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COVID-19 scams – How to stay safe

This is a guest post by Paul Newton.

Hello there!

Head shot of Paul Newton in a hat


My name is Paul Newton and I own a company called MentalTheft. We’re currently helping a lot of people who are worried about COVID-19 scams. We’re working to keep ahead of these scammers and warn people before they fall foul and lose their money.




Below is a list of some of the common current scams running during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Please be aware that a lot of these scams can be run at any time and there doesn’t need to be a global virus for these to work!

Scammers are currently using “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt” (FUD) to try and create a feeling of urgency and panic when they’re trying to take your money.

Doorknocker scammers

  • Criminals offering to do shopping. Thieves take the money and do not return.
  • Doorstep cleansing services that offer to clean drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Fake testing for the COVID-19 virus – these tests are pointless!! Do not pay for them!
  • To protect yourself, do not answer the door to unknown people. Always ask for identification for anyone claiming to be an official.

Online  scams

  • Email scams tricking people into opening malicious attachments, which put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details at risk. Some emails have lured people to click on attachments by offering information about people in the local area who are affected by coronavirus.
  • Fake online resources – such as false Coronavirus Maps – that deliver malware such as AZORult Trojan, an information stealing program which can infiltrate a variety of sensitive data. A prominent example that has deployed malware is the site corona-virus-map.comwhich is now fortunately shut down.
  • Always be alert to online scams. If it looks too good to be true, it’s going to be a scam, for sure.
  • With so many deliveries expected a common scam is the email saying that you have missed a delivery and have to pay to reschedule.

Holiday refund scams

  • Companies offering fake holiday refunds for individuals who have been forced to cancel their trips. People seeking refunds should also be wary of fake websites set up to claim holiday refunds.
  • If you are looking to get a refund for travel, see the Complaining Cow article Travel in the time of Coronavirus – Your rights explained

Goods/Products scams

  • Fake sanitisers, face masks and COVID-19 swabbing test kits sold online and door-to-door. These products can often be dangerous and unsafe. There are reports of some potentially harmful hand sanitiser containing glutaral (or glutaraldehyde), which was banned for human use in 2014.
  • You wouldn’t buy dodgy products from your local shops, so why pay for fakes offered to you on the doorstep? Just say “no”!

Phone scams

  • As more people self-isolate at home there is an increasing risk that telephone scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.
  • A person calling from your bank will never ask for account numbers or passwords. If anyone does, then just hang up.

NHS track and trace scheme

Charity Scams

  • There have been reports of thieves extorting money from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a COVID-19 ‘vaccine’.
  • No genuine charity worker will ask you for money on your doorstep in connection with COVID-19.

Loan sharks

  • Illegal money lenders may prey on people’s financial hardship, lending money before charging extortionate interest rates and fees through threats and violence

How to avoid scams

Something that I want you to all think about and take in and remember whenever you get in a phone call or whenever you get an email from somebody that you don’t know is to verify the information first before replying or taking any other action.

This means that you check any information given to you by a potential scammer. A scammer will hate the fact that you’re trying to verify who they are whereas a real person, a real supplier or a trusted person or contact will happily help you to verify.

I had this recently when my credit card company noticed some fraudulent activity on my own card. They contacted me and asked me for some security information. I responded saying that I don’t give out that kind of information to people on phone numbers that I don’t know. The person on the other end of the line said you know what? You’re the first person to say that to me for two weeks. He was actually really happy that somebody had stopped him and wanted to go and verify his side of the story. He told me to ring the phone number that was on the back of my credit card at least then I knew it would be a trusted phone number. He told me which department he had phoned from and to ask to be put through and it would be treated as a priority call. I got my credit card and looked at the phone number on the back which I then called. I explained the situation to the person on the end of the phone and was put through to the same guy to whom I had just been speaking.

They had noticed that a company had tried to take nearly £4,000 from my credit card and it was a purchase that I had never made before. It wasn’t even the right type of goods or the kind of store that I would use. In this situation they were spot on. They had stopped the fraud before it had even happened. The massive downside is that because no crime had been committed, the police can be involved and wouldn’t do anything. The credit card company were really happy that I had tested them and made sure that they were genuine. There was no bad feeling, there was no embarrassment, they actually said they wished more people would do it.

So if the only thing you walk away from here remembering today is to trust but verify, then I’ve done my job.

Good luck to you.

Stay safe.

And look after each other.

About the author, Paul Newton

Paul Newton is a Public speaker and magician.

With a wide range of skills in magic, mind control, mental theft and hypnosis, he has built a large following by being entertaining and educational.

His career has grown out of being a magician – from weddings and events to stage shows, something he still does with a lot of passion! However, over the years, his work in security and understanding people, especially how to trick them, has grown into becoming a public speaker for business audiences.

His performances are engaging and enjoyable, but more importantly it helps people to start thinking about how every day actions can become security issues and so staff and owners alike can become more secure. He is also a prolific business networker, so you will possibly see him out and about!
Twitter @paulnewtonmagic




Companies customer service Complaining about customer service Latest News Laws Online shopping Online shopping and deliveries Topical

Coronavirus related cancellation claims and shopping

Refunds during the pandemic

During the current crisis, most businesses are doing the right thing when it comes to refunding consumers affected by cancellations.

For example, I had tickets booked for a charity comedy night full of A-list comedians and waited for news about the event. I was interested to see if they could reschedule (highly unlikely given all the names involved) and whether they would ask if I would like to make a donation to the charity. In fact, I received an email to say they were looking to reschedule a number of events and, soon after, received an email listing all the dates that were cancelled and those that were rescheduled. Ours was, of course, cancelled. The refunding of the card was already underway, according to the email.

However there are a number of companies still not doing the right thing. For example, those which are trying to give credit notes instead of cash refunds.

Whilst even I would say to allow companies a little extra time to give you that refund (and I would normally NEVER say that!) due to the amount of refunds that they are having to be processed, your consumer rights remain the same in all circumstances whether they are COVID-19 related, or not.

The crisis has hit nearly every sector. There is some support for many businesses, so it is not right for the consumer to bankroll these companies and also be out of pocket.

Report businesses acting illegally during the pandemic

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is closely monitoring businesses through this period. It has the power to open a consumer enforcement if it finds strong and compelling evidence that the law might have been broken. It can call on the company to change their behaviour by committing to formal undertakings or promises. If they refuse, then the case can be taken to court. It won’t take on individual cases but it is worth reporting any offending companies to the CMA.

The CMA is also monitoring price hiking (also known as “gouging”) and will similarly tackle companies that are attempting to profit from the current situation.

Unused gift vouchers during Covid

Normally there are restrictions on gift cards. Will your Gift Cards keep on giving? However, many people have not been able to use their gift cards in store while shops are shut. If the gift card could have been used online then you should use it online. You would expect companies to extend the gift card deadline in these cases where the cards can only be used in store because they have not been able to provide normal service. However due to the unprecedented nature of the reason that you have been unable to spend the card it is yet to be tested in court which is, ultimately, the test.


Coronavirus and price hikes

Help with getting the refund you are owed from business

Posts which will help with various scenarios:

What are your consumer rights during a pandemic

Coronavirus and travel – who’s taking advantage? outlines the law and what the different relevant agencies are saying/doing about travel companies and airlines and refunds.

Travel in the time of Coronavirus – Your rights explained  outlines what your rights are and how to assert them regarding holidays and flights in this country and abroad.

Coronavirus related cancelled and postponed events your rights outlines your rights and how to assert them when events in this country or abroad are cancelled.

Online shopping – know your rights during the pandemic explains your rights and how to assert them when things go wrong with an online shop.

Gym Contracts During COVID : Your Consumer Rights a guest post I wrote for Emma at the Money Whisperer.

Don’t get tied in knots over wedding cancellation some venues are not fully refunding couples, charging them fees, not providing a like-for-like alternative next year etc. Here’s what to do about it!


Coronavirus - how to ensure you gain redress when a venue cancels

Wedding venues and insurance getting refunds

Your consumer rights when shopping in store during a pandemic

Further help with getting redress

Top 20 Tips How to Complain! Use these tips when you complain to be effective! is a site which gives you the contact details for CEOs. The CEO may not respond personally but it does get the matter escalated and you should get a response from one of the executive team.

Cover of How to Complain updated 2019 large cow logo


For more advice, tips and templates for complaining GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!




Stressed out by the situation?

Stressful time? How to reduce stress with a little talked about quick and easy therapy

green background how to assert your legal rights Covid-19 related issuesCOVID-19 scams – How to stay safe a guest post by Paul Newton regarding current Covid-19 related scams.