There’s a new ugly symptom riding in on the coattails of Covid-19— coronavirus scams.
National Trading Standards (NTS) is warning people to remain vigilant against this new threat which hones in on people’s concern and uncertainty about the pandemic. The Friends Against Scams initiative organised by NTS aims to prevent people from becoming victims of scams.
Scams cost the UK economy £5-£10 billion a year and 53 percent of people over the age of 65 have been targeted by scams, although only 5 percent of them are reported.
Many of the Finders International team members have been awarded the ‘Friends Against Scams certification after having completed training—a UK probate research industry first.
Friends Against Scams urge members of the public to ignore scam products such as supplements and anti-virus kits that falsely claim to cure or prevent the disease. The NTS reports that individuals may be pressurised into buying anti-virus kits on their own doorsteps or be tempted by adverts on their social media newsfeeds.
There are some call centres that have previously targeted UK consumers with dubious health products that are now offering supplements they allege prevent Covid-19.
Friends Against Scams urges communities to look out for neighbours who are targeted by doorstep criminals. Most visitors will be volunteers or family members providing help such as food drop-offs during self-isolation. However, there have been reports of criminals targeting older people living with long-term health conditions by calling on their homes and offering to do the food shopping for them. They often claim to be from charities, but consumers are advised to ask for ID.
So far, NTS has identified COVID-19 scams such as:
Criminals target older people on their doorstep and offer to do their shopping. They take the money and do not return. Another example is a doorstep cleaning service that promises it will kill the bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus.
Email scams that get people to open malicious attachments, putting people at risk of identity theft. Some emails have persuaded people to click on attachments by offering information about people in the local area who are affected by coronavirus.
Companies that offer fake holiday refunds for individuals who have had to cancel their trips. People seeking refunds should also be on the look-out for fake websites set up to claim holiday refunds.
Fake sanitisers, face masks and Covid-19 swabbing kits that are sold online and door-to-door. These products can often be dangerous and unsafe. The NTS has received reports of some potentially harmful hand sanitiser products containing glutaral (or glutaraldehyde), which was banned for human use in 2014.
Thanks to the rise in the number of people staying at home, it is likely telephone scams will also increase, including phone calls from people claiming to come from your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.
There have been reports of thieves getting money from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a Covid-19 ‘vaccine’.
Experts predict illegal money lenders will prey on people’s financial hardship, lending money and then charging extortionate interest rates and fees through threats and violence.
Lord Toby Harris, chair of the 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.”
Danny Curran, Finders International’s founder and CEO, added: “Despicable people will always prey on the vulnerable. Now, more than ever, there are a lot of vulnerable people in our communities—perhaps even all of us.
“Equip yourself with the knowledge to identify potential scams and educate your friends and relatives on how to do so too.”
Finders International are the first of their kind within the probate industry to support and receive training from the Friends Against Scams initiative. To see further information on Finders International’s credentials and accreditations, and their services please visit the website. Alternatively, you can email email@example.com or telephone +44 (0)20 7490 4935