Whittlesey and District Neighbourhood Watch

Whittlesey and District Neighbourhood Watch

Creating safer, stronger and active communities

COVID-19 scammers

MEMBERS of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Against Scams Partnership (CAPASP) are warning people in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to be vigilant against scammers who are taking advantage of Covid-19.   

As Covid-19 spreads rapidly across the world, various reports have emerged about fraudsters seizing the opportunity to defraud.

In the UK, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has reported that victims have lost over £800k to scams relating to the coronavirus since February 2020.

Many of the scams involve criminals contacting victims by email, phone or text message posing as genuine organisations such as banks, police officers or health providers. The fraudsters may claim to provide medical guidance, investment opportunities or a safe place to transfer and keep money - using coronavirus as a cover story. Alternatively, victims are tricked into disclosing personal or financial information or clicking on links which could contain malware.

In Cambridgeshire, doorstep scammers are reported to have been visiting residents purporting to be from Red Cross or other legitimate organisations, and offering to provide coronavirus testing kits – for a hefty fee.

Some examples of other coronavirus scams to watch out for are:

  • Flight cancellation scam. If you have had a holiday cancelled, beware of individuals or organisations making contact asking for bank details to refund your money. Your travel agent or airline should refund directly by the original payment method.
  • Fake email or website scams. Watch out for authentic looking websites or emails seemingly from official channels such as Public Health England or WHO (World Health Organisation). These may look very convincing and offer enticing information for a fee or a single click on a link or attachment. Clicking may install malicious software which can monitor the victim’s every move and provide the details to criminals. Recent examples include e-mails or websites claiming to be able to show local cases of Covid-19 but which are in fact designed to infect the victim’s computer with malware to steal banking and log-in information.
  • Online offers for vaccinations. There are currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges, prescriptions or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Covid-19 coronavirus. DO NOT send money, buy bitcoin or vouchers to anyone offering this.
  • Bogus charity callers. Fraudsters may pose as charitable organisations claiming to help individuals or businesses in these challenging times. Check the authenticity of any caller on the phone or doorstep by contacting the organisation on the number you know to be correct. If the caller was on the phone make sure you wait at least 10 minutes or use a different handset to conduct your authenticity check.
  • Tax refund scam. E-mails purporting to be from HMRC or GOV.UK are being sent by scammers with the promise of a tax rebate ‘for dealing with the coronavirus outbreak’ at the click of a link. The link is likely to infect the device with malware and allow private information to be stolen.
  • Good Neighbour scam. People in self-isolation have been approached by criminals offering to help with shopping who take the resident’s money and never return.

Acting Police and Crime Commissioner, Ray Bisby said:

“In these difficult times, there are many genuine people and organisations offering to support people’s health and wellbeing needs within their local community, such as shopping, collecting prescriptions or providing a friendly conversation over the phone.

“These people will carry official documentation or identification and will ask YOU to contact THEM if you need any help.

“Remember, always check ID of people knocking at the door – do your own, independent research to contact the organisation in question rather than using any contact details on the ID itself.

“Please stay safe and look after one another.

“Visit the CAPASP website for more help and advice on how to avoid scams.”