Consumers are being warned to be on the alert for fraudsters taking advantage of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
Middlesbrough Council's Public Protection Service is urging people to be on the look-out for scams designed to take advantage of a fast-moving and worrying situation.
The scammers are preying on fear and uncertainty surrounding the disease to set up fake advertisements for goods in short supply and send out emails about the Coronavirus.
The emails encourage consumers to click on links for information which then allow the scammers to collect personal or financial information.
Recent scams to be aware of include:
- Fake advertisements for protective masks, hand sanitiser, or vaccines - goods are unlikely to arrive and bank details may be used to empty accounts
- Email scams for Covid-19 tax refunds or goodwill payments from HMRC - fake government website forms are used to obtain personal and financial information
- Fake World Health Organisation (WHO) emails about preventing the spread of the disease that allow malware onto the recipient's computer
- Fake Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) emails directing people to a fake log-in page
- Fake donation sites asking for money to help develop vaccines or support those affected by the Coronavirus
- Scam phone calls claiming to help people obtain refunds or compensation for failed travel or event plans
- Scammers turning up in haz-mat suits on your doorstop asking for personal or financial details
Middlesbrough Council's Trading Standards Officers are urging people never to reply to unsolicited emails, texts, social media posts or telephone calls, or click on any links that then ask for personal or financial information, however genuine they appear to be.
Never give personal or financial information to cold callers at the door - ask for ID and call the company/utility provider on a telephone number known to be correct from existing correspondence or from official websites.
Never call a number provided by the caller - it too could be fake.
Judith Hedgley, Middlesbrough Council's Head of Public Protection, said: "Scammers seek to make money directly or by obtaining personal and financial information from victims which is then used in crime.
"It is important that consumers are made aware of these scams and how to protect themselves from them.
"I would encourage family and friends of people, especially those who may be more vulnerable, to talk to them about scams and how to avoid becoming a victim of the scammers."
Councillor Dorothy Davison, Middlesbrough Council's Executive member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, said: "It's hard to believe, but there are people out there willing to use this dreadful situation to take advantage of the vulnerable, and potentially rob them of their life savings.
"The Council is doing everything it can to help local communities to stay safe and to prevent residents falling victim to scams, and I'd urge people to be alert and report any suspicious activity."
Anyone with concerns about cold-callers or scams should call the Citizens Advice Consumer Services Helpline on 0808 223 1133 who are the first point of contact for all calls for Trading Standards nationally.
The Citizens Advice scams action line is on 0808 250 5050, or reports can be made to the Action Fraud line on 0300 123 2040 or by visiting the Action Fraud website.