Residents warned to be wary of coronavirus scams and overpricing: Houses in Bristol

30 Mar 2020

Residents warned to be wary of coronavirus scams and overpricing

Council's Trading Standards team advises Bristol citizens

People living in Bristol are being warned to be wary of potential scams and retailers hiking prices during the evolving coronavirus situation.

Bristol City Council’s Trading Standards team have received reports of people pretending to be from the British Red Cross, knocking on doors of older people and vulnerable residents attempting to take their money to do their shopping and not returning.

Residents are also being warned not to open the door to anyone claiming to offer instant screening tests for coronavirus, and to be careful when letting people into their homes. One doorstop scam involves people offering to do odd jobs, so they can gain entry into a home and then steal.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “It is very sad and distressing to hear that some people are taking advantage of this vulnerable situation. We’re keen to make sure that people in the area do not fall victim to scammers, losing money or personal possessions.

“Our advice is to ask someone you know, like a family member, neighbour or friend to get essential goods for you if you’re self-isolating. If you’re worried you’ve been approached with a scam on your doorstep, contact the police on 999 or 101 for non-emergencies.” 

The Trading Standards team is also currently receiving a high number of calls about businesses and retailers charging inflated prices for certain goods, such as hand sanitisers.

Sarah Davey, team leader for Trading Standards, said: “We urge businesses and retailers to behave responsibly throughout the coronavirus crisis and not overcharge or mislead customers. 

“Inflated pricing doesn’t currently breach any trading standard regulations, but the Competition and Markets Authority are keen to receive reports to ensure no one exploits the current situation.

“If someone is trying to charge you a higher price than what is being advertised, this is not allowed, as the law prohibits it. The advertised price is the price you should be charged.

“We’d also recommend that people purchase hand sanitiser from legitimate suppliers, and to always read the label, as we’re aware that a number of unauthorised products have recently entered the market.”

If you come across a business or retailer who is overcharging, or are concerned about the safety of a hand sanitiser product, you can report it to Trading Standards by calling: 0808 223 1133 or by emailing: trading.standards@bristol.gov.uk.

A number of coronavirus scam emails have also been circulating. One claims to be from the Government offering a tax rebate and asks the recipient to enter their bank details. Fraudsters are also sending investment scheme and trading advice, encouraging people to capitalise on the coronavirus downturn.  

Another email scam claims to be from the World Health Organisation (WHO) stating it holds crucial coronavirus safety advice. If someone opens the accompanying attachment, it downloads a key logger, allowing scammers to follow the online movements of the user and gain access to their device and personal details.

In addition, another email claims to be from a research group that mimics the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO. It says it can provide a list of active infections in an area if a donation is made into a Bitcoin account or by clicking a link, and this then redirects the user to a credential-stealing webpage. 

To be kept up to date with the latest trading standards and coronavirus information, visit the council’s hub page.