Concerns have been raised over the emergence of new types of scams which try to take advantage of vulnerable households in Wales during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Over 2,000 online fraud attempts have been identified and blocked in the past month, according to the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, including fake online shops and websites which attempt to steal user data, and fraudulent adverts.
It is estimated that scams cost the UK economy up to £10bn each year with the average victim losing over £3,000.
In response, OFTEC, the registration body for off-grid heating, is helping to raise awareness of the types of scams taking place during the lockdown and how households in Wales can protect themselves from unscrupulous activity. These include:
Email scams. Be wary of any emails which say you can obtain a refund on taxes, heating bills or other expenses during the lockdown. Avoid clicking on links as they may contain viruses or direct you to fake websites which are designed to impersonate well-known organisations such as banks.
Social media scams. Adverts offering miracle coronavirus cures or treatments are fake and should be ignored or reported through the relevant social media platform. These adverts may occasionally be mistakenly shared by a friend or family member but this does not make them any more legitimate.
Telephone scams. With more people at home, there is an increased risk of telephone scams from criminals pretending to be calling from a bank, mortgage provider or utility company. If you receive an unexpected or suspicious call, do not share any financial or personal information and hang up immediately. If you have any concerns about a call you have received, contact your provider directly.
Door knocking scams. Unqualified individuals may impersonate heating technicians or other tradespeople. If your boiler needs essential work, use a qualified technician who is GasSafe (for mains gas) or OFTEC (for heating oil or solid fuel) registered and ensure they follow government guidelines on social distancing.
Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC, commented: “Since the lockdown was announced, communities across Wales have come together to support each other during this uncertain and unsettling time. Unfortunately, a small number of individuals have sought to take advantage of the current situation and target households through scams or other fraudulent activity.
“We all need to be on the lookout for suspicious calls, emails or visitors and regularly keep in virtual touch with vulnerable family, neighbours and friends to ensure they are not being harassed in any way. If you do need to have essential work undertaken in your home, always use a qualified professional. Check their ID badge upon arrival and ensure they follow the government’s advice on social distancing at all times.”