Covid-19 Scams – Preying on the vulnerable

During this difficult time Covid-19 Scams are on the increase. As the UK goes through a pandemic in the form of COVID-19 there are still reports of unscrupulous criminals exploiting legitimate fears to prey on the most vulnerable in society. Sophisticated scammers are statistically more likely to target specific demographics particularly older and vulnerable people who are isolated from family and friends. Thus, as part of their drive to keep people informed the National Trading Standards have urged people to stay vigilant during this difficult time.

As the Covid-19 scams continue to become more and more sophisticated the NTS (National trading standards) have warned members of the public to ignore scam products such as supplements and anti-virus kits that falsely claim to cure or prevent COVID-19. Unfortunately there has been a huge rise in cases over the last few weeks. These scams can take various forms, for example there have been cases where individuals may be pressurised on their own doorsteps to buy anti-virus kits or persuaded into purchasing products that are advertised on their social media feeds. The more sophisticated cases include targeting UK consumers through the use of call centres offering supplements that supposedly prevent COVID-19.

Communities are also being urged to look out for signs of neighbours being targeted by doorstep criminals. While there are genuine groups of volunteers providing help during self-isolation, there have been reports of criminals preying on residents – often older people or people living with long-term health conditions – by cold-calling at their homes and offering to go to the shops for them. The criminals often claim to represent charities to help them appear legitimate before taking the victim’s money. There are genuine charities providing support, so consumers should be vigilant and ask for ID from anyone claiming to represent a charity.

Protect yourself from Covid-19 Scams

The first thing is to not be afraid, as the old saying goes, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. So lets have a look at some of the types of scams people attempt, what form they take and how to protect yourself and your loved ones. The following video by Which provides a comprehensive overview of the challenges we are facing with Covid-19 Scams:

Now let’s look at some of these scams in a bit more detail.

Doorstep Scam

  • Criminals targeting older people on their doorstep and offering to do their shopping. Thieves take the money and do not return.
  • Doorstep cleansing services that offer to clean drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus.

Online Scam

  • Email scams that trick people into opening malicious attachments, which put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details at risk. Some of these emails have lured people to click on attachments by offering information about people in the local area who are affected by coronavirus.
  • Fake online resources – such as false Coronavirus Maps – that deliver malware such as AZORult Trojan, an information stealing program which can infiltrate a variety of sensitive data. A prominent example that has deployed malware is ‘corona-virus-map[dot]com’.

Counterfeit goods

  • Fake sanitisers, face masks and Covid19 swabbing kits sold online and door-to-door. These products can often be dangerous and unsafe. There are reports of some potentially harmful hand sanitiser containing glutaral (or glutaraldehyde), which was banned for human use in 2014.

Telephone scams

  • As more people self-isolate at home there is an increasing risk that telephone scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.

In closing it is important to be wary and constantly vigilant. Louise Baxter who is the Head of the National Trading Standards Scam team has mentioned the following:

“As people stay indoors to prevent the spread of COVID-19, criminals are preying on people in vulnerable situations who are
isolated and living alone. There’s never been a more important time for neighbours to look out for each other – particularly as we
self-isolate – which is why we’re encouraging communities to prevent scams in their local area by using the free Friends Against
Scams resources.

If you have any questions about this article or any concerns please get in touch with the 1stMobility Team.

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