Fraudsters are continuing to cash in on coronavirus fears by selling fake and unsafe face masks and hand sanitiser to worried Brits.
Some councils have reported a 40 per cent increase since the start of the outbreak, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).
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Brits are now being warned to stay vigilant as coronavirus-related scams rocket in numbers.
Last week, Boris Johnson confirmed that the public will be asked to wear face masks when lockdown measures are lifted.
But more than 500,000 substandard face masks and 2,600 bottles of illegal hand sanitiser have been taken off the market by Ealing Council, according to the LGA.
Meanwhile, a car repair garage was reported to Havering Council after allegedly trying to sell coronavirus testing kits to customers.
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And a telephone conman is being investigated after posing as a Swindon Council worker sorting lockdown food parcels, in order to get hold of a pensioner's personal details.
Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards said the total number of complaints it has received has increased by 40 per cent since the beginning of March.
These include a woman in her 80s who answered the door to a man who tried to demand £220 to complete a health and safety check.
It also involved scammers trying to take bank details to cover payments for school meals while schools are closed.
Residents are being tricked into buying goods online, door-to-door, by phone, text and email, the LGA said.
Councils are now advising people not to accept services from strangers or cold callers.
How to protect yourself from scams
BY keeping these tips in mind, you can avoid getting caught up in a scam:
- Firstly, remember that if something seems too good to be true, it normally is.
- Check brands are "verified" on Facebook and Twitter pages – this means the company will have a blue tick on its profile.
- Look for grammatical and spelling errors; fraudsters are notoriously bad at writing proper English. If you receive a message from a “friend” informing you of a freebie, consider whether it’s written in your friend’s normal style.
- If you’re invited to click on a URL, hover over the link to see the address it will take you to – does it look genuine?
- To be on the really safe side, don’t click on unsolicited links in messages, even if they appear to come from a trusted contact.
- Be careful when opening email attachments too. Fraudsters are increasingly attaching files, usually PDFs or spreadsheets, which contain dangerous malware.
- If you receive a suspicious message then report it to the company, block the sender and delete it.
- If you think you've fallen for a scam, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use its online fraud reporting tool.
The warning comes after fake coronavirus masks were being flogged on Instagram as 10,000 Chinese scam accounts flooded the market.
Meanwhile, cyber fraudsters are scamming people out of thousands with fake lists of infected coronavirus patients in your area.
Simon Blackburn, chairman of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: "Some councils have seen a significant surge in reports of scams by criminals exploiting coronavirus fears to prey on vulnerable and older people self-isolating.
"People need to be cautious. If something doesn't seem right or sounds too good to be true, don't hesitate to end a phone call, bin a letter, delete an email or shut the door.
"It's important that victims don't suffer in silence or feel embarrassed.
"By reporting a scam, people can help someone else avoid being a victim of these despicable crimes and help councils track down the fraudsters, bring them to justice and recover their money.
"Councils will continue to prosecute and seek the toughest penalties for these criminals.
"During this unprecedented time, it's important that everybody – relevant businesses such as banks, family, friends and neighbours – plays their role in preventing fraud from happening in the first place."
Boohoo recently caused fury among NHS workers after selling FAKE face masks as fashion accessories.
Meanwhile, here's how scammers behind million-pound trade in fake coronavirus protection gear and medicine are putting lives at risk.
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