Be on your guard against pandemic scammers

City residents are being warned to be on their guard against scammers who are exploiting the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. 

Officers from City of Wolverhampton Council’s Trading Standards team are aware of a number of national scams targeting people by email, text messages and on the doorstep.

The scams include:

  • People offering vaccines for coronavirus – the Covid-19 vaccine which is currently being rolled out is only available through the NHS. People will be contacted by the NHS as and when they become eligible. There is no need to contact your GP or pharmacy.
  • Fake products available to buy online that claim to protect against coronavirus. These are designed to take your money – people are asked to follow the NHS advice.
  • Fake coronavirus apps that claim to give updates on the virus but are instead used by scammers to lock your phone and demand a ransom. Use the official NHS app.
  • People offering to do shopping or collect medicines, asking for money upfront and then disappearing.
  • People claiming to be offering ‘home-testing’ for coronavirus – city residents without symptoms can attend the Civic Centre or Jamia Masjid Bilal for rapid testing. Anyone with symptoms must book a test online at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.

Trading Standards officers are also warning against other scams that are common at this time of year.

These include:

  • Bogus emails which offer refunds on council tax, income tax or household bills. These scams are after personal and bank details - if you weren’t expecting them, just delete them.
  • Telephone calls offering help with getting compensation from car accidents.

Cllr Steve Evans, Cabinet Member for City Environment, said:

Unfortunately, not everyone is trustworthy, and some people will take advantage of the current situation to try and con money out of people.

Scams come in many different guises, so before agreeing to an offer give yourself time to think about it and have a chat with family, neighbours or friends.

But most of all, if something doesn’t seem right, then remember that you can put the phone down, delete the text or email, or shut the door.

Five top tips to avoid being scammed:

  • Always be suspicious of requests for money up front. If someone is trying to tempt you into accepting a service, they are unlikely to be genuine.
  • Be wary of fake news and only use trusted sources such as gov.uk or nhs.uk websites. Don’t click on links in emails that you weren’t expecting.
  • Only purchase goods from legitimate retailers and if you have any doubts, take a moment to think before parting with money or personal information.
  • Never ever give your bank card or PIN to a stranger.
  • Don’t be rushed into making a decision that you might regret - speak to family and friends first. Don’t be afraid to put the phone down, delete unexpected texts or emails, or shut the door.

If you think you have been scammed, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. If you need advice, call Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.

Contact your bank straight away if you think that someone has access to your accounts. If you are in immediate danger, contact the police on 999.