Shameless criminals are exploiting people’s fears about the coronavirus and using it to make money, according to National Trading Standards.
Plymouth Live reported that older and vulnerable people who are isolated from friends and family are being targeted.
National Trading Standards are warning people to remain vigilant after a rise in the number of coronavirus-related scams.
A spokesperson for the company said: “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.
“Communities are also being 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, so consumers should be vigilant and ask for ID from anyone claiming to represent a charity.”
Identified COVID-19 scams include:
- Email scams trick people into opening malicious attachments, which put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details at risk.
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.
- Fake online resources, such as false Coronavirus Maps.
Once opened, these 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’ .
- People are selling fake sanitisers, face masks and Covid19 swabbing kits, both online and door-to-door.
Not only are these products fake, they can also 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.
- Scammers claim they are collecting donations for a COVID-19 ‘vaccine’, when they are actually extorting money from unassuming people.
- 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.”
To protect their loved ones, people are being encouraged to join Friends Against Scams, an organisation which provides free online training to become more aware of scams.
National Trading Standards is also issuing urgent advice to help prevent people falling victim to COVID-19 scams through its Friends Against Scams initiative.