Beware - Coronavirus scams

Fife Council Trading Standards are warning the public to be extra vigilant in order to avoid being caught up in a wave of new scams related to the Coronavirus outbreak.

In common with most other crisis situations there are reports of criminals cold calling homes around the UK, as well as emails, text messages, social media posts, online advertisements and phone calls being used to defraud unsuspecting victims.

It has come to light for instance that emails claiming to be from the Government are offering a tax rebate to support people through this difficult period. The emails, which look official, inform the recipient of the rebate amount and request that they click a link to receive it. At the link, the recipient is asked to fill in personal details, including their credit or debit card number and home address. Having those details allows the scammers to take money directly from the victim’s bank account.

Another email purporting to be from the World Health Organisation (WHO), contains an attachment which is said to hold crucial coronavirus safety advice. Once opened, the attachment downloads a keylogger that enables scammers to follow the online movements of the user, and in doing so gain access to the device as well as sensitive personal information.

Other scams range from fake ‘insurance companies’ attempting to take advantage of the uncertainty over travel to counterfeit coronavirus test kits being offered for sale.

Dawn Adamson, Trading Standards Service Manager said: "Scammers are targeting all parts of the UK, including Fife, and unfortunately these people have no conscience when it comes to trying to rip people off and will attempt to benefit from any situation. We are working with all relevant partners and will be regularly distributing messages across all media platforms, identifying specific problems and informing the public. Our general advice is, if you are in any doubt whatsoever don’t enter into anything without making a few checks”.

Citizens Advice Scotland have a scam checker which you can access by visiting their website, and members of the public wishing advice on a particular matter can also contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or visit consumeradvice.scot

In addition to scams, The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have stated it will consider any evidence that companies may have broken competition or consumer protection law, for example by charging excessive prices for goods such as hand sanitiser or making misleading claims about the efficacy of protective equipment. It will take direct enforcement action in appropriate cases.

Contact information:

E: trading.standards@fife.gov.uk

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