How to spot a scam and avoid being a victim
There have been reports that criminals and scammers have been exploiting the coronavirus situation and Oxfordshire’s Trading Standards team has received reports of scams targeting people via emails, text messages, and on the doorstep.
There are, of course, many genuine community efforts, but unfortunately, not everyone is trustworthy, and some people are taking advantage of this unprecedented situation.
Action Fraud has reported that coronavirus-related fraud reports increased by 400 percent in March and these scams came in many different guises, so we advise that before taking any action or agreeing to an offer: Stop, ‘take five’, and discuss with a trusted friend or family member.
Examples of scams Trading Standards is aware of…
Remember, criminals come in all shapes and sizes and can contact you at the door, by phone, post or online:
- Be aware of people offering miracle cures or vaccines for coronavirus – there is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19).
- People impersonating healthcare workers, claiming to be offering ‘home-testing’ for coronavirus – this is a scam and these kits are not currently available to buy.
- Emails offering a refund on council tax, utility bills, or similar are usually bogus and they are just after personal and bank details.
- There are lots of fake products available to buy online that say they can protect against or cure coronavirus. These will not help and are designed to take your money.
- There are new mobile phone applications that claim to give updates on the virus, but instead they lock your phone and demand a ransom.
- People offering to do shopping or collect medication, asking for money upfront and then disappearing.
- People offering home cleaning services.
- Remember: Banks or the police will never ask for account details over the phone.
- Claiming to be collecting money for charities.
Tips to avoid being scammed
- Be cautious and listen to your instincts. Do not be afraid to hang up, bin it, delete it, or shut the door.
- Take your time; do not be rushed into making a decision that you will probably regret.
- If someone claims to represent a charity, ask them for ID. Be suspicious of requests for money up front. If someone is trying to tempt you into accepting a service, they are unlikely to be genuine.
- Check with family and friends before accepting offers of help if unsure.
- If online, be aware of fake news and use trusted sources such as .gov.uk or NHS.uk websites. Type-out email addresses. Don’t click on links in emails.
- Only purchase goods from legitimate retailers and take a moment to think before parting with money or personal information.
- Protect your financial information, especially from people you do not know. Never give your bank card or PIN to a stranger.
- Know who you are dealing with. If you need help, talk to someone you know or use contact numbers provided below (scroll down).
If you suspect you are a victim of a scam …
- Report any scammers to Action Fraud: 0300 123 2040.
- If you are in immediate danger, contact the police on 999.
- Contact your bank if you think you have been financially scammed.
To learn more about different types of scams and how to protect yourself and others, visit www.FriendsAgainstScams.org.uk and complete the free online training