Local authorities across Devon are joining forces to protect residents and themselves and combat fraud this International Fraud Awareness Week (IFAW).

IFAW runs from the 15-21 November, as part of their involvement with the Counter Fraud Services Team at Devon Audit Partnership, local authorities are aiming to raise awareness of what fraud is as the first step in preventing it from taking place. Raising awareness of fraud, often referred to as a scam, is more important now than ever, as fraudsters try to take advantage of people during the COVID-19 (C19) crisis. Fraudsters are adopting a C19 camouflage to play on residents fears and lack of knowledge, taking advantage of them at this unusual time.

Some of the more common examples of this type of fraud based on fear and risk during the COVID-19 (C19) crisis which have already been reported to action organisations include:

  • victim alleged to have breached stay home regulations - scam with text messages from .GOV.UK issuing fines
  • free school meals scam - fraudulent messages (text or email) to parents entitled to free school meals requesting 
  • fraudsters pretending to be from a research group that mimic the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • fraudsters providing articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter for further updates
  • investment fraud including pension liberation fraud – fraudsters could take the opportunity to create bogus investments in commodities in high demand

Counter Fraud Services Manager at Devon Audit Partnership, Ken Johnson, says: "There has never been a more important time to raise awareness of fraud and those who commit it at this time of national and global crisis. It is a disgrace that dishonest people will commit fraud against another individual or organisation at any time but in the current situation is far worse. 

"Committing fraud against local government at the expense of those who need local services stops funding going where it is needed the most. Every £ taken from the public purse is a £ that someone in real need has to go without. If you know or suspect someone of committing fraud then report them."

Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden, says: "Fraud is a criminal activity and impacts on us all which is why we're supporting this to protect our residents and ourselves. If you receive texts or emails with offers that look to good to be true, they probably are. There are so many organisations out there that can provide advice and support to those who are concerned so if you have any worries do get in contact with them. If you suspect someone is committing fraud please speak to someone in the right organisation about it."

Leader of Torridge District Council, Councillor Ken James, says: "Fraud is a very serious crime and it can severely impact our lives. It is very important for people to remain vigilant when checking their inboxes and incoming text messages.  There are many sites, included in this press release, that are dedicated to supporting people, so please do not feel that you are alone with this.”

Fraudsters understand how many of us think and react as human beings aiming to create a situation which causes an overwhelming and emotional response to a stimulus such as an email or text that increases our stress levels. This  triggers our fight or flight responses with normal logical thought is over ridden by the need to take immediate action.

Detailed counter fraud advice is available online, including from these trusted sites.

Only use trusted sites and or those displaying that they are secure - site address starts with “https” or displays a padlock image next to the site address.

A case of fraud or suspected fraud can be reported in confidence in the following ways: