Coronavirus (COVID-19) Beware of Coronavirus scams

We urge residents and businesses to be wary of scammers taking advantage of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Be cautious of any unsolicited contact. Many scams involve criminals pretending to be from a genuine organisation such as:

  • NHS or other health providers
  • National or local government
  • Police
  • Banks
  • Charities
  • Utility companies

We have compiled a summary of the Coronavirus scams we are aware of and will update this page regularly.

Please familiarise yourself with the types of scams taking place and make your families, friends and neighbours aware.

Remember: Scams are fraud and fraud is crime.

Doorstep scams

Distraction burglaries

Distraction burglars often work in pairs. One distracts while the other steals. An example would be two people entering homes of residents, pretending to be a medical professional or carer or from a utility company. One person distracts the resident with a task such as completing paperwork, while the other proceeds to steal cash and valuable items from the home.

Bogus home testing kits

Bogus healthcare or charity workers claiming to offer 'home testing' for Coronavirus or asking for a donation to fight the virus.

Rogue traders

Rogue traders offering to disinfect homes, doors, driveways etc to stop the spread of infection.

Good neighbour scams

Criminals pretending to be 'good neighbours' offering to help with shopping, prescriptions etc during the crisis, taking money up front and never returning.

Tips to prevent doorstep scams

Always remember - Lock, Stop, Chain, Check.

  • Lock - is your back door locked? If not, lock your back door and windows before you answer the front door as distraction burglars often work in pairs.
  • Stop - are you expecting anybody? Don't open the door to anyone you're not expecting.
  • Chain - put this on before you open the door. If you have not got one, it is a worthwhile investment. It will give you that extra 'safe space' and barrier between you and the caller.
  • Check - ask for their identification card, take it and look carefully. Close the door and check the number in the phonebook or on a recent utility statement etc, not the number on the card. If they are genuine, they will not mind waiting or coming back another day.

During this time of social distancing restrictions, do not engage with anyone not observing the two metre spacing requirements.

Do not provide cash or a debit, credit or prepaid card up front to anyone offering to bring essential supplies. Only exchange money upon delivery of goods and production of a receipt or invoice.

Reporting doorstep scams

To report information regarding a doorstep scam, call the police on 101 or visit the Cambridgeshire Police website. If the criminal is still at the property or is due to return, call 999 for live incidents.

You can also contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133. 

Phone scams

Text message scams

  • Text messages purporting to be from the Government offering a payment (usually £258) for 'Covid relief' or 'Covid Relieve' and with a link to a copycat website to enter your details.
  • Text messages purporting to be from the Government stating that you are being fined for leaving your house and giving a website link or a telephone number.

Phone call scams

  • Telephone calls purporting to be from Public Health England (PHE) or the 'county council' asking for personal information such as contact details, date of birth and NHS number.
  • Telephone calls claiming to be from charitable organisations helping individuals or businesses during this challenging time and asking for a donation or information to help out.
  • Telephone calls requesting bank details to provide a refund for cancelled flights, holidays etc.

Tips to prevent phone scams

Telephone numbers can be spoofed, which means an incoming call or text can appear to be from a local number or a legitimate organisation. For example, scam texts pretending to be from the Government often arrive in the same conversation box as genuine GOV.UK texts. This makes it very difficult to identify that they are bogus. Do not trust a phone call or text just because the number looks familiar to you.

Reporting phone scams

Report phone scams to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or by visiting the Action Fraud website.

Internet scams

False information about Coronavirus cases

Emails or online maps offering information about Coronavirus infections near you, but which actually install malware on your device at the click of a link. This will make you vulnerable to identify theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details at risk.

Fake emails

  • Fake emails or websites offering refunds for flights or holidays cancelled due to Coronavirus restrictions.
  • Bogus emails purporting to be from the Government or a charity, asking for donations to the NHS or other worthy causes during the Coronavirus outbreak.
  • Fake emails purporting to be from HMRC offering a tax rebate for 'dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak' at the click of the link.

Online shopping scams

Online shopping scams with webpages offering protective face masks, hand sanitisers, swabbing kits and other products that may have no effect, may be harmful or do not arrive at all.

Online offers for vaccinations and treatments

Online offers for vaccinations and treatments. There are currently no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges, prescriptions or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus.

Tips to prevent internet scams

Do not click on links or attachments in emails until you are satisfied that the sender is genuine. Check this by hovering over the name of the sender so you see their full email address. A click on a fraudulent link or attachment could install malicious software on your device to steal your private information.

Do not send money, buy bitcoin or vouchers from anyone offering vaccinations or cures from Coronavirus.

You can find a useful guide of the top ten tips to use when checking if emails are genuine on the Which? consumer website.

Reporting internet scams

Report internet scams to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or by visiting the Action Fraud website.

Postal scams

  • Letters purporting to be from local government, claiming you have been observed leaving your house. This could be the precursor to a demand for payment of a fine.
  • Bogus letters asking for a donation to help find a cure or vaccination for Coronavirus or for other charitable purposes during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Tips to prevent postal scams

Beware any unsolicited letters asking for money or personal details. Scammers use tactics to rush recipients into responding to their letters, using phrases such as ‘don’t delay’ and ‘urgent response required’. Please don’t be rushed and don’t be hushed.

Reporting postal scams

Speak to Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133 for advice about any letters asking for money or information about yourself. You can also visit the Citizens Advice website to report a scam.

Keep yourself and your community safe

Inform relatives, friends and neighbours of the most prolific scams and the possible dangers to them. Advise them on prevention methods and how they can stay safe.

Remember: Scams are fraud and fraud is crime.

Visit the Citizens Advice website for advice and information on how to check if something might be a scam.

Visit the Which? website for information on how to spot and stop scams.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Against Scams Partnership

Access scams resources to protect yourself and others from scams by visiting our Against Scams Partnership page. There is also the opportunity for you to become an Against Scams Partnership supporter and make a positive difference to the lives of others in your community, protecting them from the financial and emotional harm of scams.

Friends Against Scams

To learn more about scams, please spend 20 minutes becoming a Friend Against Scams, which includes up-to-date content about Coronavirus scams.