Highland Council and NHS Highland issue joint warning after concerns were raised following the emergence of fake coronavirus vaccine scams
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Highland Council's Trading Standards team and NHS Highland are warning residents to be very aware of the latest Covid scams that are emerging across the UK.
It is very likely that these scams are linked and the consequences of being a victim may go beyond financial harm.
They take the form of an initial text message pretending to be from the NHS, offering the vaccine and when people engage with this they are taken to a fake NHS website and asked for their details.
This is what is called data harvesting and the personal details given can be used to buy goods, obtain credit in the victim’s name, or be sold to create a false identity, likely to be used for other criminal purposes.
Trading Standards team leader Mark McGinty said: “The initial part of the scam is typical, in this case it’s a text message but it could also be an email, it is designed to con a person into believing what they see, usually a tempting offer that is too good to be true, in this case, to jump the queue and obtain the Covid vaccine quicker than the NHS can provide. These initial approaches are designed to tempt the vulnerable in our community.”
The second element to these scams may involve a phone call, this is likely to be when the scammers do not have enough details to obtain money, and they will ask for and take payment for the vaccine.
The final emerging element to this is a visit to give the vaccine and it is understood that something is actually injected into the victim – again, notwithstanding the enormous health implications of this, this is another scammers tactic, they are there this time to physically see what else they can take from the victim.
Mr McGinty said: “Normally a scammer will never provide a service, they only want personal details and money. To follow this scam through to actually meeting the victim and injecting them with something is a new low for these utterly despicable groups of individuals.
"Times are very difficult and confusing right now for many people, and exploitation in this way needs to end, the best way to do this, and protect yourself and those around you from becoming a victim, is to be aware and not engage in the scam.”
Dr Tim Allison, NHS Highland's director of public health, said: "We would like to remind people across the Highland area that the Covid-19 vaccine is only available on the NHS and you will be contacted by NHS Highland when it is your turn on the priority list to receive it.
"The vaccine is completely free for everyone and if you are contacted by someone looking for payment or your bank details then they are not calling from NHS Highland and you should hang up straight away and report it to Trading Standards or the police on 101."
Any member of the public wishing advice on scams can visit the Highland Council Trading Standards Scams website.
Consumers can also contact the Scottish Government's Consumer Advice provider or if you feel you are a victim of a scam please contact Police Scotland on 101.