Consumer Alerts 

The following information is from Lancashire Trading Standards, who have been made aware of a number of  scams which have been targeted on residents in Lancashire and identify measures to protect people from scammers.

NHS Test and Trace – make sure the contact you receive is genuine

As of 28 May 2020, the Government have introduced a national contact tracing system to provide a more targeted approach to isolation, as restrictions start to be lifted. Contact tracing works by asking people who have tested positive for the virus to share the details of others who they have been in contact with who could have caught it from them.

It is important that everyone supports and participates in this scheme to help in the fight against Coronavirus.

Under the new system, if you have symptoms of coronavirus you and your household must self isolate, and you should order a test from the NHS website here.

If you test positive for the virus, you’ll be contacted within 72 hours of taking the test. 

Genuine texts, calls or emails from the NHS service won’t ask you for any personal details upfront. You’ll be given a unique ID number to log in to the NHS Test and Trace website.

The only official web address is the NHS Test and Trace service.

Once you’ve logged in using your ID, you’ll be asked to enter some basic information about yourself including:

  • Your name,
  • date of birth
  • current address
  • names of the people you live with
  • places you’ve recently visited
  • names and contact details of people you were in touch with around 48 hours before you developed symptoms.

Genuine Contact tracers will:

  • call you from 0300 013 5000
  • send you text messages from ‘NHS’
  • give you a unique ID number to log in to the NHS website

Once signed in, you will be asked:

  • for your full name and date of birth to confirm your identity, and postcode to offer support while self-isolating
  • about the coronavirus symptoms you have been experiencing
  • to provide the name, telephone number and/or email address of anyone you have had close contact with in the 2 days prior to your symptoms starting

If you receive contact from anyone requesting you to sign in to a website ensure that you check independently that the caller is genuine. Take time to check that telephone numbers, email addresses and websites are genuine.

Fake websites and email addresses often have spelling errors or will not be a address, if in doubt do not provide any information, and seek advice from Trading Standards or the police.

Contact tracers will never

  • ask you to dial a premium rate number to speak to them (for example, those starting 09 or 087)
  • ask you to make any form of payment or purchase a product or any kind
  • ask for any details about your bank account
  • ask for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts
  • ask you for any passwords or PINs, or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs over the phone
  • disclose any of your personal or medical information to your contacts
  • provide medical advice on the treatment of any potential coronavirus symptoms
  • ask you to download any software to your PC or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet to anyone else
  • ask you to access any website that does not belong to the government or NHS”

The NHS will also contact you if someone else who has tested positive for the virus has been in close contact with you. You’ll be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

You’ll be given advice on how to do this, what symptoms you should look out for and what to do if you develop the illness. You won’t be asked for any other personal details or payment information in this kind of call or message. And, crucially, you won’t be asked to pass on the details of anyone you’ve been in contact with either.

This is because unless you have tested positive or developed symptoms, there is no need to notify anyone you’ve been in touch with at this stage. It’s a red flag if you’re asked to hand over this information to a caller or by replying to a message. 

Anyone who has concerns that they may have been contacted by someone purporting to be from NHS Test and Trace but asking for more information than detailed above can report the matter to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2014 or visit the Action Fraud website.

For advice, contact the Trading Standards Service via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808  223 1133.

Beware Doorstep Callers

Trading Standards have received a spate of reports about cold callers throughout Lancashire.

In Leyland a vulnerable resident was cold called by traders implying urgent work was needed to his house and wanting a payment of £1000. Luckily the Police intervened.

In a case in Chorley, an elderly lady was cold called and advised her ridge tiles needed repointing and gutters cleaning, despite this work having been carried out
recently. The traders were pushy and came into her home uninvited. The lady, who did not agree to any work, managed to get them to leave but they returned later that day pressing her for a decision.

A report was received from a concerned resident in the Lostock Hall area. Traders were door knocking in the evening, offering driveway work. They were pushy and seemed to be targeting vulnerable households.

A Rossendale resident was cold called, the trader claimed her chimney was dangerous and was causing damp and needed replacing at a charge of £1800. The trader went on to state he could repair her whole roof for nearly £4000. The elderly resident contacted a local roofer who said only minor repairs were needed and would cost no more than £500.

In the Morecambe area a pensioner agreed to some repointing and painting work for £280 after being cold called by a trader offering property repairs. A small amount of work was carried out, further discussion was had about repairs to the driveway and further monies were given. The trader has since not returned.

Use local known reputable trades people. Never feel pressurised into agreeing to work.

Trading Standards advice is to always say no to cold callers. The Safetrader scheme can help you find a trader in your area, contact 0303 333 1111.

Scam HMRC Phone Call

A Preston resident has reported receiving a call on their mobile from an automated call centre claiming to be the HMRC and that they were being investigated for Fraud.

The automated voice instructed the listener to press 1 or they would be arrested.

Similarly, a Chorley resident received a call alleging they owed money in relation to a loan and if they didn’t obey the instructions they would send someone to her house.

These calls are from scammers, they can be very frightening, their aim is to make you panic into giving your personal and banking details and will sometimes try get payments from you.

Scam Citizens Advice Phone Call

Residents in the South of England have reported receiving telephone calls alleging to be from Citizens Advice. The caller states they can help people claim a grant provided by the government to assist people struggling financially during the Covid-19 crisis.

Personal details are required including bank details. Citizens Advice would never contact people without their permission and would definitely not request their bank details.

To reduce telesales calls join the Telephone Preference Service on 03450 700 707. Many telephone service providers can also offer help to reduce the number of scam calls you receive. 

Brushing Scam

A householder in the Preston area recently received an unsolicited package in the post which contained 2 small packs of seeds.

The package was addressed to the householder and had come from Malaysia.

Trading Standards has not come across this possible scam before but one explanation is that it is a ‘brushing scam’.

This scam is where online businesses create a paper trail and then post fake online reviews. The products are sent to real addresses, then the seller writes a positive online review of the items from a bogus buyer account to boost the firm’s online profile.

Concerns are that the recipients’ details may have in some way been compromised.

Anyone receiving unusual unordered low value goods in the post may want to check any online trading accounts they have are secure. 

Scam ‘friends’ Email

A Poulton le Fylde email user received an email headed ‘change of address for Paul and Carol’. The email held no message but asked you to click on a link. The recipient of the email coincidentally does have friends of this name but luckily did not click on the link. This is a phishing scam, again attempting to ‘fish’ for personal data.

Other current phishing attacks to be aware of are a text alleging to be from Pay Pal and an email alleging to be from EE.

If anyone receives texts or other kinds of messages like this, they should not click on any accompanying links, and report them to Action Fraud, contact
0300 123 2014 or go to the Action Fraud website.

Contact the Trading Standards Service via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.