The government system, which launched last week, is designed to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) by quickly testing people with symptoms and either phoning, texting or emailing whoever they have had close contact with to tell them to isolate for 14 days.

There are concerns that some people, particularly the vulnerable or elderly, could be susceptible to fake calls or messages from criminals looking to get access to personal information or trick them into handing over money.

Rachael Holden, Group Manager for Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service, said:

“Unfortunately, even during this difficult time, fraudsters will find ways to take advantage of people.”

“No one is immune from scams, so we’re encouraging everyone to be vigilant and take steps to protect themselves by knowing what you will and won’t be asked if you are contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service.”

Contact tracers will:

  • call you from 0300 013 5000
  • send you text messages from ‘NHS’
  • ask you to sign into the NHS test and trace contact-tracing website
  • ask for your full name and date of birth to confirm your identity, and postcode to offer support while self-isolating
  • ask about the coronavirus symptoms you have been experiencing
  • ask you to provide the name, telephone number and/or email address of anyone you have had close contact with in the 2 days prior to your symptoms starting
  • ask if anyone you have been in contact with is under 18 or lives outside of England

Contact tracers will never:

  • ask you to dial a premium rate number to speak to them (for example, those starting 09 or 087)
  • ask you to make any form of payment or purchase a product of any kind
  • ask for any details about your bank account
  • ask for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts
  • ask you for any passwords or PINs, or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs over the phone
  • disclose any of your personal or medical information to your contacts
  • provide medical advice on the treatment of any potential coronavirus symptoms
  • ask you to download any software to your PC or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet to anyone else
  • ask you to access any website that does not belong to the government or NHS

Cllr Christine Carter, Torbay Council’s Cabinet Member for Corporate and Community Services, said:

“We are all trying to do our bit to help stop the spread of coronavirus, and this new test and trace service is a big part of that. Sadly, there are criminals who will use this situation to their advantage and exploit people’s uncertainty and fear.

"Remember, the NHS Test and Trace service is completely free, so they will never ask you for any form of payment or financial information or to provide any passwords, bank account details or pin numbers.”

“I urge everyone to remain vigilant and protect both themselves and their friends, family and neighbours who may be vulnerable by knowing what to expect from the NHS test and trace service and how to spot these scams.”

If you see or hear anything suspicious, please report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 or via the webform on their website.

If you think you’ve been scammed, please contact the Police on 101.

Government information about the service can be found on the NHS Test and Trace website, provided by the Department of Health and Social Care.

More information on scams, rogue traders and doorstep crime is available on the Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards website.

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