One-in-three people have been the targets of scammers since the coronavirus crisis began, it has emerged.
Citizens Advice has seen a 19 per cent hike in the number of people going to its website for advice, as well as questions about bogus testing kits, vaccinations and government refunds.
More than a third (36 per cent) of adults have witnessed a scam – though the most vulnerable appear to be suffering most, according to the charity.
Some 45 per cent with a disability or long-term illness said they had been targeted, while half deemed at an increased risk of coronavirus or shielding had been contacted.
One respondent told Citizens Advice they became fearful for a friend who showed them a company on social media that claimed to be selling a special product alleging it protested the home from coronavirus.
“I knew it sounded too good to be true and checked out their Facebook page which was only 12 days old, something which immediately raised my suspicions,” Martin, 34, explained.
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“They’d posted videos of their products being used in different customers’ homes. But these looked bogus, I could tell they were all taken in the same house.”
The majority (64 per cent) say they are worried someone they know will fall foul of a con, according to the survey of 2,009 adults.
People are being encouraged to report suspicious activity as part of a Scams Awareness campaign by Citizens Advice and the Consumer Protection Partnership.
“By learning how scammers operate, and helping each other understand what to look out for, we can all work together to stop fraudsters in their tracks,” said Dame Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.
Paul Scully, Consumer Minister, added: “I am utterly appalled by this new research showing how opportunistic scammers are targeting people made most vulnerable by the pandemic – those suffering from illness, or facing financial difficulties.
“Now more than ever it is vital people remain vigilant to scams, and know how to protect themselves and their loved ones – especially those who are isolated, or live alone – from being exploited.”