Scams continue to evolve throughout the pandemic. Our guest, Adam Carter of the National Trading Standards scams team, explains how you can protect yourself.
This is a guest post by the National Trading Standards Scams Team. All views expressed are its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
The National Trading Standards (NTS) Scams Team raises awareness of mass marketing fraud through the Friends Against Scams initiative.
People can complete the online training at www.FriendsAgainstScams.org.uk, or attend a face-to-face meeting (currently on hold) organised by one of more than 2,000 SCAMchampion volunteers up and down the country.
When the country went into the first lockdown last March, not only were the team uprooted and moved to remote working like so many other teams, but new coronavirus related scams were hitting the UK with serious ferocity.
COVID-19 texts and emails
Some consumers started receiving text messages and emails claiming to be from official (and some non-official) agencies, all with an aim of causing more worry and anxiety in an already worrying and anxious time. These messages included:
⚠ Being fined for breach of lockdown legislation
⚠ Selling fake testing kits or cleaning products claiming to eliminate coronavirus
⚠ Asking for charitable donations to help those in need
⚠ Offering shopping or medication collection services
⚠ Being offered ‘coronavirus tax rebates’
⚠ Some even offering vaccines or cures despite there being no vaccine or cure at the time
Among the many difficulties the Covid pandemic has caused, it has provided an opportunity for criminals to target vulnerable people and get hold of people’s money. Read more from @itvnews here: https://t.co/2KrDaLAUy2 #ScamAware #Coronavirus
— National Trading Standards Scams Team (@NTSscamsteam) January 18, 2021
Consumers’ telephones were also starting to ring off the hook with a variety of coronavirus and non-coronavirus related scams, all designed to get people to reveal important personal and financial information for several false reasons, such as:
⚠ Payment requests from TV subscription services like Amazon Prime or Netflix
⚠ Being sold poor quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at inflated prices, most of which never turned up
⚠ Courier fraud – where criminals would make contact claiming to be from the police or a bank, telling the consumer that their bank account had been compromised and asking to move their money into a ‘safe’ account. A ‘courier’ would then pick up their bank card and tell them they just needed to provide the PIN number
⚠ All sorts of fraudulent insurance, service plans or warranty extensions for white and electrical goods or plumbing and drainage insurance
If you receive any suspicious contact you can report them to Action Fraud online, or by calling 0300 123 2040.
Suspicious text messages can be forwarded to 7726 (spells SPAM in the old style telephone keypad), while scam emails can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org
Our awareness course
Friends Against Scams has a short (15-20min) scams awareness course that can help you protect yourself and loved ones from scams.
Anyone completing this session becomes a Friend and, so far, more than 650,000 people have completed this training, helping to take a stand against scams.
The site also has resources available for you to share with loved ones to help them spot and report scams. It’s estimated that scams cost the UK economy between £5-10 billion each year and up to 95% of these crimes go unreported.
We believe that consumer education is key to helping protect our communities.
This was a guest post by the National Trading Standards Scams Team. All views expressed were its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
Have you been targeted by scams since the pandemic began? Got a question for Adam and the NTS Scams Team? Let us know in the comments.