One in three people in Britain 'targeted by scammers' since lockdown began

Rob WaughContributor
Yahoo News UK
Scammers have targeted millions of Britons during the pandemic. (Getty)
Scammers have targeted millions of Britons during the pandemic. (Getty)

The coronavirus pandemic has seen a surge in fraud and scams, with one in three people targeted since lockdown began in March. 

Scammers have targeted vulnerable and disabled people in particular, as well as people who have faced financial hardship due to the pandemic, a survey by Citizens Advice found.

Previous research by Action Fraud in May suggested that Britons had lost £3.5m in coronavirus-related scams

Victims reported seeing scams on social media, including bogus products which promised to ‘protect’ against coronavirus.

Of those with a disability or long term illness, 45% said they had been targeted by fraudsters or scammers, while half deemed at an increased risk of coronavirus or shielding had been contacted.

  

Some 54% who have been affected by loss of income during the pandemic said they too had been confronted with a con.

Read more: Queues outside major shops and crowds flock to zoos as England eases lockdown

Overall, 36% of people said they had been confronted by scammers, and Citizens Advice said it had seen a 19% increase in the number of people visiting its website for advice.

There had also been an increase in calls from members of the public calls concerned about bogus testing kits, vaccinations and government refunds.

One person told Citizens Advice they became worried for a friend who showed them a company on social media who claimed to be selling a special product which was alleged to protect your home from coronavirus.

"I knew it sounded too good to be true and checked out their Facebook page which was only 12 days old, something which immediately raised my suspicions," Martin, 34, explained.

"They'd posted videos of their products being used in different customers' homes.

"But these looked bogus, I could tell they were all taken in the same house."

People are being encouraged to report suspicious activity as part of a Scams Awareness campaign by Citizens Advice and the Consumer Protection Partnership.

Read more: Boris Johnson to announce zoos can reopen in latest easing of lockdown

"By learning how scammers operate, and helping each other understand what to look out for, we can all work together to stop fraudsters in their tracks," said Dame Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

Consumer minister Paul Scully added: "I am utterly appalled by this new research showing how opportunistic scammers are targeting people made most vulnerable by the pandemic – those suffering from illness, or facing financial difficulties.

"Now more than ever it is vital people remain vigilant to scams, and know how to protect themselves and their loved ones – especially those who are isolated, or live alone – from being exploited."

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