COVID-19 Scams, Advice and Guidance
As COVID-19 restrictions are lessened, scammers are developing new scams to meet the new environment we find ourselves in. Scam levels continue to rise and are being widely reported across the UK.
Most scams are online, distributed by text or email and are being sent to the general public and business alike. Covid-19 scams mostly relate to contract tracing, online shopping and the supply of face coverings.
Examples include contact tracing scams linked to NHS Scotland's Test and Protect service. There have been reports from Scottish consumers about cold callers who say that you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 and ask you to pay £500 to take a test. Genuine contact tracers will NEVER ask you for any financial details or ask you to make a payment.
Highland consumers unsure of a call from a contact tracer should first visit Scotland's Health on the Web at https://www.scot.nhs.uk/organisations/ and click on the NHS Highland link.
In other examples, Scottish consumers have reported websites selling gardening equipment, bicycles and sportswear which have taken money from their account but failed to provide an order confirmation or to respond to emails or phone calls. We advise to stay safe online and if unsure please takes steps to check it out before you part with money.
Scam telephone calls are also on the rise and the Scottish Government has provided £15,000 in match funding to Trading Standards Scotland to procure 280 TrueCall call blocking devices which are available free of charge. These devices simply plug into your existing telephone line and block approximately 99% of scam calls.
Unsolicited calls are one of the most popular methods used by scammers and unscrupulous businesses to reach people. Although we are all susceptible to being scammed, people with cognitive impairment such as dementia are most at risk. Not only does it cause financial detriment; it erodes their self-esteem and self-belief. Shutting out scam calls can give vulnerable people confidence and peace of mind and help them to continue to live independently for as long as possible.
Find out more about call blockers and how to apply for a device on the Trading Standards Scotland website.
If you have any doubts about the authenticity of a message always go to the website of the relevant provider to ensure the information and links are genuine. In the case of official coronavirus information our advice is to independently engage with the UK and the Scottish Government's websites and follow the guidance given:
Doorstep crime reports are also on the rise, highlighting rubbish removal and general exterior property and garden works in the main. Between 15-28 June sees a national Shut Out Scammers campaign aimed at closing the door on doorstep crime. Further detail can be found at www.scotland.police.uk/keep-safe/personal-safety/shut-out-scammers.
Advice has been provided by the charity Age Scotland which may be of wider benefit. This includes not giving out your bank card or pin number or paying money up front.
Safety advice has also been issued by the financial services industry fraud awareness body CIFAS including:
- 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 Police Scotland on 101.
Advice on how to protect users from coronavirus online exploitation attempts has been issued by the National Cyber Security Centre.
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has issued various warnings on behalf of the profession.
Citizens Advice Scotland have a developed a general scam checking tool.
Trading Standards Scotland (TSS) has issued a number of alerts in relation to coronavirus scams.
Please remember, if something appears too good to be true, it’s a scam, do not engage.