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We urge all local residents and business to be wary of falling victim to scammers taking advantage of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Most scams will be an attempt to steal from you or trick you into revealing personal information. Be cautious of any unsolicited contact from the NHS or other health providers, any national or local Government organisations, Police, banks, charities or utility companies. Many scams will pretend to be from genuine organisations.
We have complied a summary of the coronavirus scams we are aware of nationally, as well as those that have been reported locally, to help you avoid becoming a victim. We will update this page regularly.
Known local scams
Coronavirus doorstep vaccine scam
We have received reports of a man and woman knocking on doors in Bensham, Gateshead (3 January) offering Covid-19 vaccines for sale for £50.
This is a scam intended to defraud you of money. The Covid-19 vaccine is only available through the NHS and is free of charge. The vaccine is being delivered nationally using a priority group system and you will be contacted by your local NHS service when it is your turn to receive it. The vaccine is not available any other way.
If you do have someone at your door claiming to be selling vaccines, do not let them inject you with anything, and do not offer payment, even if they show you what appears to be a medical ID.
Immediately report the incident to Northumbria Police. Also report the incident to Crime Stoppers dedicated Covid-19 fraud hotline on 0800 587 5030.
Coronavirus SMS/email vaccine scam
Local NHS services have advised us some residents have received text messages advising them they are eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine.
The web address in the text message takes them to a look-a-like NHS website which asks for personal information, including banking details to apparently check billing, as part of a dummy registration process.
This is a scam intended to defraud you of money. The NHS will never require you to providing banking details.
Coronavirus tests scam
We have been made aware of the possibility that people might be calling at people's homes offering to test them for coronavirus.
This is a scam by people who are trying to gain access to your home.
We can confirm that there is absolutely no testing being carried out outside of medical facilities, and certainly not in people's homes, either by the NHS or Gateshead Council.
If someone comes to your door offering to test you for coronavirus - even if they show what appears to be medical ID - do not admit them, then contact the Police.
Please do not place signs in your window saying you are self-isolating as this may attract people who are looking to prey on vulnerable people.
Please alert friends, neighbours and family members who might be at risk.
School meals scam
The Department for Education have been informed some parents have received an email stating the following:
'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'.
This is a scam email - it is not from a local authority. Please do not respond to it, and delete immediately.
Read the government guidance which explains what schools should do to make sure eligible pupils have continued access to free school meals.
Email, online and text message scams
Malicious email attachments or links
Beware of emails from sources you do not recognise, or even from companies you do, but either it is unexpected, or the formatting or language looks suspicious. Examples have included emails offering information about people in your local area who are affected by coronavirus or offering cheap personal protective equipment (PPE). Clicking on links or opening attachments on these emails could compromise your personal data.
Council Tax reduction or refund
Emails suggesting you are entitled to a reduction or refund of Council Tax. These emails pretend to come from the official gov.uk website and will try and get you to share your bank details. If you do receive an email about your Council Tax and want to know if it is genuine please contact us 0191 433 3600 or email email@example.com. To find out if you are entitled to a reduction in your Council Tax please visit our Council Tax reductions webpage.
Emails claiming you have been fined for breaches of current coronavirus restrictions and encouraging you to pay immediately or face further charges.
Tax rebate or goodwill payment
Intended to get you to share bank details, the email will claim you are either due a refund on income tax paid or qualify for a cash gift from the Government.
Bank cash gifts
Emails seemingly from well-known banks and other financial institutions offering free cash gifts and goodwill payments to support your personal finances during the pandemic.
Fake holiday refunds
Companies offering fake holiday refunds to residents who may have been forced to cancel their trips due to coronavirus. If your holiday plans have been affected, contact your booking agent for advice.
Coronavirus fundraising emails
Emails either pretending to be from recognised charities or organisations, or unrecognised companies claiming to be raising funds to assist in the fight against coronavirus.
'Phishing' text messages
Typically, text messages from recognised organisations offering very similar benefits to the emails above, including coronavirus related payments and refunds, demands to pay for lockdown fines or offering the sale of virus treatments. They will often contain shortened links to unknown and often harmful web sites.
Unqualified traders offering to disinfect your home to help prevent the spread of the virus. Also beware of anyone offering coronavirus vaccines or cures.
Thieves generally targeting older people offering to help with shopping, taking money up-front and not returning.
Distraction burglars often work in pairs and will attempt to enter resident's homes pretending to represent an organisation. One distracts while the other steals.
Tips to protect yourself, family and friends from scams
Scams are not always easy to identify. Here are some tips to protect you and your loved ones:
- Be suspicious of any offer which is too good to be true.
- Never feel pressured into handing any over money, especially before receiving goods or services. Take a moment to think before you commit.
- Use official government websites and refer to 'Contact us' sections of websites to access information and services. Official government correspondence will always direct to gov.uk/coronavirus.
- Do not click on links or attachments in suspicious texts or emails. Never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal, or financial details.
- Protect your financial information, especially from those who you do not know.
- Never give your bank card or pin number to a stranger.
- Do not be afraid to check with family and friends before accepting offers of help and support. Anyone genuine will be happy to wait for your response.
- Always ask for identification from those who arrive at your door without warning. If in doubt call the organisation directly to verify who the person is.
- Confirm requests are genuine by using a known number or email address to contact organisations directly.
- Always install the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats.
- If in doubt, do not be afraid to hang up, bin it, delete it or close the door.
Reporting coronavirus scams
If you're worried you or someone you know has been affected by a coronavirus scam, please report it to the Northumbria Police: Tell us something form and Crimestoppers dedicated Covid-19 fraud hotline on 0800 587 5030.