Residents and businesses urged to be aware of coronavirus fraudsters

PUBLISHED: 11:34 26 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:34 26 March 2020

Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Residents and businesses are urged to be aware of fraudsters and scammers exploiting the coronavirus outbreak.

Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards said the outbreak of Covid-19 had seen an increase in scams that include counterfeit medical kits claiming to prevent or cure the disease and fake online resources which can contain damaging software.

Counterfeit hand sanitiser, face masks and swabbing kits are also being widely advertised online.

Communities are also being urged to look out for signs of neighbours being targeted by doorstep criminals.

National Trading Standards said while there are genuine groups of volunteers providing help during self-isolation, there have been reports of criminals preying on residents – often older people or people living with long-term health conditions – by cold-calling at their homes and offering to go to the shops for them.

The criminals often claim to represent charities to help them appear legitimate before taking the victim’s money.

Financial scams, both online and by telephone, have also increased as criminals seek to take advantage of the financial uncertainty many people and businesses face due to the coronavirus.

These include calls pretending to be from your bank or mortgage provider and an increase in loan shark activity.

Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards are urging people to remain vigilant and to watch out for scams in their neighbourhood, which often target elderly and vulnerable people within the community.

Trading Standards manager Ben Newell said: “Try and use people you can trust such as friends or neighbours in the first instance.

“If you receive an offer of help from elsewhere, ask for a form of identification and always question paying any money upfront. Never give out personal or financial information (such as bank account details or your PIN) to anyone.

“This also applies over the phone, even if the caller claims to be from your bank. Scammers will try to rush you into providing your personal details. They may say they have time-limited offer or claim that your bank account is at risk if you don’t give them the information they need right away.

“If you’re unsure whether the caller is genuine, it is a good idea to ring the company or bank they claim to be from. Make sure you find the number yourself and don’t use the one provided by the caller.”

Anyone who sees or hears of anything suspicious is asked to contact Citizens Advice Customer Service on 0808 223 1133 or via the contact form on their website.

A full list of identified scams can be found on the National Trading Standards website.

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