Your Community Briefing

What to look out for in your community:

The following issues are happening in your community -please take steps to reduce the risk.

COVID SCAMS

The UK’s vaccine roll-out is offering light at the end of the tunnel, but sadly it is being exploited by cyber criminals. Here, Dorset Police Cyber Crime Protect and Prevention Officer Chris Conroy provides advice about how to avoid these fraudsters.

It’s hard to believe that COVID-19 has been part of our lives for a whole year now. It was late in January 2020 that the UK recorded its first case, and few could ever have imagined what was to follow.

And now, here we are. One year and three national lockdowns later, waiting for the day we can see our friends and family again and forgetting what it’s like to do the things we once took for granted.

Amongst all the turmoil of the last year, there was at least one thing that has remained constant – the unscrupulous nature of cyber criminality. Throughout the pandemic, Dorset Police have warned of scams – fake PPE, fraudulent COVID maps, and Track and Trace scams to name just a few.

Vaccination scams

Now, as the UK embarks on the mammoth task of vaccinating millions of people, fraudsters are finding ways to use the roll-out to their advantage. The vaccines have promised us a light at the end of the tunnel, something to be truly excited about. This is a perfect set-up for scammers.

There’s often a theme when it comes to a scam. Be it an email, a text message, or a face to face exchange, a fraudster will usually try to exploit human emotion. They are experts at creating a sense of urgency, finding a way to short circuit our rational thought, and getting us to act against our better judgement.

The prospect of a COVID vaccine is undoubtedly emotive, so scammers have jumped at the opportunity, sending fraudulent emails about the rollout. These emails vary, with some asking for sensitive personal information, and others asking recipients to pay for their vaccine.

This has led to the NHS providing guidance on what to expect when you are contacted to receive your vaccine.

What to expect: A letter – Those who are invited to a larger vaccination centre or pharmacy will receive notification in the form of a letter. An SMS or email – Those who are invited to a local centre, such as a hospital or GP surgery, will usually receive a text message or email. In some cases, however, you may receive a letter.
What to look out for:

There is no charge for the COVID vaccine, which is available for free through the NHS. The NHS will never ask for: Bank account, card or other payment details. Banking passwords or PINs Copies of personal documents to prove your identity, such as your passport, driver’s licence, bills or pay slips. If you receive a letter but do not book an appointment, you may receive a phone call from the NHS Immunisation Management Service. This call will come from 0300 561 0240. This call will be a reminder to book your appointment. The caller will see if you need any help or support but will not book an appointment over the phone.
These tips will go a long way towards helping you avoid falling victim to a COVID vaccine scam but, it you’re not sure if the email you receive is genuine, there are a few things you can do to check.

How to check

Firstly, check the sender’s details. At the top of the email, you might see the sender’s name or an email address.

There is usually the option to expand this section, which we recommend doing. Check any email addresses in that section, keeping an eye out for misspellings. Criminals are crafty and will often swap letters for ones that look alike. For example, a capital I looks a lot like a lower-case L.

Secondly, if there’s a link or a button to click, you can check its true destination before you do so. If you’re using a phone or tablet, you can hold (don’t tap) your finger on a link or button. If you’re using a computer, you can hover your cursor over the button without clicking. This will cause the true destination to appear either in a box or at the bottom of your browser.

If these checks give you cause for concern, it’s best to err on the side of caution and assume something isn’t right. After all, if you receive a genuine email and don’t respond, the NHS will call, as detailed above.

If you are suspicious

If you receive what you believe to be a fraudulent email, be sure to report it. Doing so can help keep other people safe. Simply forward any suspicious emails to report@phishing.gov.uk. The automated system will do the rest and if it is deemed to be dodgy, the service will take steps to have the site removed.

If you are unfortunate enough to fall for a scam of this nature, please make sure you report it to Action Fraud.

As ever, if you have any questions about cyber safety, please feel free to email us at cybercrimeprevention@dorset.pnn.police.uk.

It’s been a tough year and whist it might be hard to see that light at the end of the tunnel, it is there. If you’re struggling, remember there is always someone to speak to. Organisations like Citizens Advice and Samaritans are helping people with financial and mental health concerns. We’ll get through this.

Until next time, stay safe out there, and please keep following the guidance.

Chris Conroy 
Cyber Crime Protect and Prevention Officer
Dorset Police 

Police Warn about Catalytic Converter Thefts in the Bournemouth area

In recent years, catalytic converter theft has risen dramatically. According to the AA Insurance claims have gone up from 32 in 2018 to 393 in 2019. It is believed that this is driven by the value of the metals inside. While platinum prices have remained fairly stable, there has been a sharp increase in the value of palladium. 

Thieves simply cut the catalytic converter from the exhaust pipe of a parked car and sell them on to scrap metal dealers.

  • Taller vehicles (4x4s) are particularly vulnerable as the converters are more accessible. Because they tend to have larger engines, they contain more of the precious metals too.
  • Once an unmarked converter has been removed from a vehicle it’s quite difficult to match it to that vehicle as there aren’t any distinguishing
Thanks to Nottingham Police

Reduce risk

To reduce the risk of theft of your car’s catalytic converter:

Did you know a thief can take the catalytic converter from your car in a matter of minutes and leave you to foot the bill?

Cars which are often targeted are those with higher chassis, such as a 4×4 or an SUV, however, other cars can still be targeted.

To reduce the risk of having your catalytic converter stolen, you should:

  • Park your car in a locked garage where possible, but if this isn’t an option, then park it in a well-lit and well-populated area
  • Park close to fences, walls or a kerb with the exhaust being closest to the fence, wall or kerb to make the theft more difficult
  • Avoid parking your vehicle half on the pavement and half on the road, as this may make it easier for thieves to access the catalytic converter
  • If parking in a public car park, consider parking alongside other cars and facing you bonnet towards the wall if possible. With the catalytic converter positioned at the front of your vehicle, this will make it harder for thieves to get close enough to steal it
  • If there is a fleet of vehicles, park the low clearance vehicles to block the high clearance vehicles. This will obstruct access underneath
  • If your catalytic converter is bolted on, you can ask for your local garage to weld the bolts to make it more difficult to remove.
  • Alternatively, you can also etch a serial number on the converter
  • You can even purchase a ‘cage clamp’ which is a cage device that locks in around the converter to make it more difficult to remove
  • Speak to your dealership about the possibility of adding a tilt sensor that will activate the alarm should any thief try to jack the vehicle up to steal the converter  
  • If you see someone acting suspiciously under a vehicle, report it to the Police. Obtain as much information as possible, including any vehicle registrations