SAFE cic’s response to the increasing rise of criminals targeting the vulnerable people within our communities.
In these unprecedented times, with difficult situations and risks to our lives and future wellbeing, we are facing another evil and unnecessary threat.
It seems everyday we are hearing of, or dealing with, devious and chilling new and old ways of exploiting us all, especially the vulnerable amongst us.
Action Fraud have reported:
- Coronavirus-related fraud report increased by 400% during March.
- Coronavirus scams costs victims over £800k in one month
The following are some of the most underhand, and for some, plausible schemes.
Stop, Hang Up, Call 159
If you think someone is trying to trick you into handing over money or personal details……Stop, hang up and call 159 to speak directly to your bank.
Call 159 if:
- Someone contacts you saying they’re from your bank – even if they are not suspicious
- You receive a call asking you to transfer money or make a payment – even if it seems genuine
- You receive a call about a financial matter and it seems suspicious
Remember, 159 will never call you. But you can rely on 159 to get you through to your bank.
At present participating banks are:
- Lloyds (including Halifax and Bank of Scotland)
- NatWest (including Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank)
- Starling Bank
Telephone companies with 159 available are:
- BT, including EE and Plusnet
- O2, including giffgaff
- Virgin Media
159 is a new pilot scheme – the idea is to collect evidence to show that calling 159 helps fight fraud. Then we want to make 159 a universal number – available on all phones and for all banks.
HMRC Include this warning for the Self-Employed on their Claim Guidance page;
HMRC will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online.
Individuals do not need to contact HMRC now and doing so will only delay the urgent work being undertaken to introduce the scheme.
You will access this scheme only through GOV.UK. If someone texts, calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, it is a scam.
Police have issued a warning to be alert for a new text scam which looks something like this;
GOV.UK CORONAVIRUS ALERT
New rules now in force now: you must stay at home. More info & exemptions at gov.uk/coronavirus.
We would like to inform you that you have been recorded as leaving your home on 3 occasions yesterday. A fine of £35 has been added to your gov.uk account. For further information please visit gov.uk/coronavirus-penalty-payment-tracking. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.
The links in our example do not work, as the original ones lead to pages trying to harvest your financial details.
This can arrive as one or two messages.
New fake COVID-19 coronavirus update app.
Be wary of a new emerging scam involving fake phone apps. There are reports of several 'coronavirus update' apps, which claim to provide updates on the virus. The fake app contains a form of 'ransomware', named CovidLock which, upon downloading, locks the phone and displays a message demanding that the user pay a sum of money to unlock it. These apps are available to download from various unofficial websites.
Suspicious callers are said to have been knocking on doors of elderly and vulnerable residents in various parts of the UK, saying that they are health officials doing door-to-door testing. Very few health personnel are making home visits, most will already be known. All carry ID cards and will always make an appointment for another visit if needed.
Repair work opportunists during COVID-19 pandemic
False claims to cure or prevent COVID-19
Members of the public should ignore scam products such as supplements and anti-virus kits that falsely claim to cure or prevent COVID-19. In some cases individuals may be pressurised on their own doorsteps to buy anti-virus kits or persuaded into purchasing products that are advertised on their social media feeds. In addition, some call centres that previously targeted UK consumers with dubious health products are now offering supplements that supposedly prevent COVID-19.
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.
Communities are urged to look out for signs of neighbours being targeted by doorstep criminals.
While there are genuine groups of volunteers providing help during self-isolation, there have been reports of criminals preying on residents – often older people or people living with long-term health conditions – by cold-calling at their homes and offering to go to the shops for them. The criminals often claim to represent charities to help them appear legitimate before taking the victim’s money. There are genuine charities providing support. Consumers should be vigilant and ask for ID from anyone claiming to represent a charity and check directly with the charity online or by phone to validate the caller's status. Again, all genuine callers will always make an appointment for another visit if needed
that trick people into opening malicious attachments, which put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details being hacked. 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.
is to try to obtain financial or other confidential information from Internet users, typically by sending an email that looks as if it is from a legitimate organization, usually a financial institution, but contains a link to a fake website that replicates the real one.
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’. Always use government, NHS or other official websites for such information
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.
As more people self-isolate at home
there is an increasing risk that telephone scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.
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
Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:
“At a time when neighbourhoods and communities are coming together to support each other, it is despicable that heartless criminals are exploiting members of the public – including some of our most vulnerable citizens – to line their own pockets. I urge everyone to be on their guard for possible COVID-19 scams and to look out for vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours who may become a target for fraudsters. “We’re calling on communities to look out for one another. If you see anything suspicious, report it to Action Fraud or to speak to someone for advice, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service.”
6. Report anything that worries you:
- internet scams and phishing here
- phishing attempts to Action Fraud
- dial 999 if you have been personally threatened or feel unsafe
- dial 101 if you know the scammer, or you think they are still operating in the local area, or you have transferred money in the last 24 hours
IMPORTANT: If you have become a victim of phishing via: email, social media, telephone, text, instant messaging, pop up or post then you must cancel you credit cards immediately.