Nottingham City Council has today issued a fresh warning to residents urging them not to fall victim to scams during the coronavirus outbreak.
The authority’s Trading Standards team says that fraudsters continue to prey on members of the public and are attempting to exploit people at a 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 types of scams to look out for include:
- Impersonation: Scammers impersonate people, organisations and professional bodieswhich the public know and trust. Thieves use ‘spoofing technology’ to send emails or text messages purporting to be from the Government. These often direct victims to a fake website which harvests personal and financial details. Other examples include emails claiming to be from broadband providers and TV licensing, saying that they are stopping services and requesting that a fraudulent link is followed to re-connect. Many scams target older people who are self-isolating by cold-calling at their homes and offering to go shopping for essential items. They take payment but do not return. Scammers are also claiming to be volunteers from support schemes in order to gain entry into people’s homes.
- Counterfeit goods: There are many coronavirus-related products being advertised, such as fake testing kits and products claiming to cure or prevent the virus. These can be unsafe and potentially dangerous – there have been reports of hand sanitiser being sold containing glutaral, a disinfectant banned for human use in 2014.
- Fake news: Scammers lure people into clicking on links by offering information about coronavirus, such as who is affected in their local area or by promising secret cures.
- Refund scams: People have been receiving emails claiming to be from airlines and travel agents, asking them to hand over personal and financial information in order to claim a refund for flights and bookings.
- Donation scams: Scammers may claim to be from charities and appeal to victims for donations to the NHS or for research for a coronavirus vaccine.
- Loan Sharks: Fraudsters are taking advantage of people’s financial difficulties by offering loans and then charging extortionate rates of repayment interest and fees.
There are a number of ways to protect against falling victim to scams of this nature:
- Check identification of anybody that knocks on the door claiming to be from a professional organisation. If genuine, they will be more than happy to show this.
- A charity can be quickly checked by visiting www.gov.uk/government/organisations/charity-commission
- Do not click on links in texts or emails. Go directly to the source for further information.
- Do not respond to requests for personal or financial details. Even if they appear to be from a trusted and reputable organisation or government body. These agencies will never arrive at the door unannounced or call out of the blue.
- If an email, phone call or text message sounds strange, ignore it or hang up. Its identity can be verified by calling the organisation directly.
Councillor Sam Webster, Portfolio Holder for Finance, Growth and the City Centre at Nottingham City Council, said: “We remain hugely heartened by Nottingham’s collective response to the coronavirus outbreak and we still need everyone to continue working together to help us all get through it.
“It is, therefore, despicable 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. We don’t want anyone in Nottingham to fall victim.
“Nobody will be ringing you or knocking on your door at the moment from charities or international organisations unless by prior appointment. 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.”
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).