Last Updated 12:03pm, 30 March 2020
Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service has issued a warning to local residents and businesses to be aware of fraudsters who are trying to exploit fear and uncertainty surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19).
Action Fraud says that coronavirus-related fraud reports increased by 400% in March
The outbreak of coronavirus has seen an increase in scams that include counterfeit medical kits that claim to prevent or cure the disease and fake online coronavirus resources which can contain damaging software.
Fraudsters are increasingly targeting the public and organisations with emails, texts, ‘phone calls and WhatsApp messages offering advice and treatment for the coronavirus, as well as setting up fake websites selling products and offering ‘cures’. Scammers have also been setting up bogus websites asking for donations for victims or promoting awareness and prevention tips. Cold callers have been contacting organisations suggesting they must have certain measures in place by a certain deadline.
To help members of the public protect themselves from becoming a victim of fraud, Cifas, The UK’s Fraud Prevention Service is advising:
- Be sceptical if you receive an email, text or WhatsApp message about the Coronavirus, and never click on any attachments or links
- Never provide personal data such as your full name, address and date of birth – scammers can use this information to steal your identity
- Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into donating money, and never make donations by cash or gift card, or send money through transfer agents such as Western Union or MoneyGram
- If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, then speak to your bank immediately and report any fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040
A full list of scams can be found on the National Trading Standards website. Further information on dealing with scams and fraud is available from Action Fraud, Citizens Advice or Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards.
Reporting a scam or fraud
Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards are receiving intelligence of business scams. However, the best place for information on frauds, and to report scams, is Action Fraud:
The government has also published some advice: be vigilant against coronavirus scams
A new quick and easy way to report scam emails has just been launched.
The National Cyber Security Centre (part of GCHQ – the Government’s cyber and security agency) has launched a suspicious email reporting service to take phishing scams down. All you have to do is forward suspicious emails to its firstname.lastname@example.org email address. While they are unable to inform you of the outcome of its review, they promise to act on every message received
Warning issued over loan sharks
People suffering financially due to the Covid-19 pandemic are being urged to avoid loan sharks who cause profound misery and stress to their victims.
Further information and support can be found on the Stop Loan Sharks website
What to expect from tracers
Contact tracers will never ask:
- you to make any form of payment
- any details about your bank account
- you for any passwords or PINs
- you to download anything