29th September 2020
Scammers are, unfortunately, taking advantage of consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, it is more important than ever to take extra precautions. The Consumer Council has compiled a list of 15 common COVID-19 scams to watch out for.
- Pension scams – People are concerned about the value of their pensions and scammers will try and persuade you to switch your pension to a better one. Be careful when receiving unsolicited calls, texts, emails and online offers to review your pension;
- Free COVID-19 testing – Consumers are receiving emails/texts/automated messages and direct messages through social media about free COVID-19 testing in an attempt to scare you. Ignore and delete these messages;
- Tax rebate scams – Scammers pretending to be HMRC are offering a tax rebate in light of current circumstances. HMRC will never contact you via text message/social media/email offering a tax rebate;
- DVLA refunds – With many people self-isolating, scammers are pretending to be from the DVLA offering a refund for those that cannot use their car during this time. Make sure that correspondence from official UK government website addresses is official by ensuring the URL ends with ‘gov.uk’;
- Free supermarket vouchers – Consumers are receiving text alerts that supermarkets are offering free vouchers for those in need. Be cautious when receiving unsolicited text messages;
- Fake competitions – Watch out for fake competitions at this time. If you haven’t bought a ticket, you can’t win it. You should never respond to these types of scams and never provide any personal and financial information;
- Investment scams – Scammers are tempting consumers to invest their money with an offer of high returns. If you were contacted out of the blue then stop and think – is this too good to be true?;
- Free school dinner vouchers – Consumers are receiving text messages offering free school dinner vouchers. Do not follow any links or enter any payment information. Visit the Education Authority website for information on free school meals throughout COVID-19.
- Travel scams – There are scammers contacting consumers pretending to be from travel agents, tour operators, claims companies and insurance companies offering to help you with your travel concerns. If you receive an unsolicited email, text or phone call, then call/email the official contact details of the company from their website and double check that it is real;
- Automated messages from your service providers – Watch out for automated messages stating your subscription service or internet has been cancelled. Be sure to check directly with your service provider if you have any doubts. However, do not use the number you were contacted from;
- Free payments from the government – Scammers are pretending to be from the government offering free payments. Make sure that correspondence from official UK government website addresses is official by ensuring the URL ends with ‘gov.uk’;
- Doorstep scams – Be wary of scammers calling at your door offering to go the shops, collecting prescriptions or withdraw cash on your behalf for a sum of money. Scammers may also try and sell fake Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), anti-bacterial products, cleaning products, deep cleaning services, fake miracle cures, vaccines or COVID-19 testing kits;
- Website selling fake PPE – As with door step scams, watch out for fake websites selling fake PPE, anti-bacterial products, cleaning products, deep cleaning services, fake miracles cures, vaccines or COVID-19 testing kits;
- Charity scams – Scammers may attempt to trick you into sending money for a fake charity, a sick loved one, or someone stranded abroad. Be sure to check the details of the charity before donating; and
- Fake fines for leaving your property – Consumers are now receiving fake text messages from scammers pretending to be from law enforcement bodies informing them that they are being issued with a fine for leaving the house during the lockdown period.
The Consumer Council has also created an online leaflet, ‘COVID-19 Scams – Know the signs… stop the crime’, giving examples of COVID-19 scams, top tips and useful contacts, which is available on our website.
Additional information on scams is available on the nidirect website:
Remember to report scams to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or the PSNI on 101.
Notes to editors:
- ‘15 common COVID-19 scams to watch out for’ publication download
- ‘COVID-19 Scams – Know the signs… stop the crime’ leaflet download
- Short animated video: https://youtu.be/aSRdkNJmFCE
- The Consumer Council Media Contact: Matthew Stevenson 028 90251600
- The Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland’s consumers. The Council campaigns for high standards of service and protection and a fair deal for all. It also carries out research, gives advice and publishes reports and other publications. It deals with individual complaints about transport, natural gas, electricity, coal, postal services and water.
- For more information, visit www.consumercouncil.org.uk or Facebook The-Consumer-Council-Northern-Ireland/ or Twitter @ConsumerCouncil