Bedfordshire’s frontline services are working together to issue a warning to residents across the county as criminals seize the current opportunity of the pandemic to use the vaccination programme being rolled out across the country to create new scams which could cheat people out of their life savings and put people in danger.
Nationwide, police forces have been made aware of a growing number of scams which initially arrive as a text message claiming to be from the NHS offering the Covid-19 vaccine. The link that accompanies the fake text message takes the reader to a hoax NHS website which requests personal and financial details.
The PCC’s office has been working with the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group, Bedfordshire Police, Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Central Bedfordshire Council, Luton Borough Council and Bedford Borough Council to produce a joint fraud alert which has been printed, with the aim for it to be sent to as many older and vulnerable residents in the county as possible.
“Please share this warning with everyone you know, especially the elderly and vulnerable who may be so desperate to get the vaccine that they will not think as carefully as normal about sharing their personal financial information.
“We all need to be aware that there are no circumstances whatever in which the NHS or your local GP will ask us for our bank details as a condition of receiving this life saving vaccine,” warned PCC Holloway.
Chief Superintendent John Murphy, force’s Covid-19 strategic lead, said: “Sadly criminals will always look to prey on people’s anxieties. It’s important to talk to vulnerable family members and friends about this scam. Explain that they shouldn’t reply to unsolicited messages and give out personal information. In Bedfordshire, the vaccine is only available through the NHS and is free of charge so no bank details are required when booking an appointment.
“Additionally, the vaccine can only be administered at a GP surgery, certified pharmacies or the government mass vaccination centre. Therefore, please do not trust any cold callers offering you the vaccine on your doorstep.
“If you believe that you or anyone close to you have been targeted by this scam, please report it to Action Fraud or to the police immediately by using our online reporting tool.”
Dr Sarah Whiteman, Medical Director for Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), said: “It is worrying and upsetting to hear of patients being targeted by fraudulent calls and text messages offering the Covid-19 vaccination. Our GPs are working incredibly hard to contact their patients and invite them to attend a vaccination appointment. They will never ask for banking details or for you to prove your identity with personal documents – if you are contacted by someone who is asking for these, hang up immediately.
“Upon contact, the GP will invite you to a vaccination centre near to you, the NHS will never turn up at your home unannounced. I am concerned that our vulnerable residents may be targeted in this way and if you are worried that someone has been a victim of this fraud, please report this to Action Fraud or 0300 123 2040, or report it to the police online or by calling 101.”
Over the coming weeks, the flyers will be sent to all partners to ensure as many older and vulnerable residents receive the warning and can keep the information close by to refer to if needed or worried. The Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has offered their services to help distribute the information and posters will also be placed in supermarkets, pharmacies and doctors’ surgeries. The flyer will also be sent out via email and will be available on the Commissioner’s website (www.bedfordshire.pcc.police.uk) for anyone who wishes to send or print it off for family and friends who might benefit from the information.
The advice for anyone who is concerned that they might have received such a scam, is not to click on the link. The NHS will never ask for your personal information or for your financial details for the vaccination. Do not enter any card or bank details.
The vaccine is only available through the NHS and your GP will contact you when it is your turn.
Suspicious text messages should be forwarded to 7726 (which spells “SPAM” on the keypad). This brief, cost-free, code enables your service provider to investigate the origin of the text and take action, if it is found to be fraudulent. You can report fraud through the police’s online reporting centre (https://www.bedfordshire.police.uk/report/Report) or by calling 101.
If you have been a victim of a scam or fraud, the PCC’s victim support service for those affected by crime, Signpost, offers free and confidential support in Bedfordshire, whether it has been reported to police or not and irrespective of where and when the crime occurred. Contact 0800 0282 887 or visit www.signpostforbedfordshire.com for further information.