Coronavirus: 'Unprecedented' number of scams linked to virus

By Will Fyfe
BBC News

An older lady on a computerImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Older people turning to the internet during the lockdown are being targeted by fraudsters, authorities say

The number of scams seen in Wales has reached a level "never seen before" as fraudsters exploit the coronavirus outbreak, law enforcement agencies say.

From offering phoney shopping services, to trying to get into people's homes to "check their water tanks for the virus", reports of scams are rising.

Trading Standards Wales said officers were seeing new types of face-to-face and online fraud on a "daily basis".

"Ultimately, they want your life savings," said officer Alison Farrar.

She added: "All of them claim to have something to do with coronavirus - either trying to give you some money back - or trying to help you claim some money.

"Basically what they are all after is your bank account details and your personal information."

Image caption,
Scammers are using coronavirus as an opportunity to take your money, says Alison Farrar of Trading Standards Wales

Opportunistic criminals may have moved over to scams in an attempt to capitalise on the situation, Ms Farrar explained.

Police are concerned that the opportunities available to fraudsters have grown because older people, who are often less computer literate, are turning to the internet during the lockdown.

"What we are seeing is people trying to exploit the vulnerable," said Gwent Police Chief Constable Pam Kelly, cyber crime lead for Wales.

Image source, Gwent Police
Image caption,
Gwent Police Chief Constable Pam Kelly encouraged those who have been scammed to report it, even if they feel embarrassed

In particular, she said older people are being caught out trying to buy items online "only to find that those items are never delivered".

"Or if they are delivered, they are fake," Ms Kelly added.

When people and businesses are caught out, she said they often feel too embarrassed to report it.

"The very best people are naive and sometimes some of our scammers are very sophisticated in their approach," she said.

"If you don't report it we will never know the extent of the problem."

And those supporting victims say scammers are "exploiting people's fears".

"We are seeing anecdotal evidence of new doorstep scams emerging," said Luke Seidel-Haas, from Victim Support in Wales.

"People claiming to be working for the World Health Organisation or a local authority, asking to test people [for coronavirus] and asking for money in return for that."

Image caption,
Luke Seidel-Haas, from Victim Support in Wales, said he expects to see a rise in "romance scams" as people are more willing to connect online

Mr Seidel-Haas said he also expected to see a rise in "romance scams", where victims are groomed online before being asked for money.

This is because people are more willing to connect online and believe "in people's good natures" because of a lack of traditional social interaction, he explained.

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