Coronavirus has given fraudsters more opportunities than ever to cheat consumers out of their money.
From turning up at people’s doors and charging money for fake vaccines, to sending text messages claiming to be from the NHS – Covid really has brought out the worst in some people.
To help keep you and your family safe here are five scams we know have been operating in and around Worcester to be aware of:
1. The BT scam.
A Worcester man wrote a social media post warning he had nearly been caught out by the scam as it had appeared legitimate.
Writing on the Warndon Villages Community Group Rob Allen said: “I was nearly caught by a phone scam so I thought I’d write up how it worked so that you can learn from my mistakes.
“To confirm he was legit, he said he was emailing me a pin number which I received. This email came from BT’s mail servers, so I gave it to him and he confirmed my account number and amount of my last bill to me.
“He then talked about the security of BT Web Protect, and BT Parent Controls.”
Mr Allen said he became suspicious when he was asked to download from anydesk – software that allows someone to take over the computer – so hung up.
Mr Allen said after contacting BT he discovered it had been a genuine PIN email, but using a PIN number for a lost password reset request.
“So the scammer used that to log into my account and gave me the correct account number, and amount of my last bill because he was logged into my account,” he said.
“It’s easy to go with the flow on a call when the other end says ‘you’ll get a PIN from me’ and then you get a totally legitimate one.
“Moral of the story – if they call you, hang up and call them back on the number from the website.”
2. The Amazon scam
Amazon warned residents about a new scam after county people were targeted.
Residents from Droitwich were among those who scammers have tried to fleece.
One resident wrote on social media that a call was made from someone claiming to be from the global firm to an 81-year-old woman with an attempt to con her into giving her card details.
The person said the woman didn’t even use Amazon so did not give any details, adding the call had been from a mobile number when they checked.
A spokesman for Amazon said they had been made aware of similar calls being made, and were working with Action Fraud in cracking down on the scam.
The spokesman added: “We take phishing and spoofing attempts on our customers seriously, and will never call a customer for payment outside of our website.
“If a customer has concerns or receives a call they believe is not from Amazon, they can check Amazon.co.uk help pages for guidance.”
3. The Courier fraud
Police issued this warning after someone impersonating a police officer scammed an elderly woman out of £7,500 in Worcester.
Detective inspector Emma Wright from West Mercia Police, said: “This type of fraud traditionally targets older.
“Courier fraud is an especially cruel type of fraud that sees vulnerable people prayed on by criminals.
“Victims are telephoned by a person, pretending to be a police officer. The bogus police officer explains that the victim’s bank accounts are under threat from fraudsters.
“He or she convinces the victim to participate in a fictitious undercover police operation to catch the fraudsters and safeguard their funds.
“They are told not to inform anyone, including their bank, as bank staff are equally under suspicion.
“Often the bogus police officer discloses private financial information about the victim, which is used to encourage the victim to trust them.
“The people are operating as part of organised crime gangs. They are ruthless, extremely convincing and extremely successful and these scams net millions of pounds a year for them.”
4. The Royal Mail Scam
Residents from Droitwich have been among those targeted in a new ‘Royal Mail’ scam and have written on social media about the attempt to steal money.
In the scam fraudsters send an email out of the blue pretending to be from the postal delivery service.
The email pretends the Royal Mail was not able to deliver the item, and claims the parcel was returned to their depot adding “you need to reschedule your package delivery”.
The email provides a ‘reschedule now’ link – but when clicked on those targeted are prompted to provide bank details to pay a ‘redelivery fee’ for an amount often up to £4.
The scam has been seen elsewhere in the country, and police nationally were told in an alert to spread the message: “This is a classic example of how easily the scammers can take us off-guard and persuade us to provide personal information that can have dramatic consequences.”
One of those targeted in Droitwich said: “I had one of these today – very convincing.”
5. The online quiz scam
Popular Facebook quizzes often ask users to answer a series of sharable personal questions, ranging from the name of their pet to their birth city.
Some people see them as a fun way to bond with friends, or a way to make new ones. But many of these queries are similar, if not identical, to security questions used by banks and other institutions.
Detective Sergeant Jon Cooper at West Mercia Police said: “Please be aware of some of the posts you comment on as they asking innocent questions designed to obtain key data about you, and are becoming more and more clever and covert in the their style and design. It’s not just who was your childhood best friend, or your first car, the place you were born or your first pet, but more indirect questions like “have you ever cried over a dog that died?” and then people share their names in the comments quite innocently which are likely to be memorable things and therefore a security question answers for bank accounts etc.
“The same applies if you remember when an album was first released or your favourite class at school. All very cleverly designed to extract vital data about you in an open source where the criminals just sit back and watch people offer up information they can use to hack accounts or steal identities.
“The advice is not to stop engaging with fun things on social media, but to just think about what you’re saying, how personal it is, who you might be saying it to and who might be reading it.
“Organised crime gangs, online fraudsters, text message scammers, cyber criminals and identity thieves are smart, they’re original and they have a global pool of potential victims. Everyone needs to be aware of who has access to their personal information and what you yourself are sharing.”