Scots care home left without PPE as COVID-related scams escalate

A Scots care home was left without personal protective equipment (PPE) after fraudsters intercepted a £10,000 payment as COVID-related scams escalate across the country.

Humza Yousaf says the scams are "abhorrent"
Humza Yousaf says the scams are "abhorrent"

Criminals are exploiting the pandemic and playing on the fears of businesses and the public, Scotland’s Serious Organised Crime Taskforce has heard.

Vulnerable people at home and in the care sector are being targeted it is claimed.

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The situation has been branded “abhorrent” by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf.

The care home in the Forth Valley area was left without PPE after the supplier claimed they had not received the £10,000 payment, despite it being sent.

A police investigation showed that the payment had been moved from the bank account it was paid into and they believe organised criminals were behind it.

There have also been a number of reports of people knocking doors and offering to disinfect the householder’s driveway to rid it of any COVID-19 for a fee.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, chair of the Taskforce, said: “Organised crime groups are adept at taking advantage of any situation that presents itself. People are understandably concerned about their health, and that of their family, as well as concerned about their jobs.

"It is abhorrent, but not unexpected, that these groups are looking to exploit those fears and concerns. A business falling foul to one of these scams could be disastrous, especially if they are already struggling and could ultimately lead to them stopping trading."

Other scams have seen businesses being emailed urging them to click on an official-looking link for a £25,000 grant. The link leads to a fake ‘UK Government’-branded website asking for business and banking details.

A £10,000 fraud was intercepted by Scottish Borders Council when an application for a business support grant was hacked by criminals who requested the redirection of the payment to a different bank account. Due to the checks in place the council were alert to the scam and the money was not paid out.

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Fiona Richardson, Chief Officer at Trading Standards Scotland, said: "Throughout lockdown we have continued to receive information that shows that organised criminals remain active in our communities seeking to make money in whatever way they can, despite the ongoing crisis. We have seen instances of sales of fake Covid-19 testing kits and doorstep crime. At this difficult time please don't rush into any purchases and be very wary of any unsolicited callers.”

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Angela McLaren said: "During the current pandemic, we are seeing targeted attempts by fraudsters to adapt well-known techniques to include references to coronavirus, lockdown measures and PPE. We remain vigilant to this and circulate alerts and preventative messages, not just those associated with COVID-19, where appropriate."

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