West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and West Yorkshire Trading Standards (WYTS) have joined forces to warn communities against being taken in by scams organized by those looking to exploit the situation created by COVID-19.
National Trading Standards has also issued a resource pack for those looking to educate themselves on how to protect against heartless criminals looking to make money from people’s vulnerability.
Among the scams identified are criminals targeting older people at their homes and offering to do their shopping, but taking the money without returning, as well as people selling fake – and potentially dangerous – sanitisers, face masks and swabbing kits on doorsteps and online.
Also, Whatsapp messages asking people for bank details if their son/daughter receives free school meals. Trading Standards also warns members of the public to ignore scam products such as supplements and anti-virus kits that falsely claim to cure or prevent COVID-19.
In some cases individuals may be pressurised on their own doorsteps to buy anti-virus kits or persuaded into purchasing products that are advertised on their social media feeds. In addition, some call centres that previously targeted UK consumers with dubious health products are now offering supplements that supposedly prevent COVID-19.
Mr Burns-Williamson said: “This is clearly exploitation of our most vulnerable in their hour of need and is abhorrent. When communities are pulling together and supporting one another, for criminals to try and exploit this situation hide behind a shield of kindness before they rob people of their money is as low as it gets. Anyone caught doing this will be dealt with robustly.
“Now is a time for pulling together and protecting one another and I would urge neighbours to look after their elderly neighbours or people with long-term health conditions to ensure they are not being exploited in this way.”
Linda Davis, West Yorkshire Trading Standards Manager, said: “We are already starting to see examples of COVID19 scams, whether that’s businesses advertising virus testing kits that are not yet available, or doorstep criminals targeting elderly and vulnerable residents who are at home alone. Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money, is it a scam?
“Fraudsters are always keen to take advantage of the uncertainty and fear amongst the public, whether that’s through the internet, telephone or doorstep calls. Be vigilant, and look out for those who may be vulnerable to scammers.”
Consumers should be vigilant and ask for ID from anyone claiming to represent a charity.
Members of the public are being urged to keep in contact with family members regularly and inform them of the most prolific scams and the possible dangers to them.
If you or someone you know has been a targeted by a scam you should report it to Action Fraud online at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. For advice and information on how to check if something might be a scam, visit: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/check-if-something-might-be-a-scam