Coronavirus scams 2

With the Government’s recent decision to extend their ‘stay at home’ COVID-19 policy, Hampshire Trading Standards Service are urging residents to remain vigilant to doorstep callers offering home maintenance/gardening services or rubbish disposal, and to be extra alert to suspicious emails, phone calls, text messages and offers on social media.

Over the past few weeks there has been an increase in the number of scams themed around the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK. There is no reason to suspect that this will change. Below are a few examples, but they are by no means exhaustive and scams may appear in different variations and via different mediums.

Face Masks: A telephone call from a person claiming to be working on behalf of the NHS and arranging to distribute ‘face masks and hand sanitiser’ to ‘over 50s’. The caller may attempt to gain the resident’s trust by giving Coronavirus social isolation advice before stating they are distributing these items to people over 50 and attempting to claim a payment of £29 for this. In another variation of this scam, a Hampshire resident was charged £160 for face masks that did not arrive.

Supermarket Voucher Scam: Email claiming to give the recipient a money-off voucher to assist with purchases during the quarantine. The resident will be asked to click a link. This is a fraudulent email which aims to steal personal and payment card details.

Tax Refund: Text message or email claiming to be from the Council, HMRC or other authority claiming that, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the resident will be awarded a sum of money as a tax reward. This is an old scam that has many variations, but will always ask the resident to click onto a link in order to make a claim or provide details. Some offer to pay the ‘refund’ directly onto the resident’s credit or debit card or into their bank account.ON NO ACCOUNT should the recipient click on any link, or give any card/bank details away.

Goodwill Payments: Fraudulent SMS/Text message offering a payout for inconvenience from the government, for example:“As Part of the NHS promise to battle the COV- 19virus, HMRC has issued a payment of £258 as a goodwill payment. Follow link to apply”. Do not follow such links.

Garden Waste/Waste Disposal: Due to the pandemic all HCC Household Waste Recycling Centres are closed until further notice. Trading Standards are concerned there may be an increase in doorstep callers offering to remove garden or residual waste for residents who, instead of disposing of the waste legally may fly-tip it.

list of licensed registered carriers can be found on The Environment Agency website.

Residents are reminded that they are personally responsible for the safe disposal of their waste. Fly-tipping is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £50,000 or 12 months imprisonment if convicted in a Magistrates' Court. The offence can attract an unlimited fine and up to 5 years imprisonment if convicted in a Crown Court. All waste carriers are required to be licensed by the Environment Agency.

Gardening/Home Maintenance/Essential Work: Certain essential work is still permitted as long as social distancing rules are adhered to. Do not be tempted to use traders who leaflet drop or cold call offering to carry out work.

It is recommended that residents use either members of the Hampshire County Council Trading Standards Buy With Confidence Scheme or a recognised trade association. Members of the Buy With Confidence scheme are fully audited to ensure their trading practices are legal, honest and fair. All members have been checked for trustworthiness and compliance with consumer protection laws. Details can be obtained by telephoning 0808 223 1133, emailing buy.with.confidence@hants.gov.uk or via the Buy With Confidence website.

Overcharging: Certain products, such as toilet rolls, hand sanitiser and handwash, can be difficult to get hold of because of panic buying. Unscrupulous people are selling such items at inflated prices. Trading Standards are interested in knowing who is selling such items.

To report overcharging, scams, or to obtain advice, contact our partners at the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 (please note that this service is receiving a higher than average number of calls at present).

A ‘We do not buy goods or services at the door’ notice can be downloaded from our web site.