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Alert

Beware fraud and scams during Covid-19 pandemic

Criminals are using the Covid-19 pandemic to scam the public, don’t become a victim.

Read the news item on the National Trading Standards webpage - Beware of Covid-19 scams.

Law enforcement, government and private sectors partners are working together to encourage members of the public to be more vigilant against fraud, particularly about sharing their financial and personal information, as criminals seek to capitalise on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police.

They spend hours researching you for their scams, hoping you’ll let your guard down for just a moment.

Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.

Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud*.

Your bank or the police will NEVER ask you to transfer money or move it to a safe account.                                          

Criminals are targeting people looking to buy medical supplies online, sending emails offering fake medical support and scamming people who may be vulnerable or increasingly isolated at home. These frauds try to lure you in with offers that look too good to be true, such as high return investments and ‘healthcare opportunities’, or make appeals for you to support bogus charities or those who are ill.

Reports from the public have already included online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived and a number of cases have been identified where fake testing kits have been offered for sale.

Criminals are also using Government branding to try to trick people, including reports of using HMRC branding to make spurious offers of financial support through unsolicited emails, phone calls and text messages.

This situation is likely to continue, with criminals looking to exploit further consequences of the pandemic, such as exploiting financial concerns to ask for upfront fees for bogus loans, offering high-return investment scams, or targeting pensions.

Huge increases in the number of people working remotely mean that significantly more people will be vulnerable to computer service fraud where criminals will try and convince you to provide access to your computer or divulge your logon details and passwords. It is also anticipated that there will be a surge in phishing scams or calls claiming to be from government departments offering grants, tax rebates, or compensation.

Take  Five to Stop Fraud is a national campaign that offers advice to help everyone protect themselves from preventable financial fraud. Led by UK Finance, the campaign is being delivered with and through a range of partners in the UK payments industry, financial services firms, law enforcement agencies, telecommunication providers, commercial, public and third sector organisations.

Consumers are urged to:

  • Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
  • Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.​

Fraud types and advice: Individuals

Online Shopping and Auction Fraud

Seek advice: If you’re purchasing goods and services from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, and ask friends or family for advice before completing a purchase.

Scam messages: Be wary of unsolicited emails and texts offering questionably good deals, and never respond to messages that ask for your personal or financial details.

Payment method: Avoid paying for good and services by bank transfer as that offers you little protection if you become a victim of fraud. Instead, use a credit card or payment services such as PayPal.

If you have made a payment: Inform your bank as soon as possible, they can help you prevent any further losses. Monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.

Computer Software Service Fraud

Installing software: Never install any software, or grant remote access to your computer, as a result of a cold call.

Financial details: Genuine organisations would never contact you out of the blue to ask for financial details such as your PIN or full banking password.

Tech support: If you need tech support, ask your friends or family for recommendations and look for reviews online first. Don’t contact companies promoting tech support services via browser pop-ups.

If you have made a payment: Inform your bank as soon as possible, they can help you prevent any further losses. Monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.

If you granted remote access to your computer: Seek technical support to remove any unwanted software from your computer. Ask your friends or family for recommendations and look for reviews online first. Don’t contact companies promoting tech support services via browser pop-ups.

Lender Loan Fraud

Seek advice first: Speak with a trusted friend or family members first if you’re using a loan company you’re unfamiliar with, or if the lender requires an up-front fee.

Scam messages: Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to messages that ask for your personal or financial details.

FCA register: Use the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) register to check if the company is regulated by the FCA. If you deal with a firm (or individual) that isn’t regulated, you may not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if things go wrong and you lose your money.

If you have made a payment: Inform your bank as soon as possible, they can help you prevent any further losses. Monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.

Pension Liberation Fraud

Investment opportunities: Don’t be rushed into making an investment. Remember, legitimate organisations will never pressure you into making a transaction on the spot.

Seek advice first: Before making significant financial decisions, speak with trusted friends or family members, or seek professional independent advice. The Pension Advisory Service (PAS) also provides free independent and impartial information and guidance.

FCA register: Use the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) register to check if the company is regulated by the FCA. If you deal with a firm (or individual) that isn’t regulated, you may not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if things go wrong and you lose your money.

Tax charges: Ensure sure you are aware of any tax charges (up to 70%), plus other fees, that will be deducted from the amount you withdraw before making any decisions. 

Investment Fraud

Investment opportunities: Don’t be rushed into making an investment. Remember, legitimate organisations will never pressure you into making a transaction on the spot.

Seek advice first: Speak with a trusted friend or family members and seek independent professional advice before making significant financial decisions.

FCA register: Use the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) register to check if the company is regulated by the FCA. If you deal with a firm (or individual) that isn’t regulated, you may not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if things go wrong and you lose your money.

Advice for businesses

Mandate Fraud

Verify: If you receive a request to move money into a new bank account, contact the supplier directly using established contact details, to verify and corroborate the payment request.

Internal processes: Establish robust internal processes for handling changes to payment details. For example, only designated employees should be able to make changes to payment arrangements.

Sensitive information: Invoices, payment mandates, and other documents containing sensitive financial information should be stored securely and only be accessible to those staff that need them to perform their duties. Sensitive documents should be shredded before they are disposed of.

If you have made a payment: Inform your bank as soon as possible, they can help you prevent any further losses. Monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.

Detailed counter fraud advice is available online, including from Scamsmart, ActionFraud, CIFAS, Take Five to Stop Fraud, Citizens Advice, Trading Standards and the National Cyber Security Centre.

Reporting to Action Fraud can be done online using the Action Fraud Website or by calling  0300 123 2040

To report offers of financial assistance from HMRC contact by email: phishing@hmrc.gov.uk

National Cyber Security Centre Launches 'Cyber Aware' campaign

Read more about the 'Cyber Aware' campaign on the National Cyber Security Website.

Useful information Click to get info

Trading Standards have compiled information for consumers in order for them to shop safely

Friends Against Scams

Friends Against Scams is a National Trading Standards (NTS) Scams Team initiative, which aims to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams by empowering communities to "Take a Stand Against Scams".

Anybody can join Friends Against Scams and make a difference in their own way. 

Recall information

See the HM Government website for information on products that have been recalled. 

Recall for Coca-Cola bottles

Supermarkets are issuing an urgent recall for Coca-Cola bottles as certain batches could pose a safety risk

Dowload the Coca-Cola bottles recall list to check the batch codes

Doorstep Crime

Spot the signs of financial abuse: watch the video

Rogue Traders, highlighting issues surrounding doorstep crime: watch the video

New Citizen Advice Consumer Service-Scams Action service

The Citizen Advice Consumer Service has launched a new service to support consumers who have been - or who might be impacted directly - by online scams. Consumers can find help by calling a Scam Action Adviser on 0300 330 3003

Advice can also be found on the Citizen Advice Consumer Service Scam Action webpage.

Scam Awareness Campaign Click to get info

Scams Awareness Campaign  focuses on empowering consumers to be confident, alert and enable them to ‘stop, report and talk’ if they spot a scam. The campaign will focus on two target groups: the 'life-established (40s - 60s)', and those over 60. 

People can:

  • Stop and get advice from the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline at 0808 223 1144
  • Report scams to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or on Twitter.
  • Talk with friends, family and neighbours about scams they’ve seen.

STOP

Scams are many and varied, with increasing complexity and sophistication. By arming people with the knowledge they need to recognise a scam, they can protect themselves and those around them, preventing harm in the first place. We want consumers to know how to spot the warning signs of a scam, and if they think they are being targeted to stop and seek advice on what to do next.

Report

Data from a recent Crime Survey in England and Wales suggests that only around 13% of fraud incidents are reported by the victim, either to the police or Action Fraud. With so many scams left unreported, it creates an incomplete picture and reduces the ability of enforcement to effectively tackle fraud across the country. Confusion in the reporting system needs to be addressed. Consumers need to know how to report scams, not only to improve the quality of data collected to help tackle fraud, but to empower people to take action.

Talk

Scams can be highly sophisticated and often use social engineering to prey on people. Anyone can be vulnerable to scams, and yet we still don’t talk enough about them.

What is a scam?

A scam is a scheme to try to steal money, personal information or data from a person or organisation. Other names for a scam include fraud, hoax, con, swindle and cheat.

General facts about scams

  • The National Audit Office (NAO) recently estimated that individuals lose £10 billion a year due to fraud.
  • The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimated there were 3.5 million incidents of fraud for the year ending September 2018.
  • Data from a recent CSEW suggests that only around 13% of fraud incidents are reported by the victim, either to the police or Action Fraud.

There are three things that consumers can do if they suspect they’re the target of a scam:

  • Get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06, or on 03454 04 05 05 for a Welsh-speaking adviser. You can also get advice and information online on the Citizens Advise website.  The Citizens Advice consumer service can also report problems to Trading Standards for you. Trading Standards are responsible for protecting consumers and the community against rogue and unfair traders.
  • Report scams and suspected scams to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime. (If debit cards, online banking or cheques are involved in the scam the consumer’s first step should be to contact their bank or credit card company. If the scam is a pension transfer, they need to contact the provider immediately, along with the Pensions Advisory Service).
  • Tell family, friends, neighbours so that they can avoid scams and find out how to protect themselves.

Ways to cut down unwanted contacts

General

  • Always check any forms that you fill in for tick boxes that say something like “I give permission for third parties to contact me by phone” or “I give you permission to contact me by email”. Don’t tick the boxes if you don’t want to be contacted.
  • Phone calls
  • Register their number with the Telephone Preference Service at www.tpsonline.org.uk or 0345 070 0707. They can also register their mobile by texting ‘TPS’ and their email address to 85095.
  • Report unsolicited marketing calls to the Information Commissioner’s Office or 0303 123 1113.
  • Use a product to block telephone calls:
    • Your phone company may have a blocking service or help available to protect people from nuisance calls. Call your companies customer service helpline to find out.
    • TrueCall 
    • CallBlocker 

Mail

  • People who want to report potential scam mail can write to Royal Mail at: Freepost Scam Mail. Phone: 0800 0113466 (message service only) or email scam.mail@royalmail.com. They can also report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service.
  • The Mailing Preference Service (MPS) is free and may help reduce unsolicited mail  or 0207 291 3310.
  • To opt out from receiving ‘Door to Door’ unaddressed mail delivered by Royal Mail visit their website or call 0345 266 0858.
  • To opt out of deliveries from unaddressed mail distributors consumers can register with “Your Choice” preference scheme Direct Marketing Association (UK) Ltd. or 020 7291 3300.
  • ‘No cold calling’ door stickers. Some Trading Standards services or community police teams provide these.
  • Opt-out of the open voting register. This is an edited version of the electoral register that’s available to anyone who wants to buy a copy. To opt-out contact your local Electoral Registration Office.

Help for people who have been scammed

  • www.thinkjessica.com.  Think Jessica is a charity protecting elderly and vulnerable people from scams which come through the postal system and by telephone.
  • www.victimsupport.org.uk. Victim Support gives free and confidential help to victims of crime, witnesses, their family, friends and anyone else affected across England and Wales. Call 0808 1689 111.
  • www.ageuk.org.uk.  Age UK has local branches around the UK providing help and support for older people.
  • www.thesilverline.org.uk.  The Silver Line is a free 24–hour dedicated helpline for older people across the UK. Call 0800 4 70 80 90. The website provides information and befriending for elderly people.
  • www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk.  Royal Voluntary Service offers a befriending

Stop, report, talk. Be scam aware. Follow #scamaware for tips on spotting scams, and how to report them when you do. For more information, visit the Citizens Advice website