personal, work and shopping communications. A public health scare which isolates vulnerable individuals and couples has been a boon to professional criminals.

Scam awareness fortnight, a national campaign to raise awareness of how to combat fraudsters, is scheduled for mid-June. Below are some of its key messages.

Common scams during the pandemic (not exhaustive):

  • the selling of anti-virus kits (fake ‘cures’ with dubious health benefits)
  • criminals targeting older people on their doorstep and offering to do their shopping
  • doorstep cleansing services that offer to clean drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus
  • companies offering fake holiday refunds for individuals who have been forced to cancel their trips
  • counterfeit goods such as fake sanitisers, face masks and COVID-19 swabbing kits sold online and door-to-door

There has also been an increase in internet scams as online shopping, personal and work communications, and public and private service delivery, has mushroomed during successive lockdowns.

Who to report to:

Only a fraction of successful scams are ever reported to the authorities. However, the best way to combat scammers is to forewarn others.

If you are made aware of a scam, please report it to the Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133 (lines are open Monday-Friday between 9am-5pm) or at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/get-more-help/if-you-need-more-help-about-a-consumer-issue/.

If you are the victim of a scam, please report your experience to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk/.

What more can I do for my friends and family?

Communities are being urged to look out for signs of neighbours being targeted by doorstep criminals or online scams. This has been particularly difficult during a time where individuals isolated by the pandemic have had charity volunteers reach out to them in person.

If you have family members who you feel are isolated or potentially vulnerable, please find a way to stay in touch with them.

Top Tips to avoid being scammed:

Everyone, without exception, is vulnerable to one or other scam. But there are some simple rules to live by (and share) to give yourself the best chance of avoiding being scammed.

  1. Never be hurried into making a snap decision when spending money. Don’t fall for high pressure selling techniques.
  2. If you are offered a deal that seems ‘too good to be true’ it probably is – leave it alone.
  3. Don’t make decisions on the doorstep with ‘traders’ you don’t know. They can leave their details and you can have them checked out.
  4. Never provide personal details to people or organisations you don’t know, or even to organisations you do know, if they are requesting information online they have never asked for before.
  5. Always check the ID of doorstep callers. Never take strangers’ views on trust when they are trying to separate you from your money, possessions or personal details.

For more information on how to spot scams, how to report scams and how you can help others, visit your local council’s Trading Standards website.

For particular help with online scams go to:

www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/get-help-with-online-scams/.

For more information about Scams Awareness Month go to:

www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/our-work/our-campaigns/all-our-current-campaigns/scams-awareness-campaign-2020/ or type ‘SAM21’ into your browser.

Our thanks to Coventry Citizens Advice (CCA) for submitting this article to us. For more information, contact your local CA offices or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk.