Council warns criminal gangs using covid to scam the public

Statement from Cllr Katherine Dunne, Cabinet Member for Communities and Climate Emergency about fraudulent cases connected to Covid-19.

Published: Thursday, 2nd April 2020

A fake text message from fraudster posing as GOV.uk.

Cllr Katherine Dunne, Cabinet Member for Communities and Climate Emergency, Hounslow Council said: "In these very difficult times we are all currently facing, the police have issued a very strong warning that a number of criminal gangs are operating all over the UK, and not just in Hounslow carrying out serious fraudulent acts using the Covid - 19 pandemic to scam the public. 

"I have been in touch with our local police service here in the borough and they have assured me that law enforcement, government and private sector partners are working together to encourage members of the public to be more vigilant against fraud, particularly about sharing their financial and personal information, as criminals seek to capitalise on the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We must remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and even the police.  They spend hours researching individuals for their scams, hoping people will let their guard down for just a moment. Please just take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information especially if it is to an unknown source.

"The majority of reports are related to online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived. Other frauds being reported include ticket fraud, romance fraud, charity fraud and lender loan fraud.

There have also been over 1,000 reports of coronavirus-themed phishing attempts – the majority of which are emails. These communications try to trick people into opening malicious attachments which could lead to fraudsters stealing people’s personal information, email logins and passwords, and banking details. 

"If you have any doubts at all, please contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to the Action Fraud Team. Remember, your bank or the police will never ask you to transfer money or move it to a safe account".

Commander Karen Baxter, City of London Police, National Co-ordinator of Economic Crime, said: "Criminals will use any opportunity they can to take money from innocent people. This includes exploiting tragedies and global emergencies.

"As more people stay indoors and work from computers at home, there is more opportunity for criminals to try and trick people into parting with their money at a time when they are anxious and uncertain about the future. This is especially relevant as older, more vulnerable people self-isolate and may be targeted over the phone, or even in person, by despicable criminals. It is important that we continue to raise awareness of fraud and protect ourselves, and the vulnerable people in our communities, the best we can".

Advice is available here, and if you think you’ve been a victim of a scam, please report it to Actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040. 

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