Bogus COVID-19 Marshals Luring Britons Into Opening Their Homes Amid Pandemic
Earlier this month, British Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed that COVID-secure marshals will not have the power to enforce the law and should instead advise people on how to follow the rules on social gatherings as the coronavirus pandemic persists.
The UK’s Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has warned of an increasing number of scams in the country related to swindlers posing as COVID-19 marshals to gain access to people’s homes.
Katherine Hart, the CTSI’s lead officer for doorstep crime, said on Saturday that since March, the institute has seen “so many different instances of fraudsters using the [coronavirus] pandemic as an opportunity to defraud the public”.
She added that these scams “are shifting in their theme as the rules and regulations change with individuals now pretending to be COVID-19 secure marshals”.
Hart recalled that they don’t have the power to enter private properties.
“COVID-19 secure marshals will never come to your door unannounced and do not have the right of entry, or the right to issue fines”, the lead officer for doorstep crime underscored.
She noted that this type of scam “appears in many forms”, referring to a recently obtained information about individuals “pretending to offer flu vaccinations on the door, a concerning development as we enter flu season”.
“I am particularly concerned that elderly and vulnerable individuals may be at risk to this scam. I ask the public and public authorities to spread the correct safeguarding information so that we can stop these unscrupulous individuals from ruining the lives of those already struggling during this challenging time”, Hart pointed out.
The remarks followed UK Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick confirming in an interview with the BBC earlier this month that the COVID-19 marshals are not authorised to “enforce the law”, adding that “if there are particularly egregious examples they would need to escalate that to the police and I think that is the right thing to do”.
He spoke after police in Bedfordshire County said last month that they were investigating reports of two men pretending to be COVID-19 marshals in the city of Dunstable.
“This was distressing for the victim, and he felt quite intimidated by the men. We would urge everyone to be on their guard and look out for vulnerable friends and relatives who could fall prey to such opportunist scammers”, police spokesman Lesley Johnson noted at the time.
According to the UK’s national reporting centre for preventing scam and cyber crime Action Fraud, tens of thousands of Britons have been affected by coronavirus-related scams since the COVID-19 outbreak began in the country in late January.