Published: Friday, 14th August 2020

Medway Council is encouraging residents to be aware of coronavirus scams as lockdown restrictions continue to be eased.

National Trading Standards is predicting a rise in scam telephone calls as illegitimate call centres around the world get back to work.

The ongoing pandemic has unfortunately provided new opportunities for telephone scammers to take advantage of members of the public.

The national team found one company which had made more than 680,000 automated scam calls over a four-week period, encouraging people to buy face masks and hand sanitiser costing between £29.99 and £49.99 by falsely claiming the PPE was a government requirement. National Trading Standards took action to prevent further calls being made, saving consumers more than £6million.

Medway Council is encouraging residents to be savvy to coronavirus related scams.

The council is aware of a Test and Trace phone scam where someone tells you that you have to pay for a coronavirus test to be sent to your home, this is false.

If you receive a phone call, which you believe is a scam, do not give out any bank details over the phone, take down the contact details of the person calling and, if they appear genuine, their website address, but do not sign up to anything before doing research. If you do not trust the caller, hang up.

Action Fraud, the national fraud and crime reporting centre, is also warning people to be aware of the following scams:

  1. Fake government emails designed to look like they are from government departments offering grants of up to £7,500. The emails contain links which steal personal and financial information. 
  2. Scam emails offering access to ‘Covid-19 relief funds’ encouraging victims to fill in a form with their personal information.
  3. Official-looking emails offering council tax reductions. The emails use government branding and contain links to a fake government website which is used to access personal and financial information.
  4. Offers to help apply for Universal Credit, while taking some of the payment as an advance for their ‘services’.
  5. Phishing emails reported to be from the NHS Test and Trace service claiming that the recipient has been in contact with someone with Covid-19. The email contains links which are used to steal personal and financial information or infect devices with malware.
  6. Fake adverts for Covid-related products like hand sanitiser and face coverings which do not exist.
  7. Fake emails and texts claiming to be from TV Licensing telling people they’re eligible for six months free TV license due to the pandemic. People are told that there is a problem with the direct debit and are asked to click onto a link to a fake website which steals personal and financial information.
  8. Emails claiming to be from online TV subscription services asking people to update their payment details.
  9. Fraudsters are also creating fake profiles on online dating websites and social media to manipulate people into sending them money.
  10. Criminals are also using social media to advertise fake investment opportunities.

It is appalling that fraudsters are using the pandemic to scam people

Cllr Jane Chitty, Portfolio Holder for Planning, Economic Growth and Regulation, covering Trading Standards, said: “It is appalling that some fraudsters are using the pandemic to attempt to scam people. We have all been affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and are adjusting to a new way of living and I would encourage residents to be wary of any suspicious emails or phone calls. If you are unsure about an email selling you a product or service I would encourage you to speak to your friends and family and research the company before disclosing any personal, or financial details. These scams will be around for a considerable amount of time as scammers will take advantage of the pandemic for the foreseeable future.”

Find out more advice on scams.  You can also phone the National Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.

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