Police warning of Free School meal scams during coronavirus outbreak lockdown

Schools have reported that parents and carers of children in receipt of free school meals are being targeted by fraudsters.

Fraudsters are targeting families, emailing parents and carers with messages such as ‘ If your child is entitled to free school meals send your bank details to the school and they will help with funding while the school is closed’.

The email contains fake links for the parents to follow if they want to receive this funding.

Please DO NOT click or follow those links.

Hertfordshire Constabulary is warning residents to be cautious as a number of corona virus related scams have been reported.

Unfortunately fraudsters are using the current situation to take advantage of those who are most vulnerable. Action Fraud recorded a 400% increase in virus related fraud this month. 

Reports have also been received in other parts of the UK of text messages being received from Gov.uk stating that the recipient has breached regulations and will be sent a fine in the post.

Another fraudulent email claiming to be from Hertfordshire County Council asks parents of children who receive free school meals for their bank details. Coronavirus-themed phishing emails with infected attachments containing fictitious ‘safety measures’ have also been targeting people in the UK. 

If you have been a victim of fraud or cybercrime, report it to Action Fraud at actionfraud.police.uk.

Unscrupulous criminals are exploiting fears about COVID-19 to prey on members of the public, particularly older and vulnerable people who are isolated from family and friends.

Members of the public should ignore scam products such as supplements and anti-virus kits that falsely claim to cure or prevent COVID-19. In some cases individuals may be pressurised on their own doorsteps to buy anti-virus kits or persuaded into purchasing products that are advertised on their social media feeds. In addition, some call centres that previously targeted UK consumers with dubious health products are now offering supplements that supposedly prevent COVID-19.

Communities are also being urged to look out for signs of neighbours being targeted by doorstep criminals. While there are genuine groups of volunteers providing help during self-isolation, there have been reports of criminals preying on residents – often older people or people living with long-term health conditions – by cold-calling at their homes and offering to go to the shops for them. The criminals often claim to represent charities to help them appear legitimate before taking the victim’s money. There are genuine charities providing support, so consumers should be vigilant and ask for ID from anyone claiming to represent a charity.

Action Fraud are also reporting an increase of 400% of Coronavirus-related frauds. The majority of these reports are associated with online shopping scams, where people are ordering protective face masks, hand sanitizer and other products, which never have arrived. There are also reports of themed phishing emails attempting to trick people in opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive or financial information. Their advice is as follows:

  • Watch out for scam messages
  • Research first before you purchase online
  • Protect your devices – Always install the latest software and Apps updated.