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Staying safe while shopping online

Online shoppers are being warned to be extra vigilant and look out for potential online scams during the coronavirus pandemic.

Action Fraud has reported online scams where shoppers order protective face masks, hand sanitiser and other products which never arrive.

Other frauds being reported include ticket fraud, romance fraud, charity fraud and lender loan fraud.

In recent weeks there have been more than 1000 reports of coronavirus-related phishing attempts aiming to trick people into opening malicious attachments which could lead to fraudsters stealing personal information, logins, passwords, and banking details.

These emails can mimic the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO) and contain links to fake company websites where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe for further updates.

There have also been reports of phishing e-mails making tax refund claims. These e-mails are often bogus and can be used to obtain your personal details.  Other e-mail scams try and trick recipients into opening attachments claiming to have information about people in their local area affected by Coronavirus or other information. 

Fiona Brown, Executive Director of Neighbourhoods at Sunderland City Council, said: “While it is hard to contemplate that people would take advantage of vulnerable people at this time – it does happen and is increasing as people are doing more of their shopping and business online.

“We are reminding residents to be vigilant during the COVID19 crisis and protect themselves from scammers. There have been reports of vulnerable people handing over bank cards, money and other personal details in the belief that they will be used to buy essential items but sadly this has not always been the case.

“Our advice is to never provide bank details or bank cards to anyone and seek any help you need from family and friends wherever you can. If this isn’t an option for you and you are self-isolating, help is available from the Council’s COVID19 hub. If you think you may have been the victim of a scam like this, report it to us through the consumer helpline on 0808 2231133.”

Detailed counter fraud advice is available online, including from NEBRC, Scamsmart, ActionFraud, CIFAS, TakeFive, Citizens Advice, Trading Standards and the National Cyber Security Centre.

You can report fraudulent activity to Action Fraud online at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

To report offers of financial assistance from HMRC contact phishing@hmrc.gov.uk.

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