Fraudsters are using new scams linked to the Covid pandemic to target vulnerable people at their doorstep, an investigation by consumer group Which? found.
He has heard of people claiming to be on local NHS services offering expedited testing and vaccines, selling vitamin pills believed to protect against Covid and collecting donations for bogus charities.
Dishonest traders have also used the pandemic as an opportunity to revive traditional home-based scams, such as offering construction, gardening, or home improvement services for which they either charge or never complete.
A survey of 1,186 Which ones? Members surveyed in February this year found that 16% had received unsolicited visits from someone claiming to be a salesperson or charity worker since the first lockdown began. Some said they felt like the visitor was trying to get them to make a purchase or donate money.
According to data from Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting center, £ 18.7million was lost to home crime in 2020, although numerous scams in person are not reported, the real numbers could be much higher.
The number of police reports for this type of fraud in April 2020 was 46% lower than in April 2019, due to the lockdown, but in the summer of 2020, with fewer restrictions to prevent fraudsters from getting out, reports of these in-person scams had returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Home-based scams make up about 5% of all scams, according to a study by Citizens Advice. About 85% of home scam victims are aged 65 and over, according to National Trading Standards.
NHS services across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have stressed that their testing and vaccination services are always free and that no one will ever show up to someone’s home without warning .
Meanwhile, an increase in home improvement projects during the lockdown has provided crooks “new opportunities to revamp old scams,” Which? Said Which?
More than a third (37%) of surveyed members who had received an unsolicited knock said it was someone providing home improvement services.
Adam French, consumer rights expert at Which ?, said: “It is of great concern that home-based scammers are resuming their activities and seeking to exploit the pandemic in any way they can.”