Nottingham City Council has today issued a fresh warning of coronavirus scams as part of a national campaign of action.
This week sees the start of Scams Awareness Fortnight, run by Citizens Advice, which has a focus on raising awareness of the scams that have emerged as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The council’s Trading Standards team has reiterated that fraudsters continue to prey on members of the public during this time of national crisis.
Scams involve people being contacted by phone, email, text, social media, and even in person. The aim is to persuade the victim to share personal details, hand over money, or buy goods and services that either don’t exist or are counterfeit.
The authority is working with a number of partner organisations across the city, including Age UK Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, the British Red Cross and Nottingham Business Improvement District.
Scams awareness booklets from the Think Jessica charity will be distributed via various channels.
Current scams targeting victims across the country at the moment include:
- Test-and-trace: scammers may attempt to piggy-back off the current NHS service by asking for a person’s personal or financial information. Anyone who is contacted by the NHS would only ever be asked:
- name, date of birth and postcode
- if they live with other people
- places they have visited recently
- names and details of anyone they have recently been in contact with
Any requests for financial details or payments, passwords, personal or medical information indicates the call is a scam.
- Spoofing and impersonation: Many people are receiving emails and text message purporting to be from the Government, NHS and HMRC that urge the recipient to follow links to bogus websites asking for personal or financial details. Trading Standards has also had reports of calls to local businesses from people claiming to be from Nottingham City Council, requesting the owner gives financial details in order to apply for a business grant.
- Cold-calling: Criminals have been targeting vulnerable people, such as the elderly and those who are shielding, and offering to do their shopping. Thieves take the money for this and do not return. There have also been bogus services such as doorstep cleaning being offered which ‘kills bacteria and helps prevent the spread of the virus’.
- Online shopping: Websites selling protective facemasks, hand sanitiser and virus testing kits which customers purchase but never receive. In some cases, those received have been dangerous, for example a potentially harmful hand sanitiser containing glutaral, which was banned for human use in 2014.
- Postal scams: Letters purporting to be from local government or police claiming that a resident has been observed leaving their house or walking their dog more than once a day, for example, and demanding payment of a fine for breaching initial lockdown regulations.
Councillor Sam Webster, Portfolio Holder for Finance, Growth and the City Centre at Nottingham City Council, said: “The coronavirus outbreak has created an environment of uncertainty with many people facing concerns around health, employment and finances.
“Criminals are looking to exploit these worries and take advantage of this vulnerability with new scams that are emerging regularly. An increasing number of people are also taking to the internet for various reasons from home working to online shopping, which has led to a higher risk of people falling victim to online scams.
“We remain hugely heartened by Nottingham’s collective response to the pandemic and we still need everyone to continue working together to help us all get through it.
“It is, therefore, terrible that a very small group of people across the country are using this international crisis to trick some extremely vulnerable people out of their money and possessions.
“Nobody will be ringing you or knocking on your door at the moment from charities or international organisations. Don’t be tempted to hand anything over to anyone and seek help instead from family, friends and neighbours.
“We have a dedicated web page for local advice on coronavirus and council services, which can be found here.”
The Council’s Trading Standards team will be hosting a question-and-answer session on scams through its Twitter page on Thursday (18 June) between 10am and 11am. People can tag in their questions at @NottmCityTS.
More information about Scams Awareness Fortnight is available at the Citizens Advice website www.citizensadvice.org.uk. Anyone with any questions, would like more information or to report a potential scam can the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.
More information about Nottingham City Council Trading Standards is available at www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk or on social media on Twitter (@NottmCityTS) and Facebook (Nottingham City Council Trading Standards).