Scammers are pretending to be COVID marshals and medical professionals so they can gain access to people’s homes.
Genuine COVID marshals don’t have the power to enforce social distancing, issue fines or enter private properties, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has warned.
Fraudsters are shifting their tactics as rules and regulations change – and Katherine Hart, the CTSI’s lead officer for doorstep crime, said constant vigilance is needed.
She added: “This type of scam appears in many forms, and I have also received information about individuals pretending to offer flu vaccinations on the door – a concerning development as we enter flu season.
“I am particularly concerned that elderly and vulnerable individuals may be at risk to this scam.”
Ms Hart urged the public to spread this information to prevent “unscrupulous individuals from ruining the lives of those already struggling during this challenging time”.
In September, Bedfordshire Police said it was investigating reports of two men pretending to be COVID marshals in Dunstable.
The pair told the victim that they had been instructed by police to enter people’s homes and check guidelines were being followed – and warned he would be fined if he refused.
According to police, the victim asked the men for their identification – and when they couldn’t produce any, he kept his security chain on the door and refused to let them in. One of the offenders then prevented the door from being closed with their foot.
Eventually, the pair left the scene after failing to gain access.
At the time, Bedfordshire Police’s Lesley Johnson said: “This was distressing for the victim, and he felt quite intimidated by the men.
“We would urge everyone to be on their guard and look out for vulnerable friends and relatives who could fall prey to such opportunist scammers.”
Millions of pounds have been lost to coronavirus-related scams since the pandemic began – affecting tens of thousands of people, according to Action Fraud.
Other scams include the sale of non-existent face masks, bogus breeders collecting deposits from customers for dogs they think they’re buying, and fraudsters claiming to offer cheap loans with fast-track approval as long as a fee is paid upfront.