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Watch out - Coronavirus fraudsters are stepping up their tricks

Trading Standards officers have issued a further warning to Hartlepool residents to be on their guard against fraudsters trying different ways to take advantage of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Incidents have been reported nationally of fraudsters knocking on vulnerable residents’ doors posing as officials from organisations such as the NHS or the World Health Organisation and attempting to sell fake Coronavirus testing kits and vaccinations.

Criminals have also been approaching elderly residents who may be self-isolating and offering to go shopping for them to buy essential goods before disappearing with the resident’s cash or bank card, or they have been trying to sell them high demand items such as toilet roll and hand gels for grossly inflated prices.

People are also warned to watch out for:

  • Phishing scams – fraudsters sending emails purporting to be from reputable organisations to try to get the recipient to reveal personal information such as passwords and financial details by clicking on a hyperlink or opening an attachment. Among the many forms these can take are fake ‘security’ warnings claiming that there has been a suspicious attempt to log onto the recipient’s computer and offers of computer servicing. 
  • Emails offering fake medical support or luring people in with offers that look too good to be true, such as high return investments and ‘healthcare opportunities’, or charity appeals for bogus charities or those who are ill.
  • Online shopping scams offering protective face masks, hand sanitiser and testing kits – when ordered and paid for, the items never arrive.
  • Criminals using Government branding to try to trick people, including using HM Revenue and Customs branding to make bogus offers of financial support or tax rebates through unsolicited emails, phone calls and text messages.
  • Loan or investment fraud and - in the case of businesses – mandate fraud, in which businesses receive bogus requests to move money into a new bank account. (If you run a business and you receive a request to move money into a new bank account, contact the supplier directly using established contact details to verify and corroborate the payment request).

Rachael Readman, Hartlepool Borough Council’s Acting Trading Standards and Licensing Manager, said: “In these difficult times, people must remain vigilant against fraud, especially if they are asked to share their financial and personal information or passwords and computer logon details.

“With the huge increase in people working from home, it’s expected there will be a surge in phishing scams across the country, or telephone calls claiming to be from Government departments offering grants, tax rebates or compensation.

“Official organisations will never contact you in this way and only criminals will try to rush or panic you into a response.

“If you receive a suspicious email, never click on any attachment or link, and if anyone contacts you by phone and asks you for financial or personal details, don’t give any information and end the call immediately.

“Similarly, if you are approached by anyone on your doorstep offering any type of service, don’t deal with them – shut the door and don’t let them trick you into letting them into your home.”

If you are worried about a cold caller or a scam, contact Hartlepool Trading Standards on 01429 523362.   

If you think you have been the victim of fraud, call your bank immediately and report it to national organisation Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.