Suffolk Trading Standards issues warning for fake NHS coronavirus scams
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Fears have been raised that scammers and opportunistic traders could target those panicked by the coronavirus.
The warning from Suffolk Trading Standards comes as towns and cities across the UK reported seeing door-to-door fraudsters impersonating NHS staff offering help with shopping in return for payment, or that they are accepting donations to fund a vaccine.
It is understood there have not been any reports of the scam so far in Suffolk – although there have been reports in neighbouring Essex, according to Southend Trading Standards.
A Suffolk Trading Standards spokesman said: “We have seen reports from our colleagues across the country of doorstep callers claiming to be working for the NHS, stating that they are able to provide a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Scammers will undoubtedly take advantage of the current situation, whether it is to extort money, or to gain access to your home.”
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As part of their statement, the authority advised locals to be vigilant, check facts and never sign anything on the spot.
They added: “Trust your instincts. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
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Nationally as of March 6, more than £800,000 had been stolen from 21 victims of fraud where coronavirus was mentioned, according to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.
Online, opportunistic traders have taken advantage of low stock in supermarkets to sell household goods at a higher price – including handwash, soaps and baby formula.
Fake websites have also been set up by fraudsters posing as companies selling facemasks, while others have contacted people via email posing as World Health Organisation officials.
In light of the developments, a trading standards spokesman said: “If you’re making a purchase from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, and ask a friend or family member for advice before completing the purchase.
“If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.
“Always install the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats.”