According to the latest data from Experian, UK fraud rates have jumped 33% during the since the implementation of lockdown measures in the UK as a result of COVID-19.
Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, has reported that over 16,000 UK consumers have been affected by online shopping and auction fraud, with nearly one quarter of the victims between 18 and 26 years old.
Trading Standard bosses have warned of an imminent spike in scam telephone calls as lockdown measures are eased across the country. With call centres around the world re-opening, including those operated by criminal groups, the volume of these calls is set to increase dramatically.
Trading Standards have confirmed that one company was found to have made over 680,000 automated scam calls over a four-week period, urging consumers to purchase face masks and hand sanitiser at a cost of £29.99-£49.99, falsely claiming they were government required.
Criminal gangs continue to exploit public fears with new and more sophisticated scams, regularly conning vulnerable citizens out of money. UK consumers lose billions of pounds each year as a result of scams. One of the most insidious recent scams to have emerged is coronavirus-related Test and Trace scams.
Councils and Trading Standards offices across the country have been receiving reports of fraudsters attempting to exploit the current pandemic through emails, phone calls, and text messages, requesting bank details to cover the cost of COVID-19 testing kits. These kits are free via the NH: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested/pages/arrange-a-test/
The Test and Protect Service (Test and Trace in other parts of the UK) aims to reduce the spread of the virus by testing citizens with symptoms and either emailing, calling, or texting whoever they have been in close proximity to, advising them to self-isolate. These new scams attempt to profit off these new government-led processes.
Often, these scams incorporate something called number spoofing, which makes it appear that the scammer is calling from a different source, mimicking a genuine phone number. They may try and ‘mimic’ the official Test and Protect number in order to hide their identity.
In some cases, a message or phone call claiming to be from the NHS Test and Protect Service is sent or made to households claiming they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and that they should isolate and take a test. The scammers ask for the citizens home address details so a testing kit can be sent out. Bank details are then requested to “cover the cost of the testing kit”.
The public should be aware that the genuine NHS Test and Protect Service will never:
- Ask for bank details, PIN numbers or passwords
- Ask for any payment or request you purchase any product – including a test
- Ask you to download any software or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet
- Ask that you call any premium rate numbers i.e. 09 or 087 numbers
- Ask for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts
- Tell you the identity of the person infected
- Disclose any of your personal or medical information to your contacts
- Ask you to access any website that does not belong to the Government or NHS
Anyone who encounters a fake Test and Protect service requesting these details should visit https://consumeradvice.scot/ or contact us on 0808 164 6000.
Whether it is a Test and Protect scam, scammers selling fake testing kits or cold callers, citizens should be aware and remain vigilant, taking care to ensure that any vulnerable friends or family members know the signs to look out for.
consumeradvice.scot in collaboration with Trading Standards Scotland, Police Scotland, Neighbourhood Watch Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue collaborated on the #ShutOutScammers campaign in an effort to raise awareness and provide guidance on the dangers posed by scams to the general public.
Get your news and information from trusted sources and keep up to date with the latest scams by signing up to receive Trading Standards Scotland’s #ScamShare bulletin:
Trading Standards Scotland’s Twitter: @TSScot
You can also look out for the following hashtags to keep up to date with the most recent scams and advice:
If you believe that you have been targeted by a scam, or have information for Trading Standards on any potential scams, you can contact consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. You can follow us on social media – Twitter: @advicedotscot and Facebook at www.facebook.com/advice.scot, Instagram: @advice.scot, or get ahead by visiting our knowledge centre at www.consumeradvice.scot