Coronavirus Scams

As Scottish communities deal with uncertainty and isolation, there is a rapidly increasing variety of scams related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Sign up to receive our weekly Scam Share e-bulletin.
Read the latest edition here.
Report suspicious behaviour in your community to Police Scotland on 101 or 999 in an emergency
Report all scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website

Read previous versions of the Scam Share bulletin:

Issue 2: 26/03/20
Issue 1: 19/03/20

Email Scams

With most of the country now working from home or in isolation, it is more important than ever to be aware of cyber scams. Get official advice on avoiding cyber scams related to COVID-19 from the Scottish Government’s Cyber Resilience Unit
The National Cyber Security Centre has guidance on staying safe online when working from home and tips on spotting and avoiding email and online scams.

Common Scams
  • Some parents have received an official looking email saying: ‘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’. Contact your local authority directly if you have questions about the provision of free meals.
  • A similar email saying that the Government are offering everyone a basic wage and that you should send your bank details to receive it. The Government will not contact you in this way.
  • A text saying that the Government has issued a payment to all UK residents, asking you to click on a link and enter your postcode to apply. The Government has so far sent only 1 text about COVID-19, on Tuesday 24 March.
  • An email, text or call supposedly from the NHS asking for donations to fund a cure for COVID-19.
  • Emails claiming to be from various charities asking for donations to different causes related to COVID-19, such as fundraisers for victims.
What to Do
  • If you receive any of these emails or texts, do not click on any links or open any attachments. If you do, your details could be harvested by scammers.
  • If you’re unsure whether a charity is genuine, search for it through the Scottish Charity Register or the Charity Commission
  • Report scam messages to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their new website dedicated to COVID-19

Bank Fraud

A consumer was phoned this week by a caller pretending to be from his bank, saying that the bank was closed due to COVID-19 and asking him to verify his account details in order to pay an outstanding bill. The consumer had £4,000 taken from their bank account.

What to Do
  • Never give bank details to a cold caller – if in doubt, hang up, dial another number to clear the line, then phone your bank using the number on a recent statement
  • Report scam messages to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their new website dedicated to COVID-19

Fake Products Online

There have been many reports of products advertised online which claim to cure or prevent Coronavirus.

In one extreme case, a man appeared in court last week charged with selling fake ‘treatment kits’ which included a mouthwash containing harmful chemicals. A man in the USA has also died from ingesting chloroquine after hearing that it could treat the virus.

The post for this ‘temperature thermometer gun’ on Ebay says that it can be used to monitor body/head temperatures. However, it is intended for engineering use and the product website does not indicate that it is suitable for medical use. It also states that the laser should not be directed towards the eyes.

What to Do

Ignore all online adverts or cold callers offering home testing kits or products/supplements which can prevent or cure Coronavirus. They are fake and potentially dangerous.

  • Use the Vistalworks online checker to check the legitimacy of products on Ebay before you buy them. It is also available as a Chrome browser plugin, which will trigger a warning on any suspicious Ebay products or sellers.
  • Report suspicious products, such as treatment kits or homemade hand sanitiser, to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000
  • If you are unsure about any product advertised online, don’t proceed with the order. Be particularly wary if you are asked to make a payment via bank transfer.

The CPTA has urged people not to use homemade hand sanitisers.

Doorstep Scams

There have been reports about companies offering to ‘cleanse’ properties of COVID-19 bacteria, such as the pictured advert offering to spray your property with Hypochlorite bleach to ‘kill coronavirus’.
Another advert offered an ‘antibacterial and cleansing wash system’ which apparently removes 99.9% of bacteria from house exteriors and gardens using a chemical spray.
Spraying chemicals/bleach on the exterior of your property will not protect you from COVID-19.

There have also numerous reports across the UK about fraudsters cold calling households and posing as NHS or Red Cross staff. They might offer to help people with their shopping in return for payment, attempt to sell home testing kits or ask to get donations to fund a vaccine for COVID-19.
Some cold callers have been offering to test people for the virus in exchange for £100.
Staff from the NHS or Red Cross will not turn up at your door unannounced to ask for money or to sell home testing kits.

What to Do
  • Remember – you are not being rude if you shut the door on unsolicited callers. Follow our Helping Hands guidance for people who need help and those who volunteer to help others
  • Don’t agree to make any payments for goods or services offered by cold callers. NHS staff will not turn up at your door unannounced and ask you for money or donations
  • If someone that you don’t know knocks on your door and offers to buy groceries for you, don’t pay them up front. Any genuine Good Samaritan will be happy to accept payment once they have delivered your shopping to you
  • If you are unsure about any product advertised online, don’t proceed with the order. Be particularly wary if you are asked to make a payment via bank transfer.
  • If you feel feel uncomfortable or suspicious at any time, call Police Scotland on 101. If you feel threatened or unsafe, call 999.
  • Report rogue traders to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website

Sign up for Neighbourhood Watch Alerts to stay up to date with what is going on in your community. Keep an eye on vulnerable neighbours

Unfair Pricing

Unscrupulous traders, both online and in retail outlets, continue to inflate prices on in-demand goods such as hand sanitisers, toilet rolls and face masks.

What to Do

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has issued a statement saying that they will take action against any companies found to have broken the law by overcharging or making misleading claims about healthcare products.
Report retailers who are engaged in unfair pricing to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000.