Residents in Devon, Somerset and Torbay urged to remain vigilant as new COVID-19 scams continue to be identified

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Posted on: 24 April 2020

Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service is reminding residents to ‘stay home, stay safe and stay scam aware’, as new coronavirus (COVID-19) related scams continue to emerge.

Since the outbreak there has been a rise in scams exploiting the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19). These include medical kits that claim to prevent or cure the disease, counterfeit or unsafe medical supplies, such as hand sanitizer and swabbing kits, and financial scams, including phone calls claiming to be from your bank or mortgage provider.

Trading Standards Officers are continuing to monitor new scams and have identified an automated telephone call claiming that wearing face masks is now a legal requirement, which then asks for an order to be placed immediately with a debit or credit card.

The equipment will then either fail to arrive, be over-priced or counterfeit and unlikely to meet essential safety requirements.

Anyone that receives a call like this should hang up immediately without passing on any personal or financial information.

A full list of coronavirus (COVID-19) related scams can be found on the National Trading Standards website.

There are many steps that can be taken to help protect yourself and others from scams, including:

  • Asking any unexpected visitors for ID.
  • Trying to rely on trusted contacts for any help that you may need or consider using a service from a ‘Buy with confidence’ business if you can’t get a personal recommendation.
  • Trusting your instincts and saying no to any offers, either on the phone, online or in person, that seem suspicious.
  • Being wary of unexpected emails or texts and not clicking on links or attachments.  Always go to the organisation’s website to check correct information and contact details.
  • Never give out personal or financial information to people you don’t know.
  • Try to look up contact details such as phone numbers yourself rather than relying on those given to you over the phone.
  • Only making online payments if there is a padlock symbol in the browser and you have carefully checked the site and website address for inconsistencies.

For more information about coronavirus (COVID-19) scams and how to safeguard yourself visit the Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards website.

Rachael Holden, Group Manager for Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service, said: “We’ve produced a simple guide to help people recognise scams and know what to do if they think they’ve inadvertently fallen victim to one. Residents are urged to familiarise themselves with it and share it with their friends and family so they can continue looking out for elderly or vulnerable members of the community who are at greater risk of being targeted by these fraudsters. If you see or hear anything suspicious contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 or via the webform on their website.”

Photo of Councillor Rufus Gilbert

Councillor Rufus Gilbert

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “At times like this it is important to look out for each other and remain aware of the small number of criminals that try to take advantage of the impact of coronavirus. It is good to see work continuing to keep local residents in Devon safe and informed.”

“I would urge everyone to be mindful of potential coronavirus scams and take appropriate steps to help safeguard yourself, your business and members of your local community.”

All the information contained in the guide as well as a printable version can be viewed on their website here.

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