Our UK private investigators at IC Investigations often see predatory individuals – scammers – looking to make quick money from confusion and suffering. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has not proved an exception. There’s been a sharp uptick in Coronavirus scams lately, with a particular rise in online shopping scams. As a private investigation company it’s our job to stay on top of all the most common scams to better protect our clients, so we’ve put together a short article helping you avoid some of the most common Coronavirus scams.
The ‘S.C.A.M.’ Test
If you’ve received contact from someone or something you think is a scam, then use this S.C.A.M. test to help identify the nature of the contact. This can include emails, text messages, phone calls or someone showing up at your door.
- S – Seems too good to be true?
- C – Contacted out of the blue?
- A – Asked for personal information?
- M – Money requested?
If you’re wondering if something seems suspicious, it always helps to apply this test. If something ticks all these boxes, you’re almost always safe to assume that it’s a scam. Obvious scams – especially door to door scams – should be reported to the police.
Common Coronavirus Scams
These are some of the most common scams that are being attempted in the current COVID-19 climate. If you suspect something may be an attempt to scam you, it’s always best to play it safe. Here are just some of the ways that criminals are trying to use the pandemic to steal money:
- The sale of ‘cures’ or testing kits. There is no coronavirus cure for sale, and there are cases of people being arrested after being caught trying to sell fake cures. For genuine tests, you can go through the NHS for more information.
- Texts or emails offering ‘tax breaks’ or COVID-19 relief. A 20-year-old student was arrested after running this scam from March, however he is not the only one doing it. Don’t sign up or provide information to anyone that’s contacted you out of the blue, and check the official gov.uk site for legitimate information on available help.
- Online shopping scams that offer PPE (masks, gloves), hand sanitiser and other high-demand items but don’t deliver the product after receiving payment. Reviews on products can’t always be trusted as they can be bought, so try to buy your COVID-19 protection either in person at a store or from a trusted website. An arrest was made after this scam was used to steal 6.64 million euros from a French pharmaceutical company.
- Doorstop crime – criminals that target older people turning up on their doorstep and offering to do their shopping, then leaving with the money without returning. If you need someone to do your shopping then ask a friend or family, or look for a priority online shopping delivery slot that you could use.
- Fake holiday refund emails or texts that target people who had to cancel their holidays. Entirely new websites have been set up to try and reap the personal details of people looking for refunds, so make sure you don’t click suspicious links in any emails sent to you.
- Vaccine charity scams – consumers are approached by thieves asking for money that goes towards a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s best to donate to official, registered charities that you can research before giving your money.
How To Protect Yourself From Coronavirus Scams.
Our UK Private Investigation team have added tips to each of the above problems to help you avoid these specific scams, but below we’re going to list more ways that can help protect you. If you have any specific questions or you believe someone may be trying to scam you, our northeast private detectives can operate all across the UK to conduct background checks and more – get in touch if you think there’s a scamming issue or something else you feel we could help with.
- Avoid unsolicited contact – particularly through email or phone.
- Don’t provide any personal details – banking info, passwords – on request.
- Recognise high-pressure situations – scammers often try to apply pressure to force you into making a judgement in error or agreeing to something you shouldn’t.
- If you don’t remember signing up for a loan, competition or scheme then you probably didn’t.
- Keep your anti-virus updated
- Make sure all your various accounts have strong passwords and you don’t reuse the same one for multiple accounts.
- Research companies online to see if they seem legitimate
- Check websites you use to make sure they’re secure. The web address should start with HTTPS, not just http. This sometimes shows as a secure lock next to the address.