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The outbreak of COVID-19 has seen an increase in scams and doorstep traders who are trying to exploit fear and uncertainty during this difficult time. As individuals and communities, we urge you to keep safe and vigilant in the current environment and look out for scams in your neighbourhood, which often target elderly and vulnerable people.

Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service is calling on communities to look out for each other. If you see or hear anything suspicious contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133. For more advice visit devonsomersettradingstandards.gov.uk.

Types of scams to be wary of

Testing kits and cures

There is currently no cure for COVID-19 and limited access to testing kits outside the NHS. When these kits are available, always ensure you are purchasing from a reputable supplier.

Doorstep crime

There are many genuine community groups and charities that are assisting the most vulnerable, however, be alert for individuals who may be taking money underthe false pretence of helping.

Donation scams

There have been reports of thieves extorting money from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a COVID-19 ‘vaccine’.

Refund scams

Some companies are offering fake holiday refunds for individuals who have been forced to cancel their trips. People seeking refunds should also be wary of fake websites set up to claim holiday refunds.

Financial scams

Criminals are seeking to take advantage of the financial uncertainty many people are facing. These include calls/emails pretending to be from your bank, mortgage or internet provider, as well as increases in loan shark activity.

Census Scams

These scam texts threaten the recipient with a £1000 fine for not completing the census, or for filling it in incorrectly. Further information can be found on the Census' website

  • The Office of National Statistics (ONS) will never contact someone by text in relation to the census unless you’ve texted us – our responses will come from 86677
  • The ONS will never issue a fine by text, phone call, email or social media
  • The ONS will never ask you for your national insurance number, passwords, bank account details, or your credit or debit card numbers
  • Scam text messages can be forwarded to 7726 and scam emails to report@phishing.gov.uk

Devon and Cornwall Police Alerts - Scam Information

How to report scams:

If you have given out any financial information please phone your bank or building society immediately.

If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you are suspicious about an email you have received, you can report it by forwarding the email to: report@phishing.gov.uk. Suspicious text messages can also be reported by forwarding them to the number: 7726 (it’s free of charge).

If you believe you are the victim of a fraud, please report this to Action Fraud as soon as possible by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.

23/09/2021 - Cold Callers Purporting to be from Amazon

A cold caller, email, or automated call claims to be from Amazon/prime subscription informing the resident that they have been signed up to Amazon Prime subscription, or another storyline about subscription, and asks the resident for their bank details for a refund to be made, the resident is then told by the caller that they have accidentally refunded too much and for the resident to send the money back - this is a scam.
Please be wary of this and any contact of this type and other variations, which may include:

  • an automated call stating a number should be pressed for various reasons
  • or by someone in person asking for vouchers to be purchased in a shop and codes to be handed over
  • a request to download an app
  • emails with links attached (to phishing sites)

All of these are scams and instructions should not be followed, please hang up, don’t give out any personal information or click on any links.
If you want to check a call is genuine  - hang up and make contact the company via a reliable source. Please wait ten minutes before making another call or clear the line by phoning a friend/family member.
If someone has attended your address asking for money as part of a scam and may still be in your local area or if any scammer is actively contacting you at this time and trying to persuade you into a scam, please call 999.

09/08/2021 - Vaccine Passport Scams

Action Fraud has received over 700 reports from members of the public about fake emails purporting to be from the NHS. The emails claim to be able to provide people with a “digital passport” that “proves you have been vaccinated against COVID-19”. These emails are fake, and the links within them lead to genuine-looking websites that steal your personal and financial information. Remember, the vaccine is free of charge. At no point will you be asked to pay.

  • The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.
  • The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking passwords.
  • The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine.
  • The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.
  • Your vaccination status can be obtained for free through the official NHS app, NHS website, or by calling the NHS on 119.

30/06/2021 - Mobile Phone Scam

We would like to make residents aware of a scam in circulation that we have received reports of. This scam involves a resident receiving a cold call from someone purporting to be from a mobile phone company giving details of an offer on a mobile phone contract with a new handset. A mobile phone is then delivered to the resident which is different from the one offered in the original call, the resident receives another call from the fraudster stating that the wrong phone was sent and an address is given for it to be sent to. Please be wary of this scam. If you are looking for a new contract or mobile phone please do not take the word of a cold caller as genuinely being from that Company, do not give any personal information. After receiving a cold call please wait ten minutes before making another call, or make sure the line has cleared by phoning a friend/family member. If you believe you may have been a victim to this scam please phone the Company that the phone has been sent from, by finding the number from a reliable source.

30/06/2021 - Scam calls with matching numbers

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) is warning the public to be vigilant of scam calls that appear to be coming from numbers similar to their own. Commonly, the first seven digits (07nnnnn) match the victim’s own number. The calls impersonate well-known government organisations, or law enforcement agencies, and will ask the recipient of the call to “press 1” in order to speak with an advisor, or police officer, about unpaid fines or police warrants.

In May 2021, Action Fraud received 2,110 scam call reports where the caller’s number matched the first seven digits of the victim’s own phone number. Of these, 1,426 (68%) referred to HMRC or National Insurance. Victims have also reported receiving these types of calls, and messaging, via widely-used messaging apps, such as WhatsApp.

What you need to do:

Government and law enforcement agencies will not notify you about unpaid fines or outstanding police warrants by calling or texting you. Do not respond to any calls or texts you receive about these. Always take a moment to stop and think before parting with money or your personal information, it could prevent you from falling victim to fraud. Remember, it’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.


How to stay safe:

  • If you need help, try and use people you know and trust. If you cannot do this,
    always ask the person for ID, preferably in the form of a driving licence and make
    a note of their details.
  • Don’t assume everyone is genuine. It is okay to say no and refuse an offer.
  • Don’t open links or attachments from suspicious emails or text messages
  • Never give out your personal bank details, pin, passwords to anyone over the phone, online or on your doorstep
  • Don’t ring the number the caller has given you to check it’s genuine. Always try to look the number up for yourself
  • If buying online, only make payments if there is a padlock symbol in the browser
    window frame and you have carefully checked the site and website address for
    inconsistencies
  • If you are unsure, please seek advice from someone you know and trust

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