This post is focused on the rapidly increasing variety of scams related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Please report any similar scams to Advice Direct Scotland.
Fake Products Online
Illicit online sellers are trying to take advantage of worried consumers by selling a variety of items, from fake testing kits to homemade hand sanitiser and from ‘miracle cures’ to IV drips.
What to Do
- Use the Vistalworks online checker to check the legitimacy of products on Ebay before you buy them. Find the checker here
- The checker is now also available as a Chrome browser plugin, which will trigger a warning on any suspicious Ebay products or sellers. Find out more on the Vistalworks website.
- Report suspicious products or sellers to Vistalworks and help them to support Trading Standards in protecting communities
- If you are unsure about any product advertised online, don’t proceed with the order. Be particularly wary if you are asked to make a payment via bank transfer.
The Advertising Standards Authority have more guidance around advertising responsibly.
There have been reports about rogue traders cold calling households and offering to spray paths and front doors to get rid of bacteria. Others have reported fraudsters posing as NHS staff and offering to help people with their shopping in return for payment, or trying to get donations to fund a ‘vaccine’.
What to Do
- Remember – you are not being rude if you shut the door on unsolicited callers.
- Don’t agree to make any payments for goods or services offered by cold callers. NHS staff will not turn up at your door unannounced and ask you for money or donations.
- If someone that you don’t know knocks on your door and offers to buy groceries for you, don’t pay them up front. Any genuine Good Samaritan will be happy to accept payment once they have delivered your shopping to you.
- If you feel feel uncomfortable or suspicious, call Police Scotland on 101. If you feel threatened or unsafe at any time, call 999.
- Report rogue traders to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website
- Sign up for Neighbourhood Watch Alerts to stay up to date with what is going on in your community. Keep an eye on vulnerable neighbours.
Cyber criminals are taking advantage of people’s fear and uncertainty about the COVID-19 outbreak and there have been a large number of email scams reported.
The National Cyber Security Centre has guidance on staying safe online when working from home and tips on spotting and avoiding email and online scams.
- Official-looking email claiming to be from the government offering a tax refund. The link in the email takes you to a fake web page which will ask you for your financial information. HMRC would never inform you about a tax refund in this way.
- Email offering a cure for the Coronavirus. You’re asked to click on a link to find out more.
- Email claiming to be from the World Health Organisation (WHO) asking you to open an attachment detailing safety measures. By opening the attachment, you could be infecting your computer with malicious software.
- Official-looking email claiming to be from your bank asking you to update your account security information so that it will remain active. The email mentions that security is a high priority for the bank due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Clicking on the link will take you to a page asking for your bank details and personal information.
What to Do
If you receive any of these emails, do not click on any links or open any attachments. If you do, your details could be harvested by scammers. If you’re not sure whether the email is genuine, contact the organisation or bank independently using a phone number found on their website or in your documentation.
Report scam emails to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website.
Holiday / Travel Scams
Many consumers have had holiday and travel plans disrupted and fraudsters are taking advantage of their uncertainty. There have been reports of emails and phone calls claiming to be from travel agents, tour operators, insurance companies and compensation firms.
What to Do
- If you have been dealing with a travel agent, insurance company or compensation firm and are not sure whether a call is genuine, hang up and call the company independently using a phone number on your documentation or from their official website.
- Don’t click on any links or open attachments in unsolicited emails.
- Don’t give any personal details or agree to make payments to a cold caller, even if they appear to know some of your details already.
- Report suspicious emails or callers to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website
Find genuine information and guidance about travel disruption from:
- The EU Commission guidance on passenger rights
- UK Government travel advice
- ABTA FAQs
- Advice Direct Scotland
Find Trusted Information
In a time of great uncertainty and a constantly changing news cycle, there are a lot of misleading stories being shared online and through social media. Many of these stories can cause panic and distress, particularly to vulnerable people, and can make people more susceptible to being scammed.
What to Do
Get genuine information and updates from official websites: