PEOPLE are being warned to watch out for scams after Action Fraud reported that coronavirus-related fraud reports quadrupled in March.

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) first reported the new trend in fraud related to coronavirus last month and updated figures show there have been 105 reports to Action Fraud since February 1, with total losses reaching nearly £970,000.

The first report relating to Covid-19, was received on February 9 and there were 20 more reports that month. Since then, there have been 46 reports between March 1 and March 13 with 38 reports in just four days from March 14-18.

Action Fraud said the majority of reports are related to online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived.

Other frauds being reported include ticket fraud, romance fraud, charity fraud and lender loan fraud.

It has also received over 200 reports of coronavirus-themed phishing emails, allegedly from bodies such as the World Health Organisation. These attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments which could lead to fraudsters stealing people’s personal information, email logins and passwords, and banking details.

There have been reports of emails and texts asking people to submit their bank details for refunds from HMRC or to claim free school meals.

Residents are also being alerted to scams involving individuals visiting people’s homes and offering free coronavirus testing or offering help with groceries and errands.

West Yorkshire Trading Standards say other goods being offered in scams are vaccines or miracle cures, over-priced or fake goods to protect you against coronavirus, shopping or medication collection services and home cleaning.

Police advise not to open your door to anyone that you do not know and if they claim to be from a legitimate organisation, ask to see their ID before you even think about engaging with them.

They say volunteers working with the health, emergency services and local authorities will be in possession of the necessary DBS arrangements and should all have documentation proving their status.

Community volunteering to provide assistance to those most vulnerable in meeting their daily needs will also be likely in the coming months. If you have doubts about anyone who approaches you, police say do not engage and report serious suspicious behaviour to police. Never hand over money or a credit or debit card to anyone making unsolicited visits to your home.

There have been reports nationally of thieves extorting money from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a ‘vaccine’ and illegal money lenders are expected to prey on people’s financial hardship, lending money before charging extortionate interest rates and fees through threats and violence.

Companies are also offering fake holiday refunds for individuals who have been forced to cancel their trips. People seeking refunds should also be wary of fake websites.

A spokesperson for West Yorkshire Police could not supply information about whether anyone had been reported or arrested locally for fraudulent behaviour relating to coronavirus.