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People warned to look out for COVID cons

Local partners working together to provide support during the pandemic, are warning residents and businesses not to fall victim to any COVID-19-related scams.

Published: Friday, 8th January 2021
Coronavirus scams

Organisations across Wiltshire and Swindon are asking people to be extra vigilant as criminals look to take advantage at a time when many people are vulnerable.

In recent weeks a number of attempted scams have emerged across the country, including:

  • people receiving text messages informing they are ‘eligible’ to apply for a vaccine and then asking them to provide bank details
  • people receiving text messages that claim to be from the HMRC inviting them to claim for a ‘grant’
  • scammers looking to take advantage of businesses applying for business grants

People are urged not to provide their banks details in response to any email, phone call or text from anyone claiming to be part of the NHS vaccine programme. Bank details, passwords and pin numbers will never be requested as the COVID-19 vaccine is free and this should be an automatic red flag.

If a person or business is applying for a grant then they will always get a unique reference number from a legitimate source, such as the local authority, once they’ve filled in an application, and this will always be quoted in any correspondence. Any unsolicited correspondence asking for bank details should be ignored.

Cllr Simon Jacobs, Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member for Public Protection, said: “Unfortunately there are always shameful people ready to take advantage and illegally make money out of unfortunate situations – even a global pandemic. We’d hate to see people or businesses out of pocket at what is already a difficult time for many.

“ We ask people to be extra vigilant to this type of crime and also look out for any friends, family and neighbours who might be vulnerable to it.”

Cllr Cathy Martyn, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Public Safety, said: “Preying on vulnerable people during this time of crisis is shameful and I am appalled there are people out there who are behaving in this despicable manner.

“It is not just fraudulent text messages to individuals and businesses that are causing anxiety, we have even seen examples in London of callous people purporting to be from the NHS injecting people with fake vaccines. This not only exposes people to potentially dangerous chemicals or procedures, but gives them the false belief they are being vaccinated against COVID-19.

“If you have been a victim of cyber fraud please contact Action Fraud, but if you suspect a caller at your door is involved in a COVID-19 scam you should call the police immediately on 999.”

Detective Sergeant Sean Tregunna, from Wiltshire Police, said: "Although we've not been made aware of any cases of these scams in Wiltshire yet, it's likely to only be a matter of time before we are.

“The fraudulent vaccine text message some people have received was shared on social media over the Christmas period and, although this does help to raise awareness of the issue, the most vulnerable may not be on social media themselves so we're asking people to share the information and warn their friends and family.

"The same scam has also been reported as being conducted over the phone, the caller often asks for a number to be pressed on their keypad, resulting in a charge likely being added to their phone bill, so you simply need to hang up.

"We're keen to prevent as many people falling victim to these scams as possible and urge people to not only share the warning but if they do receive a suspicious text, forward it to 7726 which is free of charge."

Any suspected fraud should be reported to Action Fraud. More details can be found at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/reporting-fraud-and-cyber-crime

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