Fake fines and testing kits and bogus requests for donations are among coronavirus-related scams targeting the public, officials have said.
The Department for the Economy has warned everyone to remain vigilant following a rise in reported fraud.
It said being isolated with friends or family could make people lower their guard.
Action Fraud, the UK’s reporting centre for fraud, said there has been £4.6m in losses nationwide during lockdown.
To combat fraud, Trading Standards Service – a part of the Department for the Economy – is distributing ‘Wash your hands of Coronavirus Scams’ leaflets with food packages.
‘Despicable and callous’
“At a time when we see communities really coming together to support each other, it is despicable that some of our most vulnerable citizens are being targeted so callously,” said Damien Doherty, chief inspector of Trading Standards Service.
He said his organisation did not “want to scare people at a time when they are already anxious”, but urged everyone to be vigilant against fraudsters.
Mr Doherty added that other scams not related to coronavirus “continue unabated”.
In a statement, the department flagged a range of offences which had been used to target the public during the lockdown.
- Fake lockdown fines, which involved victims being contacted by bogus text messages claiming to be from the government
- Fake testing kits, or those that claim to cure or prevent Covid-19
- Fake companies, which purported to offer holiday refunds
- Online shopping scams, where products are not delivered, or untested lower-quality products were delivered
- Older people being targeted on their doorsteps by criminals offering to do their shopping
- Phishing emails, themed around the coronavirus, aimed at getting people to open malicious attachments
- Doorstep cleaning services, claiming clean drives, letterboxes, and doorways prevent the spread of the virus
- People on benefits being targeted through scams where they are offered help accessing government support
- Donations scams, where thieves claim to be collecting for a Covid-19 vaccine
Tips to avoid falling victim to scams can be found on the NI Direct website.