Coronavirus scams advice

Be aware of potential scams and cold callers

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Our Trading Standards Service is advising residents to be aware of scams and retailers hiking prices amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Residents are warned not to open the door to anyone claiming to offer testing for coronavirus or to give money to cold callers asking for cash upfront to do shopping for people who are self-isolating.

"It is very sad and distressing to hear of bogus callers and scammers preying on residents who may understandably be anxious during this time, particularly the most at risk groups," said Paul Bannister, Trading Protective Services Manager.
 
"If anyone knocks at your door purporting to offer coronavirus testing, do not open the door and report the matter to the police. If you are self-isolating and require essential goods please ask someone you know, like a family member, neighbour, friend or someone from a community organisation such as a church or charity to get them for you."

Residents are warned to stay alert to email scams, retailers overcharging for staple items and fake coronavirus update apps for smart phones.

A number of scams are circulating including one claiming to be the government offering a tax rebate to support people through the current uncertain times, another asking people to renew their TV licence online, and one claiming to be the World Health Organisation offering crucial coronavirus safety advice. Both request personal information, including bank details.

Trading Standards are aware of retailers selling toilet rolls with a recommended retail price (RRP) of £1 being sold for £3.99, and hand sanitiser for £20. Officers are investigating the complaints received.

The fake apps contains a form of 'ransomware', named CovidLock, which when downloaded, locks the phone and displays a message demanding that the user pay a sum of money to unlock it. These apps are available to download from various unofficial websites. Phone users are advised to only download apps directly from the Apple Store, or Android Play Store as these are safety checked by the platforms.

Police Scotland have advice on avoiding scammers on their web site.

"Currently the law isn't clear on taking action on this sort of overcharging," Paul Bannister added. "But if the law changes or we can find a way to take any appropriate action against these retailers, we want to assure residents that we will do so.

"We do not condone anyone overcharging for goods and we advise people to keep reporting these issues to us."

Any scams or overpricing can reported to Trading Standards via Advice Direct Scotland or on 0808 800 9060.

Given the current COVID-19 outbreak,  the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) have recently launched a task force which will scrutinise market developments to identify harmful sales and pricing practices as they emerge and warn businesses suspected of exploiting these exceptional circumstances and people's vulnerability through unjustifiable prices or misleading claims. You can contact the CMA and raise your concerns on 0203 738 6000 or by email on general.enquiries@cma.gov.uk.

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