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Coronavirus update: The NHS test and trace scam you need to be aware of
The NHS test and trace service ensures anyone who develops symptoms of coronavirus can be quickly tested to find out if they have the virus, and helps trace close recent contacts of anyone who tests positive. But people are being urged to be on their guard against criminals trying to con people out of money by pretending to be from the NHS test and trace service, in a new coronavirus-related scam.
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The Local Government Association (LGA) says councils have received reports of fraudsters attempting to exploit the system through bogus phone calls, emails and text messages which ask for bank card details to cover the cost of the testing kit.
The genuine NHS service is free.
The warning comes during Scams Awareness Fortnight, and amid new research which shows that more than one in three people in the UK have been targeted in scams since lockdown began.
The test and trace service aims to reduce the spread of coronavirus by quickly testing people with symptoms and either phoning, texting or emailing whoever they have had close contact with to tell them to self-isolate for 14 days.
In the scam, a message or phone call claiming to be from the NHS test and trace service is sent or made to householders informing them that they have been in contact with somebody who has tested positive for coronavirus and that they need to self-isolate and take a test.
The scammers refuse to disclose who the householder has been in contact with but 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.
The LGA is urging people to be vigilant to protect themselves from the scam.
Residents are being reminded that the genuine NHS Test and Trace Service will never:
Ask for bank account details, passwords or PIN numbers
Ask for a payment or to buy a product
Ask you to download any software
Ask you to call a premium rate number to speak to the NHS (for example, those starting 09 or 087)
Disclose any of your personal or medical information to your contacts.
Anyone asked these types of questions should report the incident to Action Fraud.
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Councillor Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Scammers don’t care about people’s safety and this latest scam is another worrying and sickening attempt to trick people out of their money by preying on the public’s fears.
“Councils across the country are playing a key role in supporting the NHS test and trace service and on plans to manage local outbreaks.
“This ruthless scam undermines this vital work to save lives by exploiting people who want to do the right thing and stop the spread of the virus.
“People may be contacted by the test and trace service by text, email or phone, but the official tracers will never ask you to make any payment or for your bank details.
“Councils are determined to protect residents from this latest scam and a surge in other scams reported to them during the lockdown period.
“We urge people to report scams to help prevent someone becoming a victim, particularly those who are more vulnerable.
“It’s important that everybody – relevant business such as banks, family, friends and neighbours – works together to prevent fraud from happening in the first place and stop fraudsters taking advantage at this time of national crisis.”
The NHS test and trace service will only ask you for information found on the contact tracing website or on the Government’s website. This will include your full name, date of birth and details of any symptoms you may have.
If you have tested positive for coronavirus, you will either receive a call, text or email from NHS test and trace with instructions on how to share details of the people you have been in close contact with. If you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, you will be contacted in the same ways and asked about symptoms. You will only ever be called from the number 0300 013 5000 or receive a text from NHS.
If you do not feel comfortable talking on the phone or suspect the call to be a scam, you can ask for an email or a text that will invite you to use the test and trace website instead. From this email you should only ever be directed to contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk. If you are in any doubt always submit information via the test and trace website.
More than a third (36 percent) of UK adults have been confronted with a scam since lockdown began, according to a survey by Citizens Advice, which also found that 45 percent of those with a disability of long term illness had been targeted.