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Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice

COVID-19 scams

Our Trading Standards Team is aware of the following scams related to Coronavirus.

Phishing emails/texts

These always contain a link which the receiver has to click for more information or to provide details. They’re designed to steal information or install software on the receiver’s device to access information.

The topics include:

  • safety info about COVID-19 from NHS/WHO and other organisations
  • HMRC refunds related to COVID-19, missing work and so on
  • A UK Government text message offering all residents a payment of £458
  • A UK government text to say you have been fined for breaking lockdown rules
  • Government grants
  • The Department for Education are warning that fraudsters are sending emails to families, asking if their child is entitled to free school meals. You are then advised to send your bank details to allow The Department of Education to provide funding for meals while schools are shut. Don't click the link - they just want your bank details
  • emails claiming to be from the World Health Organisation asking for donations to fake charities 

Do not open these.

The National Cyber Security Centre's Cyber Aware campaign gives advice on staying safe online - suspicious emails can be forwarded to their Suspicious Email Reporting Service.

Stay safe while online at home and report all scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000.

Business scams and advice

The Highland Council has warned local businesses about scam emails which inform the business that their grant application has been processed and that they will receive a payment soon. The email provides bogus contact details to use if the payment is not received, in the hope that companies will call and provide their financial details.

Similar scams have been reported across the UK, with fraudsters contacting businesses by email, text or phone to tell them that they qualify for a particular grant or tax refund.

The UK Government has published a list of their current messages to help you recognise genuine contact.

Always question unexpected emails which request payment details or changes and report fraudulent emails to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000.

With more people working from home, online security has become a pressing issue, particularly when using video conferencing.

The National Centre for Cyber Security (NCSC) has published security guidance to help organisations choose, configure and safely use video conferencing services.

The Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) has resources to support and protect Scottish businesses, including:

Business Gateway has advice and a range of useful resources to help you keep your business safe online.

Electrical Safety First has guidance on working safely at home - 98% of counterfeit chargers do not conform to UK safety standards and could cause a fire or electric shock. Use the Vistalworks checker to make sure that electrical products bought online are genuine.

Ticket refunds

If you've booked tickets for a show or event that was due to take place during lockdown, you may be happy to keep your booking and attend on a rearranged date. However you may prefer a full refund if money is tight under the circumstances.

Any company registered with the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) must refund the face value of a ticket if an event is cancelled. However smaller companies are not registered with STAR and will have their own refund policies. STAR have asked customers who want a refund to limit calls to venues and sellers at the moment, as they are trying to process large numbers of requests. 

For more information see the Advice Direct Scotland website and get in touch with them if you feel that your consumer rights have been breached.

Clone websites

Debt charity Step Change has issued a warning about website cloning. These fake websites are set up to look like genuine debt advice charity websites. They convince people they are genuine and trick them into giving personal information.

If you're not sure whether a debt charity website is genuine, copy and paste the URL into the FCA's Financial Services Register or search for the charity's name. This will tell you whether the company has been authorised by the FCA. Report clone firms to Advice Direct Scotland.

Coronavirus testing kits

We’ve had reports that scammers are pretending to be from The Red Cross, offering free testing kits. Any offer of a test, unless from a healthcare professional, is bogus.

Fake loan companies

Scammers and loan sharks are taking advantage of people’s money worries during the crisis. We’re advising people to speak to Money Matters, Citizens Advice, The Money Advice Service, Step Change, Age Scotland and other official money advice services.

Loan Sharks can be reported to Stop Loan Sharks on 0800 074 0878.

Fake charities

Looking for donations to various funds – PPE for NHS, food banks and so on. Charities credentials can be checked with the The Scottish Charity Register.

Other scams to be aware of

  • Be aware of people offering miracle cures or vaccines for coronavirus. There is no specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19). Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms until you recover
  • Home cleaning services, stating they can sterilise your home and driveways
  • People impersonating healthcare workers, claiming to be offering ‘home-testing’ for coronavirus - this is a scam and these kits are not currently available to buy
  • Emails saying that you can get a refund on taxes, utilities or similar are usually bogus and they are just after your personal and bank details
  • There are lots of fake products available to buy online that say they can protect you or cure coronavirus. These will not help and are designed to take your money
  • There are new mobile phone applications that claim to give you updates on the virus but instead they lock your phone and demand a ransom
  • People offering to do your shopping or collecting medication and asking for money upfront and then disappearing
  • Scammers trawling the internet, including Facebook for people posting their requirements for emergency repairs to be carried out in their homes. If you need work carried out, either use a trader from our Buy With Confidence scheme or a trader you’ve used before