Beware of COVID-19 scams, warns London Trading Standards

London Trading Standards is encouraging family and friends to help to protect vulnerable residents from potential scams amid reports of fraudsters trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Nationally, there have been reports of frauds relating to the supply of face masks, primarily online; fraudsters trying to persuade people to disclose personal information by posing as legitimate bank, police or health officials over the phone or through emails. Some claim to provide medical guidance, investment opportunities or a safe place to which to transfer money. Victims then hand over financial details or click links that may contain dangerous malware.

Other frauds include emails asking people to visit a fake website bearing an HM Revenue and Customs logo, with the promise of a tax refund. An associated website claims that, as a precaution against coronavirus, the government has set up a new tax refund programme.

Fraudsters are also sending out coronavirus-themed phishing emails in an attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive personal and financial details.

Victims have also reported fraudsters purporting to be from research organisation’s affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) contact potential victims over email. They claim to be able to provide the recipient with a list of coronavirus infected people in their area. In order to access this information, the victim needs to click on a link, which leads to a malicious website, or is asked to make a payment in Bitcoin.

London Trading Standards Operations Director, Stephen Knight, said: “London borough trading officers are concerned about the potential for increased numbers of doorstep callers, who may try to visit people while they are self-isolating or social distancing and attempt to undertake unnecessary or overpriced property repairs and gardening at their homes.

“It is particularly despicable to target older or disabled people in the current situation. As always, we encourage people to follow trading standards’ advice and urge family, friends and neighbours to be alert to the potential for scams and to do their best to protect those who might be at risk.”

Residents are advised by Trading Standards:

  • Not to deal with cold callers at any time, either by phone or at the door, but particularly those who may seek to exploit the current situation
  • Not to respond to unsolicited emails
  • To take extra care of elderly and disabled residents to protect them from such scams
  • To report all frauds to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or through the action fraud website
  • To report concerns about doorstep callers to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service Helpline on 0808 223 1133, and in urgent cases to the police on 999
  • To report concerns about cold callers by telephone to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service Helpline on 0808 223 1133 or to Action Fraud
  • To report concerns about fake products or false claims made about products, contact Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice consumer service helpline on 0808 223 1133 or via their chat service online