Residents in County Durham are being reminded to stay on their guard against fraudulent activity as part of a week of action.
As part of International Fraud Awareness Week, which takes place from November 14 to 20, Durham County Council is calling on members of the public to be vigilant and help in its fight against fraud.
From sending fake emails designed to look like an offer of a council tax reduction, council tax refund or Universal Credit; to imitating NHS Track and Trace or TV Licensing and subscription services, scammers have been using the coronavirus pandemic to acquire personal details.
Other scams residents are being warned to look out for include fake courier texts which charge for rebooking delivery, emails about Amazon delivery problems which try and collect Amazon account details, and calls from people pretending to be from TalkTalk who ask people to carry out tasks on their computer which will give them remote access to a device.
The council’s corporate fraud team investigates frauds including adult social care, blue badge, business rates, council tax, insurance, procurement, schools and tenancy frauds. Since it was set up in June 2015 it has recovered or intercepted over £12.4m.
Between April and September this year, the team recovered or intercepted over £895,000 related to fraudulent activity and currently has 250 ongoing fraud investigations.
Since the pandemic, officers have also investigated 113 Covid-19 Grant Fraud cases, preventing fraud to the value of £902,000 and identified fraud activity which had taken place to the value of £265,000.
The team continues to work alongside Durham Constabulary and had a successful prosecution earlier this year as a result of which a custodial sentence was imposed, as well as working in partnership with the National Anti-Fraud Network and reporting numerous national organised frauds to the National Investigation Service.
Warning signs for a potential scam include:
• A website address is inconsistent with that of the legitimate organisation
• A phone call, text or email asks for financial information such as PINs or passwords
• A call or email appears out of the blue with an urgent request for personal or financial information, or to make an immediate payment
• An offer of a heavily discounted or considerably cheaper product compared to the original price
• There are spelling and grammar mistakes or inconsistencies in the story given.
Cllr Richard Bell, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: “During the past 18 months scammers have been using the coronavirus pandemic and the public anxiety that this has understandably brought to take advantage and commit these deceptive crimes.
“Our corporate fraud team is working tirelessly to identify and prevent attempted frauds in County Durham.
“I urge all residents to remain vigilant against fraud and if they have concerns that any correspondence such as a phone call, email or letter does not appear to be genuine to follow the relevant advice and report it to us and in doing so join the fight against fraud.”
For more information or to report a case of fraud, visit durham.gov.uk/fraud.
And to find out more on ways to spot a scam go to friendsagainstscams.org.uk.