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Cornwall Council warns residents to be alert to Covid 19 internet fraud – don’t let scammers click and collect

The Covid 19 crisis means that most of us are indoors and online much more than usual. And it is a time of heightened anxiety, and a search for health products and equipment.

Cornwall Trading Standards say it is an ideal recipe for scammers, fraudsters and confidence tricksters, and that we must all be particularly wary during the current health crisis.

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One of the digital dodges can start with an unsolicited email in your inbox. It may seem to be from a familiar name, or appear to offer local information about Coronavirus, maybe offering a map of local infections.

But this scam, like many others, can trick you into opening malicious attachments, putting your personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details at risk.

The Department for Education says one email doing the rounds at present, not from the DfE itself, is: ‘As schools will be closing, if you're entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we'll make sure you're supported’. Of course you shouldn’t ever share your bank details with any untrusted or unchecked source.

Fake Coronavirus maps have been known to deliver malware, information-stealing programmes that can infiltrate sensitive data. Emails saying you can get a refund on taxes, utilities or similar are usually bogus. They are simply ‘phishing’ for your personal and bank details.

Ransomware is malicious software that prevents you from accessing your computer (or its data) and may even lock your programmes. Scammers may then ask you for payment to unlock it. Always keep a recent backup of your most important files and data. Residents should follow the Cornwall Trading Standards advice link below. If your computer does get infected the National Security Crime Centre has some useful recovery steps.

With more people homeworking during the lockdown organisations must follow cyber security best practice guidance. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has published advice for UK companies to reduce the risk of cyber-attack on devices including laptops, mobiles and tablets. 

Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Public Protection, Rob Nolan, says: “We are all caught up in strange circumstances. But don’t let the fraudsters take advantage. It is so easy to fall for a kind voice on the phone or an email purporting to be from a friend or acquaintance. And those offers of bargains and refunds that are too good to be true? They are usually exactly that.”

“The Covid crisis is tough enough without people losing money and self confidence to tricksters. Be alert, and tell your loved ones and elderly relatives not to do any online deals without checking with you first. We can’t let the criminals make capital out of this dreadful distraction, so please follow the advice of our Trading Standards officers.”

Cornwall Trading Standards advice on Coronavirus scams

Looking after your neighbours

People are being encouraged to protect their neighbours by joining Friends Against Scams.  It provides free online training to empower people to take a stand against scams. To complete the online modules, visit the Friends Against Scams website.

National Trading Standards is also issuing urgent advice to help prevent people falling victim to COVID-19 scams through its Friends Against Scams initiative.

Members of the public are being urged to keep in contact with family members regularly and inform them of the most prolific scams, as well as the possible dangers to them. If someone has been targeted by a scam it can be reported to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040. For advice and information on how to check if something might be a scam, visit the citizens advice website .