Press Release

‘Miracle cures’, fake sanitisers and cold callers – please be vigilant

26 March 2020

Unscrupulous criminals are exploiting fears about COVID-19 to prey on members of the public, particularly older and vulnerable people who are isolated from family and friends.

‘Miracle cures’, fake sanitisers and cold callers – please be vigilant

Neath Port Talbot Council, working with National Trading Standards (NTS), is warning people to remain vigilant following a rise in coronavirus-related scams which seek to benefit from the public’s concern and uncertainty over COVID-19.
Residents should ignore scam products such as supplements and anti-virus kits that falsely claim to cure or prevent COVID-19. In some cases people may be pressured on their own doorsteps to buy anti-virus kits 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.
Communities are also being urged to look out for signs of neighbours being targeted by doorstep criminals. 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.
As a result, we would like to remind residents of the launch of NPT Safe and Well.
This is our free service to support vulnerable residents who have been told to self-isolate but don’t have any family, friends or neighbours to call on for help. We will arrange for a trusted volunteer to help with daily living tasks such as food shopping, collecting medical supplies, posting mail and any other reasonable tasks.
It has been set up in response to those who have been identified as medically vulnerable by the NHS. More than 4000 residents living in Neath Port Talbot have been told to self-isolate for 13 to 16 weeks to lower the risk of contracting the coronavirus. NPT Safe and Well will ensure everyone has someone they can turn to for support during this period.
All of our volunteers have been instructed to follow Government guidelines on social distancing and they will NOT ask for any payment. NPT Safe and Well is a free service. To access the service, contact us on 01639 686.
COVID-19 scams identified include:
Doorstep crime
• Criminals targeting older people on their doorstep and offering to do their shopping. Thieves take the money and do not return.
• Doorstep cleansing services that offer to clean drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus.
Online scams
• Email scams that trick people into opening malicious attachments, which put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details at risk. Fake online resources – such as false Coronavirus Maps – that deliver malware such as AZORult Trojan, an information stealing program which can infiltrate a variety of sensitive data. A prominent example that has deployed malware is ‘corona-virus-map[dot]com’.
Refund scams
• Companies offering fake holiday refunds for individuals who have been forced to cancel their trips. People seeking refunds should also be wary of fake websites set up to claim holiday refunds.
Counterfeit goods
• Fake sanitisers, face masks and Covid19 swabbing kits sold online and door-to-door. These products can often be dangerous and unsafe. There are reports of some potentially harmful hand sanitiser containing glutaral (or glutaraldehyde), which was banned for human use in 2014.
Telephone scams
• As more people self-isolate at home there is an increasing risk that telephone scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.
Donation scams
• There have been reports of thieves extorting money from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a COVID-19 ‘vaccine’.
Loan sharks
• Illegal money lenders are expected to prey on people’s financial hardship, lending money before charging extortionate interest rates and fees through threats and violence

NTS is issuing urgent advice to help prevent people falling victim to COVID-19 scams through its Friends Against Scams initiative.
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 someone has been targeted by a scam it can be reported to Action Fraud online at 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: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/check-if-something-might-be-a-scam/.

 

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