Sandwell Council’s Trading Standards are issuing a warning to residents about people being scammed and retailers hiking prices amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Residents are warned not to open the door to anyone claiming to offer testing for coronavirus.
They are also warned not to give money to strangers knocking doors and asking for cash upfront to do shopping for people who are self-isolating. And residents are warned to stay alert to email scams – such as those asking people to renew their TV Licence online.
For details of the council’s response and further advice on coronavirus, including help for people who are socially isolated, go to www.sandwell.gov.uk/coronavirus
Leader of Sandwell Council Councillor Yvonne Davies said: “It is very sad and distressing to hear that bogus callers and scammers are preying on residents who may understandably be anxious during this time, particularly the most at risk groups.
“If anyone knocks at your door purporting to offer coronavirus testing do not open the door and report the matter to the police.
“If you are self-isolating and require essential goods please ask someone you know, like a family member, neighbour, friend or someone from a community organisation such as a church or charity to get them for you.”
The council’s trading standards team has also had reports of retailers overcharging for staple items.
These have included toilet rolls with a recommended retail price (RRP) of £1 being sold for £4.50, potatoes being raised in price from £5.99 to £15 and a chemist charging £19.99 for infant paracetamol.
Trading Standards are looking into the complaints received.
Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for healthy lives Councillor Farut Shaeen said:
“We do not condone anyone overcharging for goods and we advise people to keep reporting these issues to us.
“Currently the law isn’t clear on taking action on this sort of overcharging. But if the law changes or we can find a way to take any appropriate action against these retailers, we want to assure residents that we will do so.”
If you come across any scams or retailers who are overpricing you can report it to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer or on 0808 233 113.
A number of coronavirus scam emails have also been circulating.
One claims to be from the Government offering a tax rebate to support people through the current uncertain times. The recipient is asked to click on a link, which asks for personal details. The scammer can then take money directly from the victim’s bank account.
Another one purporting to be from the World Health Organisation (WHO), claims to hold crucial coronavirus safety advice. The attachment downloads a keylogger, allowing scammers to follow the online movements of the user, and gain access to their device and personal details.
There are also several fake coronavirus update apps for smart phones. The fake app contains a form of 'ransomware', named CovidLock, which upon downloading, locks the phone and displays a message demanding that the user pay a sum of money to unlock it.
These apps are available to download from various unofficial websites. Phone users are advised to only download apps directly from the Apple Store, or Android Play Store as these are safety checked by the platforms.
Citizens Advice (CITA) has launched advice on Coronavirus scams. They have a scam checker, which is available at