People are being warned to be on their guard against scammers posing as NHS contact tracers.
Local councils in England and Wales have issued alerts following reports of bogus calls and messages asking for money to cover the cost of coronavirus testing kits.
The councils include Hampshire, Bath and North East Somerset, and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.
Official tracers will never ask for payment of any kind or bank details.
The test and trace system is part of the government’s efforts to reduce the spread of coronavirus, with contact tracers getting in touch with those who have had recent close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
However, a number of fraudsters are using this to their advantage and posing as contact tracers to deceive people into parting with money or personal details.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said the “ruthless scam” was “another worrying and sickening attempt to trick people out of their money by preying on the public’s fears”.
A recent survey by Citizens Advice found more than one in three people in the UK have been targeted in various scams since lockdown began.
Chairman of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, Simon Blackburn, said the latest scam to come to light undermined “vital work to save lives by exploiting people who want to do the right thing and stop the spread of the virus”.
In the scam, a message or phone call claiming to be from the NHS test and trace service informs somebody they have come into contact with coronavirus and need to self-isolate and take a test.
The scammers ask them to confirm their address so a testing kit can be sent to them. Bank card details are then requested – purportedly to cover the cost of the testing kit.
In a genuine call, contact tracers will never:
- ask you to dial a premium rate number (for example, those starting 09 or 087)
- ask you to make any form of payment
- 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 Pin codes, or ask you to set up any passwords or Pin codes over the phone
- ask you to purchase a product – including a test
- ask you to download any software to your device or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet
- ask you to access any website that does not belong to the government or NHS
Anyone receiving a call they suspect is not genuine should report the call to Action Fraud.