St Helens residents urged to stay vigilant to fraud as lockdown eases
Members of the public in St Helens are being warned to continue to be vigilant to fraudsters as the lockdown eases.
COVID-19 related fraud currently makes up around 3% of all fraud reports received to Action Fraud and there are a number of different scams which are currently in circulation in the UK.
These have included:
Suspect advertises a vehicle for sale online but says it can’t be viewed in person, due to the lockdown restrictions. The suspect instead arranges for the vehicle to be delivered using a delivery company. The victim pays for the vehicle (or a deposit), but the vehicle is never delivered. The victim is given the option of paying by bank transfer or through PayPal. The PayPal link they’re provided with is a spoofed site.
Suspect advertises a pet online (puppy or kitten) and uses the lockdown as a reason the victim can’t come and see the animal. The suspect sends photos and persuades the victim to make a payment in advance. The suspects will often try to get the victim to pay additional unforeseen costs (insurance, vaccinations) after they’ve made the initial payment but never provide the pet.
Victim tried to apply for a government grant to assist their business during the outbreak but was informed their business had already received a grant and were therefore not eligible for any more financial assistance. The victim did not make this initial application and does not recognise the account the payment was made to.
Suspects are incorporating the coronavirus pandemic into push payment frauds and using the outbreak to convince victims to speak with the suspect on the phone, saying the banks are closed etc.
Also people are being reminded that if they are contacted by someone asking for payment for the Covid vaccine, it is a scam.
The vaccine is free on the NHS and you will never be charged for it. If anyone asks you for payment, then it’s important to report them to us or our colleagues at Action Fraud as soon as possible.
Detective Inspector Holly Chance said: “We know that the work of fraudsters has continued throughout the lockdown period and will continue as restrictions are eased and people try to resume some kind of normality in their lives.
“This includes online shopping scams which make people believe they are purchasing protective face masks or hand sanitiser that, in reality, do not exist.
“Criminals are also using Government branding to try to trick people, including using HMRC branding to make spurious offers of financial support through unsolicited emails, phone calls and text messages. We have also seen fake websites and emails purporting to be genuine companies.
“This situation is likely to continue, with criminals looking to take advantage by exploiting people’s financial concerns to ask for upfront fees fraudulently applied to bogus loans; offer high-return investment scams; or target pensions.
“Our advice to people would be not to click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for personal or financial details.
“We continue to work with Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to identify bogus websites and scams and would ask anyone who thinks they have been a victim to contact Action Fraud so that the matter can be investigated locally.”
For more information about fraud and fraud prevention:
Action Fraud is the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre. If you believe you have been a victim of fraud you can contact them on 0300 123 2040 or go to www.actionfraud.police.ukFor advice about computer software service fraud visit the NCSC website for home working guidance and suspicious email advice.
Advice and information about fraud is also available via https://www.merseyside.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/fa/fraud/