Be wary of scam attempts

BE on your guard against fraudsters trying to exploit coronavirus fears for their own gain.

St John’s resident Catherine Walsh wanted to warn readers of a scam attempt, after receiving a phone call at home yesterday.

Don’t allow doorstep callers access to your home unless you can verify their identity and reason for calling.

“I picked up the phone and it was a recorded message, very clear and well pronounced,” she said.

The message said that, due to the coronarvirus, it was now compulsory for people to wear facemasks. If you want to buy a mask, the message advised, press 1 on your phone.

“I thought it was a scam. I just hung up on them straight away,” said Catherine. “But you still worry that maybe you’ve missed some important announcement.”

Fortunately, she spoke to her doctor later the same day, who reassured her it was a scam and she had done the right thing. Catherine reported the incident to the police, and Surrey Trading Standards have been made aware of it as well.

“It’s one of many scams out there. It’s good that Catherine was cautious and didn’t press a button, which could have put her through to a system which would aim to take her financial details,” said Gina Green, trading standards manager.

“We do encourage people to contact us if they feel they have been scammed – please email trading.standards@surreycc.gov.uk.”

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, there has been a rise in rogue traders selling false products online, suspicious callers claiming to be healthcare workers, and thieves offering to shop for the elderly but keeping the money.

Official advice to residents is to be aware and know who to rely on.

“If you need help, talk to someone you know or ask either the council on 01483 755855 or Surrey County Council Trading Standards on 01296 388788,” said a Woking Borough Council spokesman.

“Be sceptical, don’t be afraid to hang up, bin it, delete it or shut the door,” they advised. “Take your time, don’t be rushed.”

Never engage with someone or allow them access to your home unless you can verify their identity and reason for calling. WBC employees carry photographic identification on them and will always state their name, job role and reason for calling.

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