Be aware of Coronavirus scams

Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service has issued a warning to local residents and businesses to be aware of fraudsters who are trying to exploit fear and uncertainty surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19).

Action Fraud says that coronavirus-related fraud reports increased by 400% in March

The outbreak of coronavirus has seen an increase in scams that include counterfeit medical kits that claim to prevent or cure the disease and fake online coronavirus resources which can contain damaging software.

Fraudsters are increasingly targeting the public and organisations with emails, texts, ‘phone calls and WhatsApp messages offering advice and treatment for the coronavirus, as well as setting up fake websites selling products and offering ‘cures’. Scammers have also been setting up bogus websites asking for donations for victims or promoting awareness and prevention tips. Cold callers have been contacting organisations suggesting they must have certain measures in place by a certain deadline.

To help members of the public protect themselves from becoming a victim of fraud, Cifas, The UK’s Fraud Prevention Service is advising:

  • Be sceptical if you receive an email, text or WhatsApp message about the Coronavirus, and never click on any attachments or links
  • Never provide personal data such as your full name, address and date of birth – scammers can use this information to steal your identity
  • Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into donating money, and never make donations by cash or gift card, or send money through transfer agents such as Western Union or Moneygram
  • If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, then speak to your bank immediately and report any fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040

A full list of scams can be found on the National Trading Standards website. Further information on dealing with scams and fraud is available from Action Fraud, Citizens Advice or Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards.

Reporting a scam or fraud

Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards are receiving intelligence of business scams. However, the best place for information on frauds, and to report scams, is Action Fraud:
Consumers and businesses can report a scam or fraud by contacting Action Fraud or calling 0300 123 2040. Their online service allows businesses to report cybercrime 24/7.
The government has also published some advice: be vigilant against coronavirus scams
Consumers can also report scams directly to Citizens Advice via their consumer hotline 0808 223 1133 (textphone 18001 0808 223 1133).

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