The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) is warning the public not to open their doors to bogus healthcare workers claiming to be offering ‘home-testing’ for the COVID-19 Coronavirus.
Suspicious callers are said to have been knocking on doors of elderly and vulnerable residents in various parts of the UK, saying that they are health officials doing door-to-door testing.
The alert comes days after West Midlands Police issued their own warning about the ‘cruel’ Coronavirus scammers.
In a statement, the force said its Specialist detectives from the Economic Crime Unit (ECU) are writing to past fraud victims alerting them to tricks being used by crooks to burgle homes or access banking information.
In the recent weeks the force has seen:
- ‘Phishing’ emails from hackers claiming to provide a list of Covid-19 infected people in their area – but with a link that leads to a malicious website.
- Online sellers purporting to be offering face masks or hand sanitiser for sale – but pocketing money and never sending out goods.
- Heartless con artists knocking on the doors of elderly residents offering to run shopping trips – but taking the cash or bank cards and never returning.
- Thieves posing as police officers or health visitors making Covid-19 checks at homes in a bid to gain access and steal cash and valuables.
Kloe Burrows from the ECU said: “Unprecedented times like these bring out the best in people – with communities rallying round to help those in need – but also the worst in people and those who are using the virus pandemic to profit.
“I’ve heard from the British Red Cross who are reporting people claiming to represent them who are taking cash and bank cards from people under the pretences of running shopping errands. But they’re stealing the money and using bank cards fraudulently.
“It beggars belief people can be so cruel at a time of crisis – but it’s happening and we all need to be aware and pass on the message to older, perhaps more trusting relatives, friends and neighbours.”
Katherine Hart, CTSI Joint Lead Officer for Doorstep Crime, said: “There are unfortunately people who are willing to take advantage of those who are most vulnerable even at this unprecedented time when we should all be pulling together.
“Those who have been advised to avoid social contact as part of the measures to help stop the spread of the virus are particularly at risk of being taken in by these cold callers.
“Our message is not to open the door to anyone you don’t know or anyone calling ‘out of the blue’. Stay safe by only speaking to people you know and trust.”
Advice from West Midlands Police
- Never let unsolicited callers into your home or hand over bank cards or cash
- If someone claims to be from the police, NHS or other organisation ask to see their identification. If in doubt call the organisation they claim to represent to make checks; if they are genuine they won’t mind waiting while you verify who they are.
- Don’t click on links or attachments in suspicious emails
- Do not respond to unsolicited messages asking for personal or financial information
- If you are looking at making purchases on sites you don’t know or trust then research the company beforehand
- If you do decide to make a payment, use a credit card as the majority of credit card providers insure purchases made online
- Keep in contact with your loved ones, especially if elderly