A number of local councils and other organisations have released advice on how to avoid scammers who are taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak.
Derbyshire County Council and Derbyshire Police say anyone offering to carry out a coronavirus test at your home or sell you a self-testing kit is not genuine.
Organisations such as the police or the NHS are not offering that service.
The authorities have released the following advice:
- Avoid companies that offer to clean your drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus, calling them "bogus."
- Don’t hand over cash or bank cards to strangers offering to do your shopping or other errands so that you can stay at home, as you may not see them again. Only use "trusted channels of support" rather than putting signs or notices in windows asking for help, which could make someone vulnerable to scammers.
- Only answer the door to people you trust, and to make sure doors and windows are locked, even when you’re home.
- If someone visits and claims to be from a utility service, the health service or similar, they advise that you ask to see their ID, then ask them to wait while you close the door, call their employer and check their credentials. If they’re a genuine caller, they won’t mind this.
- Remember your bank will never call and ask you for your PIN number or to transfer money from your account to another. If you receive such a call, hang up.
- Some companies are offering fake holiday refunds for people who have been forced to cancel their trips. If you’re seeking a refund also be wary of fake websites set up to claim holiday refunds
In terms of online safety at this time, Derbyshire County Council and Derbyshire Police both say that the "general online advice applies at this time."
They're insisting that you download the latest software protection on all devices and not to click on links or attachments in suspicious emails.
In terms of specific advice on avoiding coronavirus scams, they advise:
- Do not be tempted to order protective face masks, hand sanitiser, or other products, as they may never arrive, and that when making any online purchases to use a credit card if possible for better protection in case of fraud
- Another area of concern is ‘phishing’ emails. These attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments which could lead to fraudsters stealing people’s personal information, email logins and passwords, and banking details. While these are always a threat, they say there are some specifically coronavirus-themed ones to look out for
- They add that these emails include fraudsters pretending to have detailed information of coronavirus infections in your area. They will offer you details and updates which will either be not genuine or never arrive. They advise you to delete them.
- Delete emails offering investment schemes and trading advice to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn.
- Look out for fraudsters pretending to be from the HMRC tax office offering a tax refund. They set up fake websites, often using the HMRC logo, where they aim to get you to hand over personal and financial details.
Mansfield District Council has issued similar advise on avoiding coronavirus scams.
They say that some known phishing emails have claimed to be from organisations affiliated with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
There have also been some variations on current scams, with fake emails appearing to be from HMRC offering a tax rebate due to the coronavirus.
Others have received scam texts relating to coronavirus, such as those below.
Anyone who receives one is advised to delete it without clicking any links included, or replying to the text.
The Prime Minister's office has also confirmed that only one text has been officially sent to the UK public at the moment, which reads:
“GOV.UK CORONAVIRUS ALERT New rules in force now: you must stay at home. More info & exemptions at gov.uk/coronavirus Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.”
Any others said to have been sent by the government, including one that mentions government fines for leaving the house a number of times, are fake.
Ofcom have advised that they will never call anyone "out of the blue" and that any calls or messages claiming to be from them - particularly those that mention someone's broadband needing to be slowed down or switched off due to more people working from home due to coronavirus, should be ignored.
You should also hang up without speaking to an operator, as they could be at risk of giving them your personal information, which could lead to identity left.
Avoid pressing a number on your phone during one of these calls, as you could then be "connected to a high-cost premium number, leaving you liable for a significant call cost."
Other similar calls or recorded messages about the coronavirus which encourage you to speak to an operator or press a button on your phone - whether they are said to be from the NHS, the Government, the World Health Organisation (WHO) or your GP's surgery - could also be similar scams, and to follow similar advice and hang up.
If you believe any of these calls to be true - such as one from your GP - Ofcom still advise you to hang up, and call your GP's surgery directly to check, to be sure you have avoided a scam.
HMRC have also advised on social media that if you receive an email, text, or phone call claiming to be from HM Revenue & Customs that asks you to "click on a link or give information such as your name, credit card or bank details," then it is also a scam.
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