Sandwell’s Trading Standards team is urging people to be on their guard against falling victim to rogue traders and distraction burglars.
Officers say that opportunists are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to knock on doors and defraud residents.
Reports include people posing as healthcare workers, offering to shop for older people, taking their money and not coming back, as well as the more usual attempts to carry out often unnecessary work to drives, gardens and roofs.
These rogue traders carry out poor quality and unfinished work, agreeing a price and then claiming more work is needed to increase the cost, they are very persuasive and often aggressive.
Council Leader Councillor Yvonne Davies said: “We want to warn people to be extra vigilant, don’t open your door to anyone that you don’t know.”
There are a number of coronavirus-related scams in operation.
• Criminals are targeting older people on their doorstep, offering to do shopping. Thieves take their money and don’t return.
• Doorstep cleansing services offering to clean drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus.
• Email scams that trick people into opening malicious attachments putting people at the risk of identity theft. Some of these emails have lured people to click on attachments by offering information about people who are affected by coronavirus locally.
• Fake online resources – such as false coronavirus Maps – that deliver malware such as AZORult Trojan, an information stealing programme which can infiltrate a variety of sensitive data.
A prominent example that has deployed malware is ‘corona-virus-map[dot]com’.
• Companies and websites offering fake holiday refunds to people who have been forced to cancel their trips.
• Fake hand sanitisers, face masks and coronavirus swabbing kits sold online and door-to-door. These products are often dangerous and unsafe with some potentially harmful hand sanitise containing glutaral (or glutaraldehyde) which was banned for human use in 2014.
• As more people self-isolate at home there is an increasing risk that telephone scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.
Residents are urged to stop cold calls by registering with the Telephone Preference Service at www.tpsonline.org.uk or by calling 0345 070 0707.
• There have been reports of thieves extorting money from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a coronavirus ‘vaccine’.
If you are thinking of making a donation, please think about your local voluntary sector which is always looking for additional funds.
• Illegal money lenders are expected to prey on people’s financial hardship, lending money before charging extortionate interest rates and fees through threats and violence.
If you or someone you know has been targeted by a scam please report it to Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
For advice and information on how to check if something is a scam visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/check-if-something-might-be-a-scam
National Trading Standards is also issuing urgent advice to help prevent people falling victim to coronavirus-related scams through is Friends Against Scams campaign.
They provide free online training modules to empower people to take a stand against scams at www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk
Residents can contact Sandwell’s trading standards team by calling 03454 04 05 06 or online at www.sandwell.gov.uk/tradingstandards