Being a good neighbour is important and it is great to know that communities are rallying around to support each other. So, whilst so many people are doing so much good in these difficult times: helping friends and neighbours, setting up community volunteer groups and many other initiatives, I hate to be the bearer of bad news.
As you might guess, this bad news is about scammers taking advantage of people when they are at their most vulnerable.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau confirms that reports related to the Coronavirus outbreak have rocketed 400% in recent weeks and have caused losses of almost £1m, as fraudsters use the global pandemic to target members of the public. The 105 cases recorded in little over a month have caused losses totalling £970,000.
Of course, it is impossible to list all the scams that are out there and, as fast as they are identified, others pop up. However, some examples are:
• Online shopping scams where people ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser and other products that have never arrived;
• Emails that purport to be from the World Health Organisation claiming to provide you with a list of active infections in their area if you click on a link – this link will still steal your identity;
• Emails that try to trick you into clicking on a link to a newsletter with coronavirus updates on how to take financial advantage of the economic downturn or directing you to a fake HMRC website offering tax refunds;
• Phone calls or emails that try to lure you into disclosing personal information by posing as a legitimate bank, police or health officials; and
• People you don’t know, or have no official identification, offering to do your shopping and then not returning with either the goods or your cash.
General tips to keep safe from scams:
• Do not click on links or open attachments in ‘strange’ emails and text messages;
• Only purchase goods online from trusted and legitimate retailers and, if you have one, then use a credit card as this will offer greater insurance.
• Take time to check emails or messages are from a legitimate source. Please be aware that fraudsters go to great lengths to make their communications with you look genuine;
• Delete any suspicious emails or text messages immediately – don’t open them to check first;
• Don’t let anyone into your home unless you know them or without verifying their identity and checking they have legitimate documentation or an official ID card.
• Never give out personal or financial information over the phone; and
• Never hand over money or a credit or debit card to anyone making unsolicited visits to your home.
Of course, the majority of offers of help are just that – lovely people, wanting to help their friends and neighbours – just be careful and ask a trusted family member or friend before clicking on email links or giving information over the telephone.
Action Fraud can be contacted on 0300 123 2040 or https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/reporting-fraud-and-cyber-crime