Press release – CACD 24/04/2020

April 28, 2020

VIRUS LOCKDOWN CONDITIONS CREATING A BREEDING GROUND FOR SCAMS, WARNS ADVICE CHARITY

 

Citizens Advice County Durham is urging people to stay alert during the Coronavirus epidemic, warning that our isolation and reliance on technology is also creating a breeding ground for scams.

 

The local charity wants people to protect their friends and family by telling each other about scams they’ve seen, and reminding them not to give out personal or bank details to anyone who contacts them ‘out of the blue’.

 

Scammers could be preying on isolated or vulnerable households, targeting those worried about benefits, jobs and getting essential supplies and support.  County Durham residents have reported text messages, emails and websites that look like official government messages – but are really ‘phishing’ scams to steal personal information and bank details.

 

Phishing scams so far include:

  • Fake text messages about fines for “leaving your home”, immediately following real Government messages
  • Fake HMRC emails and texts offering tax refunds
  • Fake emails offering funding to families who normally rely on free school meals
  • ‘Cold calls’ offering financial help with debts for a small fee, posing as charities like Citizens Advice who actually NEVER charge for their advice

 

Lewis Kirkbride, Research & Campaigns Officer for Citizens Advice County Durham, explains: “Scammers are always looking for weaknesses.  At a time when people are worrying about their income, and hoping the Government will provide a financial safety net, an official-looking message offering financial help can be very tempting and convincing – especially when real news from the Government is coming thick and fast.”

 

“It’s a confusing time, and we’re relying on technology more while we’re locked down; scammers are using technology to take advantage of this confusion.”

 

Scammers are also trying to take money or bank details, posing as members of the community pulling together to fetch essential food shopping and medical supplies

 

Lewis sums up the most important advice: “Don’t feel under pressure to accept help, and don’t rush into anything.  Nobody genuine will put you under pressure.  If what they offer seems too good to be true, it probably is!”

 

“Take 5 minutes to stop and think, and check it out by contacting an organisation you trust using their normal contact details, not the details you’ve just been given… and be sure to tell someone if you think it’s a scam.  You can protect your friends and family be spreading the word.”

 

Go to citizensadvice.org.uk for advice, or dial Adviceline on 0300 330 9027 (Mon-Fri 10am-4pm).  Specialist help with debt is available on 0300 323 2000, or with making a new Universal Credit claim on 0800 144 8444.  Scams can also be reported to Scams Action on 0300 330 3003.

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