COVID-19 and scams

Scams

Scammers usually want one of three things - to spread misinformation, steal personal details for the purpose of identity theft and fraud, or to sell fake products.

Now that the Chancellor has announced the new Income Support Scheme for the self-employed, it is highly likely that a new wave of scam emails, calls and text messages claiming to be from HMRC will start to circulate. They will no doubt be offering financial help in exchange for you bank details etc. and probably contain a link where an email or text is concerned.

The messages will be scams – do NOT respond, delete immediately. HMRC do not contact people out of the blue asking for these details.

Types of Scams

  • Telephone fraud: victims receive calls from criminals pretending to be medical officials, claiming a relative has fallen sick with the virus and then asking for payment for their treatment
  • Phishing: victims receive emails from criminals pretending to be from health authorities, or legitimate companies, using similar looking websites or email addresses
  • Bogus websites: people have been conned into buying protective equipment such as facemasks online which never arrive
  • Inflated prices: early indications suggest complaints relating to inflated pricing for certain goods in shops and online have increased. Consumers should report this to Citizens Advice hotline on 0808 2231133

Preventing Scams

  • top, think, and be sceptical. Did the communication - the call, letter or email -  come out of the blue?
  • do not give personal or financial information to someone you do not know, however plausible they might sound. This applies even if they claim to represent a business or organisation you have heard of or where an approach is personalised
  • genuine businesses or organisations will never telephone you and ask for personal or financial information
  • never make cash payments by money transfer
  • if you believe you have been the victim of fraud, alert your bank immediately so the payment can be stopped
  • use a good spam filter to block out unwanted unsolicited emails
  • do not click any links in a text message or email. If a friend sends you a text or email with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure it is genuine.
  • if you receive a letter, an email or a telephone call that you suspect is bogus, speak to family or friends, Action Fraud or the Citizens Advice consumer service and seek advice
  • don't feel under pressure to reveal any information - cyber criminals use emergencies such as coronavirus to scare people into making rash decisions
  • ask your telecoms provider to set up call screening on your telephone so that you know who is calling your number before you decide to answer it. If the number is withheld it will be displayed as 'number withheld'
  • you can arrange with your telecoms provider to reject anonymous calls to your telephone
  • check out the source of online shopping, read the reviews and look into the company background

In all cases, if it looks or sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Personal Safety

Scammers and criminals look for opportunities to scam people. Happily, there are many more stories of kindness and generosity at this difficult time, but we want to make people aware of the scams relating to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Please keep yourself safe.

We have received reports from Kent Police of people door-knocking and claiming to be from the health authority.

Advice to avoid these scammers

What happens What to do
A stranger knocks on your door. Do not open the door but ask what they want. If in doubt do not let them in Do not open the door but ask what they want. If in doubt do not let them in
They claim to be from the Health Authority Do not allow them to take any money or details from you
The offer to do COVID-19 testing or taking residents' temperature. Report to Kent Police on 101, if you ask them to leave and they don't contact the Police on 999 Report to Kent Police on 101, if you ask them to leave and they don't contact the Police on 999
If you suspect a scam Please warn vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours

The Trading Standards are currently aware that:

  • There is no coronavirus test kits available to buy, to be tested at your doorstep. Do not be tempted to pay for this non-existent service.
  • Do NOT place items on your doorstep to say you need help as this is an invitation to scammers that you may be in a vulnerable situation.
  • The council do NOT need to enter your house to do a house clean.
  • Emails saying that you can get a refund on taxes or business rates should be treated with extreme caution - often the sender wants your personal details
  • Do NOT pay upfront fees. We are aware of phone calls from 'energy companies' offering credit during the crisis if they can collect an advance payment. This is a scam.
  • Your bank or the police will NEVER ask for your bank details over the phone.

If you think you have been scammed then call the police on 101 (999 only in an emergency).

Stop the spread of false information

You can help stop the spread of potentially dangerous or false stories circulating online by following official government guidance and using the ‘SHARE’ checklist below:

  • Source - make sure information comes from a trusted source
  • Headline - always read beyond the headline
  • Analyse - check the facts
  • Retouched - does the image or video look as though it has been doctored?
  • Error - look out for bad grammar and spelling

Useful Information