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Coronavirus scams warning - take care who you trust

25 March 2020

People are being urged to watch out for criminals who are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Margaret Dewsbury, Norfolk County Council Cabinet Member for Communities and Partnerships, said: “We need to look out for ourselves and each other at this difficult time. Despite the overwhelming kindness being shown in communities across the county there are also a few unscrupulous fraudsters who are choosing to take advantage of the pandemic for their own profit.

Remember there are no miracle cures or treatments for coronavirus so be aware of anyone offering those – they are fake.

“There are some simple steps we can all take to avoid scams online, over the phone or on the doorstep. The most important thing to remember is to never deal with someone that you don’t know, who contacts you, or who turns up unexpectedly. Don’t be rushed, and do take time to check out unexpected contacts with someone you trust.

“If you have a home emergency and need to find a reputable local company because the one you usually use is unavailable, do use a Norfolk Trusted Trader. And when online take care to never click on links, or open attachments, in emails or texts. Remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Chief Inspector Craig Miller, said: "We have seen the communities of Norfolk coming together to help one another during this challenging time. However, despite the need to stay home to stay safe we know from previous experience that sadly criminals will take advantage of any opportunity for their own means and this situation has been no different.

"We would urge residents, particularly those who are vulnerable or in isolation, to only deal with people they trust and that if anyone has any doubts about those who are approaching them, and are concerned, we advise that they don’t engage and report suspicious behaviour to police.

"The majority of groups are well intentioned and will be working through charities, or through a local authority and should have proof that they are doing so.”

Norfolk County Council Labour Group Leader, Cllr Steve Morphew, said: “It is hard to believe that when we are all pulling together there are some reprehensible individuals trying to criminally exploit those who are trusting and vulnerable. As we help each other we must ensure the standards we set are high. Don’t take offence if somebody wants to check you out, do make sure you have ID and don’t do anything that could be interpreted as suspicious. If we help others to remember the rules to avoid being scammed we make it less likely they’ll get tricked.”

Trading Standards teams across the country have compiled a list of COVID-19 related scams and how to avoid them:

Criminals come in all shapes and sizes and can contact people at the door, by phone, post or online:

  • Be aware of people offering miracle cures or vaccines for coronavirus – there is no specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19). Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms until you recover
  • Home cleaning services
  • People impersonating healthcare workers, claiming to be offering ‘home-testing’ for coronavirus – this is a scam and these kits are not currently available to buy
  • Emails saying that you can get a refund on taxes, utilities or similar are usually bogus and they are just after your personal and bank details
  • There are lots of fake products available to buy online that say they can protect you or cure coronavirus. These will not help and are designed to take your money
  • There are new mobile phone applications that claim to give you updates on the virus but instead, they lock your phone and demand a ransom
  • Your bank or the police will never ask for your bank details over the phone
  • People offering to do your shopping or collecting medication and asking for money upfront and then disappearing

Tips to avoid being scammed

  • Be cautious and listen to your instincts. Don’t be afraid to hang up, bin it, delete it or shut the door
  • If someone claims to represent a charity, ask them for ID. Be suspicious of requests for money up front. If someone attempts to pressurise you into accepting a service they are unlikely to be genuine. Check with family and friends before accepting offers of help if you are unsure
  • If you are online, be aware of fake news and use trusted sources such as .gov.uk or NHS.uk websites. Make sure you type the addresses in and don’t click on links in emails
  • Only purchase goods from legitimate retailers and take a moment to think before parting with money or personal information
  • Know who you’re dealing with - if you need help, talk to someone you know or get in touch with your local Council on the numbers below
  • Protect your financial information, especially from people you don’t know. Never give your bank card or PIN to a stranger

Contact information

  • If you think you’ve been scammed, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 and if you need advice, call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133. If you are in immediate danger, contact the police on 999
  • Contact your bank if you think you have been scammed

To learn more about different types of scams and how to protect yourself and others, visit www.FriendsAgainstScams.org.uk and complete the free online training.

Find out if a company is registered as a Norfolk Trusted Trader at www.norfolk.gov.uk/trustedtrader

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