Beware of the ‘free school meals’ coronavirus email scam
Families who receive free school meals have been targeted by a scam asking them to pass over their bank detais.
Parents were sent an email reading: ‘As schools will be closing, if you’re entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we’ll make sure you’re supported’.
The government issued a warning urging people not to fall for it.
Guidance from the Department of Education says: ‘We can confirm that this is a scam email and is not official. We urge parents that if you receive any emails like this, please do not respond, and delete it immediately.’
This is just one of a series of scams focused around the coronavirus pandemic.
Some criminals are posing as good samaritans offering to help vulnerable people with their shopping.
National Trading Standards is urging communities to watch out for neighbours being targeted.
It said that while there are genuine groups of volunteers providing help during self-isolation, there have been reports of criminals preying on residents, often older people or people living with long-term health conditions, by cold-calling at their homes and offering to go to the shops for them.
The criminals often claim to represent charities to help them appear legitimate before taking the victim’s money.
There are genuine charities providing support, so people should be vigilant and ask for identification from anyone claiming to represent a charity, National Trading Standards said.
Doorstep sellers may also offer fake items, with fake sanitisers, face masks and Covid-19 swabbing kits sold online and door to door.
These products can often be dangerous and unsafe, National Trading Standards said.
Guy Parker, chief executive of the Advertising Standards Authority, said: ‘We’re warning consumers to be extra vigilant about potential scam ads that appear during the coronavirus crisis.
Protect yourself from scams
Here are some tips from National Trading Standards to protect yourself and others against scams:
Do not be rushed into making a decision. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
Only purchase goods from legitimate retailers and take a moment to think before parting with money or personal information.
Do not assume everyone is genuine. It is OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
If someone claims to represent a charity, ask them for ID. Be suspicious of requests for money up front. If someone attempts to pressurise you into accepting a service they are unlikely to be genuine. Check with family and friends before accepting offers of help if you are unsure.
‘Bogus operators often use these situations to prey on people’s fears and exploit their health-related anxieties, in particular by peddling products with misleading and sometimes dangerous health claims.’
Lord Toby Harris, chairman of National Trading Standards, said: ‘At a time when neighbourhoods and communities are coming together to support each other, it is despicable that heartless criminals are exploiting members of the public – including some of our most vulnerable citizens – to line their own pockets.
‘I urge everyone to be on their guard for possible Covid-19 scams and to look out for vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours who may become a target for fraudsters.’