Scarborough charities advise people not to put red and green cards in windows as fraudsters target the vulnerable

A group of Scarborough charities has asked people not to put themselves at risk as police highlight a range of scams created since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 10:50 am
Updated Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 10:52 am
Red and green cards in windows could highlight vulnerable to thieves.
Red and green cards in windows could highlight vulnerable to thieves.

A statement by North Yorkshire Police reads: “The current national situation is causing widespread anxiety and with a lot of misinformation, rumours and speculation flying around – fraudsters are using this to their advantage.

“North Yorkshire Police has had a number of reports of fraud related to coronavirus over the last few weeks and although this is something that we predict will continue to increase, we are on hand to help keep you safe.

“More than ever, as a community please be aware of those in your locality who are elderly, live alone and who are vulnerable. Please look after and support each other and report anything suspicious to the police. We are here to help you.

"As Covid-19 continues to spread, fraudsters are likely to continue using the anxiety it generates to trick people out of their personal data and hard-earned money.

Of particular concern is a well-intentioned campaign for people to place red and green cards in their windows so neighbours know when the occupier needs help. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous individuals are using these as markers to target those in ill health.

Sophie Hall, CEO of Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale Mind, said people should be taking appropriate measures to keep themselves safe: “If you are doing something locally, please don’t ask people to put anything in their windows which identifies them as vulnerable.”

Charities Mind, Age UK and Scarborough YMCA are working together to create a single point of contact with one phone number, email address and contact form.

Miss Hall said: “All staff have references and DBS checks, they are able to pick up prescriptions and run errands for those who need them.”

The group can be found on Facebook as Scarborough and Filey Covid-19 Community Response or by calling 01723 379058.

Below you can find a round-up of the latest scams that have been reported and most importantly, information on how you can protect yourself from them.

Please remember that if you are a victim of a scam call, email, text or visit then please report it to North Yorkshire Police on 101.

They are there to support and advise you and every scam report that they receive helps to build up a profile of the tactics in use so they can safeguard others from falling victim.

Visitors offering help with groceries and errands

Being a good neighbour is important, and communities are rallying around to support each other.

However, there are reports that some unscrupulous individuals are exploiting the situation.

Volunteers working with the health, emergency services and local authorities will be in possession of the necessary DBS arrangements and should all have documentation proving their status.

Community volunteering to provide assistance to those most vulnerable in meeting their daily needs will also be likely in the coming months.

If you have doubts about anyone who approaches you, don’t engage and report serious suspicious behaviour to police.

The majority of groups are well-intentioned, and will be working through charities or through a local authority and should have proof that they are doing so.

Never hand over money or a credit or debit card to anyone making unsolicited visits to your home.

Online sales of face masks and hand sanitiser

Fraudulent online sales of masks and hand sanitiser which never materialise. If an online shopping offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is. We’ve heard of shoppers being asked to send a direct payment, avoiding the use of secure payment facilities such as PayPal. The money is then unable to be returned when the buyer doesn’t receive the products

If you’re making a purchase from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, and ask a friend or family member for advice before completing the purchase. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.

Insurance or medical plans claiming to have a Coronavirus cure

Phone calls telling the individual that there are insurance plans or medical plans which will give you a cure to the Coronavirus/COVID19. These are a scam, hang up the phone and do not engage with the caller.

HMRC tax refund

Messages and emails claiming to be from HMRC offering a tax refund due to changes in the law around Covid-19, recipients have to click a link which takes them to a fraudulent website. If you receive a message like this, delete it immediately and do not click any of the links it contains.

Center for Disease Control or World Health Organisation

Messages and emails claiming to be from the Center for Disease Control or the World Health Organisation offer the recipient the chance to view a list of confirmed cases within their local area by clicking on a link or making a Bitcoin payment. Needless to say these are a scam, delete them immediately and do not click on any of the links.

Virologist advice

Messages claiming to be from a virologist sending an attached document with instructions on how to avoid the Coronavirus. The attachment is malicious and should not be opened. Delete them immediately.

Microsoft/BT notifications of a computer virus

Phone calls telling individuals that their laptop or network has a virus and that fraudsters are accessing their data. If you receive calls of this nature, hang up and do not engage with the caller.

Free school meals

Emails or texts suggesting that as a result of school closures, pupils are still entitled to free meals or financial support for meals. The email requests bank details so that support can be provided. Delete the message immediately, do not follow any links and do not provide any personal information or bank details.

Unsolicited visitors offering free Coronavirus testing

Individuals visiting people’s homes and offering free Coronavirus testing. Do not open your door to anyone that you don’t know and if they claim to be from a legitimate organisation, ask to see their ID before you even think about engaging with them.

North Yorkshire County Council has information on community support.

A police officer will identify themselves in person by showing you their warrant card. This is proof of their identity and authority.

If you receive a telephone call from a police officer and you have any doubt about their identity, hang up and call our Force Control Room on 101. We recommend after hanging up that you wait five minutes before calling as there have been cases of fraudsters keeping the line open after a victim had hung up.

General tips to keep safe from scams:

- Do not click on links or open attachments in emails and text messages.

- Take time to check emails or messages are from a legitimate source. Please be aware that fraudsters go to great lengths to make their communications with you look genuine.

- Delete any suspicious emails or text messages immediately.

- Don’t let anyone into your home without verifying their identity and checking they have legitimate documentation or an official ID card.

- Never give out personal or financial information over the phone.

- Only purchase goods online from trusted and legitimate retailers and if you have one, then use a credit card as this will offer greater insurance.