Revealed: How fraudsters have tried to scam Norfolk people during coronavirus pandemic
- Credit: Norfolk Trading Standards
Watchdogs have revealed the ways con artists have been trying to scam people in Norfolk during the coronavirus pandemic.
The examples come as the Norfolk Against Scams Partnership, which includes Norfolk County Council’s Trading Standards, Norfolk police, the office of the police and crime commissioner, voluntary groups and businesses, launches a three week campaign on social media to raise awareness of cons.
Here are some of the examples of cons which have been doing the rounds in Norfolk:
Emails about Netflix and TV Licensing
During lockdown, when more people have been using streaming services, some for the first time, there has been a spate of scammers claiming to be from Netflix or TV Licensing to trick people.
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Norfolk Trading Standards officers said that people in Norfolk had been sent emails claiming that licences had been cancelled or Netflix subscriptions needed to be restarted, in an attempt to trick people into giving banking details.
People have also been sent emails and texts puporting to be from the government or councils and purporting to offer council tax refunds - another effort to dupe people into handing over personal information.
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Fake text messages
There have also been fake text message spammed out to look like official texts including ones claiming ‘you are being fined after been seen leaving your house more than once’ during the first part of lockdown.
And there are recent reports of text messages claiming that ‘Someone who came in contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for COVID-19’.
The message also contains a link which, if followed, goes to a bogus website which attempts to gather personal details.
There have also been examples of courier fraud, when a fraudster contacts a victim by telephone claiming to be a police officer, bank or from a government department, among other agencies.
Several techniques will then be adopted in order to convince the victim to hand over their bank details or cash, which may then be passed on to a courier.
Often this is targeted towards older or isolated residents and COVID-19 is now being used as a reason why the resident cannot go to a branch, so needs to arrange for a transfer, or once they have visited a branch why the cash will be collected by a courier.
There were recent incidents which targeted north Norfolk people, with one couple in Binham losing £12,000.
And businesses are being targeted too, with claims that business grants have been made in error and must be repaid.
Trading Standards said businesses also need to continue to be aware be aware of the threat that invoice scams and mandate fraud pose, especially with many staff working remotely from home.
Fake invoice scams typically work by fraudsters pretending to be a supplier and contacting the business to say that the account details that an invoice needs to be paid to have changed.
An employee amends the account details only for the organisation to later find out that they have been sending money to a fraudster rather than a genuine supplier.
The more detail a fraudster has about an organisation, the easier it is to pose as a supplier and make the scam convincing.
Mandate fraud is when fraudsters try to get a business to change a direct debit, standing order or bank transfer mandate by claiming to be an organisation the company makes regular payments to.
The fraudster hopes that the details will be amended to make the payments into accounts they control without any checks being made as to the validity of the request.
Reports of 6,500 frauds last year could be exceeded
The new campaign will use the hashtag #NorfolkScamAware to raise awareness of the methods which are being used to try to trick people.
County council cabinet member, Margaret Dewsbury, the chair of Norfolk Against Scams Partnership said: “Being scammed or targeted by fraud can have a devastating impact on vulnerable people and small businesses.
“We hope this social media campaign will not only go some way towards helping and supporting people who have been affected by scams, but also towards preventing the increase in this type of fraud.”
And Lorne Green, Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner for Norfolk, said: “Fraud affects thousands of people across Norfolk every year.
“Last year, more than 6,500 frauds were reported in the county, but with scammers seeking to exploit people’s increased isolation and vulnerability during the Coronavirus pandemic, we could see that figure increase significantly this year.
“Most often it is the vulnerable in our society who are targeted and exploited by scammers but, particularly at this time, anyone could be a victim.”
And Rik Martin, operations manager at Community Action Norfolk, said: “There is lots of help and advice available but it’s not always easy for people who may feel embarrassed that they have been the victim of a scam.
“We are urging residents to feel comfortable reaching out and to sign up for scam alerts on our website, so that they feel more informed and confident when confronted with something that could potentially defraud them.”
How to report a scam
You can report scams to:
The Citizens Advice consumer helpline online or by calling 0808 223 1133 (freephone)
Action Fraud, the UK national fraud office online or by calling 0300 123 2040