Advice on how to be scam aware and stay safe
Many people in Norfolk and across the country have come together during the Coronavirus pandemic to offer each other help and support. The majority of these offers are genuine, but there are some criminals who are using scams to exploit people’s increased vulnerability at this time.
As a Friends Against Scams SCAMbassador, your Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Lorne Green says that ‘knowledge is power’ when it comes to being scam aware and keeping yourself safe.
“Fraud affects thousands of people across Norfolk every year. Most often it is the vulnerable in our society who are targeted and exploited by scammers, but anyone can be a victim.
“It is truly hideous to think that criminals would try to exploit the situation in which the UK, and world, currently finds itself – but the evidence shows this is indeed the case.
“Our increased isolation and vulnerability at this time could make any of us more susceptible to falling for a scam, so it is particularly important that we share information and advice, and we learn how to keep ourselves safe.”
We want to share with you some examples of current coronavirus scams, as well as tips on staying safe and keeping informed about the latest scams in your area.
Criminals are targeting people in person, online and over the phone.
Some common in person coronavirus scams include:
- People selling virus home testing kits.
- People offering vaccines or cures.
- Taking money to buy food or other supplies and not returning with the goods.
- Home cleaning services.
- Selling overpriced or fake products door-to-door, particularly cleaning or hygiene items. Some of these products can be dangerous.
Tips for staying safe:
- Trust your instincts. While many people are genuine and want to help you, there are others who will try to take advantage of you. It is ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests or offers.
- Never deal with unexpected cold callers on your doorstep
- Take your time when making decisions. Only criminals will try to rush you.
- Make sure you can trust the person who is offering to help you. If the person claims to represent a charity, ask them for ID.
- If someone has offered to buy supplies for you, don’t make any payments until you receive the goods.
- Check with family members or friends before accepting offers of help if you are unsure.
Online and phone scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Even if an email or text has your full name, or other personal information in it, do not automatically trust it.
Some common online and phone coronavirus scams include:
- Text messages and emails saying you’re entitled to tax refunds or loans from the government.
- Text messages and emails claiming you have been fined for going outside more than once per day.
- Emails with attachments claiming to show coronavirus cases on local maps.
- Emails from the World Health Organisation (WHO) with attachments claiming to contain safety measures to combat coronavirus.
- Phone calls from people claiming to be from your bank or utility company.
- Selling overpriced or fake products online.
Tips for staying safe:
- Never open attachments, click on links or make payments when you receive emails out of the blue.
- Never give out your bank details or other personal information to strangers over the phone or via email.
- If you are purchasing goods or services from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, or ask friends and family for advice.
- Where possible, avoid making payments via bank transfer. Credit card payments and payment services such as PayPal offer fraud protection and the chance to get your money back if you have been scammed.
- Type websites into search bars yourself, rather than following links in emails or texts. This ensures you access the official website and are not redirected.
- Use the scam prevention websites mentioned below to double-check anything you see on social media or receive via email.
Who can help?
- Friends Against Scams is a National Trading Standards Scams Teams initiative, which aims to empower people to take a stand against scams. Check out their website for useful tips on staying safe and practical assistance such as Call Blockers to screen unwanted phone calls. https://www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/ You can also complete their quick and simple Friends Against Scams online training which can help to better understand and spot scams, and recognise when people are being scammed in our communities, you can access the training at https://www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/elearning/Norfolk
- In partnership with Norfolk and Suffolk Victim Care, Norfolk Constabulary and Norfolk County Council Trading Standards, we have set up a Scam Prevention Service. The service offers free and confidential specialist support to those who have been targeted by scams and helps to increase awareness of scams in Norfolk. For further information, visit their website: https://www.nsvictimcare.org/help-and-support-2/norfolk-scam-prevention-service/. You can also follow their social media accounts for local updates: https://twitter.com/nsvictimcare / https://www.facebook.com/nsvictimcare/
- To help the public protect themselves, Norfolk Trading Standards offers a free scam alert service, which will send you email updates of any new scams in Norfolk. You can sign up for these email alerts here: https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/business/trading-standards/scams. You can also follow their social media accounts for local updates: https://www.facebook.com/NorfolkTradingStandards/ https://twitter.com/NorfolkCCTS
- Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. It serves as a central point where scams can be reported and you can find information about fraud and scams: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/.
- If you have made a payment which you are now having doubts about, inform your bank as soon as possible. They can help you prevent any further losses. It is also good practice to monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.
- Misinformation and fake news can spread quickly, especially on social media. To avoid being tricked, be sure to use official sources for your information. Two safe, official online sources are: Gov.uk – for all government updates and news, NHS.uk – for the latest medical news. If there are any changes to government advice and policy, or any developments in medical treatment or advice on Coronavirus, you will find it on those two websites.
- Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board (NSAB) have a dedicated Coronavirous UK web page with latest advice and support available: https://www.norfolksafeguardingadultsboard.info/professionals/coronavirus-covid-19/