Coronavirus brings out the worst in criminals as they target families on free school meals

Children queuing for school meals and a scammer using coronavirus
Steve Topple

Not to let a global pandemic go to waste, criminals have been targeting families on free school meals. They’re doing it amid the chaos caused by coronavirus (Covid-19). And they’re trying to get people’s bank details.

Coronavirus: criminals making the most of it

In an email seen by The Canary, one south London school sent this message to families on free school meals:

The DfE [Department for Education] have warned that fraudsters are targeting parents of children eligible for free school meals. Families have received an email requesting their bank details, claiming this will enable their children to continue receiving meals through school closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The DfE have issued a notice, urging parents to delete the scam email immediately.

It appears to be a national problem. The DfE said on its website:

We have been informed that some parents have received an email stating the following: ‘As schools will be closing, if you’re entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we’ll make sure you’re supported’…

this is a scam email and is not official. We urge parents that if you receive any emails like this, please do not respond, and delete it immediately.

In reality, parents whose children have free school meals should be getting a supermarket voucher. One south London school is giving families a £12.50 Tesco voucher to cover five days’ worth of lunches, as seen by The Canary. Other schools may do the same. It will either be an eVoucher or a gift card sent through the post. Some schools may arrange food to be sent to families.

More scams

Meanwhile, as News Shopper reported, there’s another bunch of scammers doing the rounds. This time, they’re targeting people door-to-door, offering coronavirus tests. As News Shopper said:

Some local residents or elderly relatives in Greenwich, Lewisham and Bromley have reported people knocking on their doors claiming to be from “the health authorities.”

People were then told they were carrying our compulsory Covid-19 tests, or just offering on-the-spot tests.

Similar scams have been reported across the UK, in Harrow and in Wales.

Police believe they may be attempting to gain access to houses or tricking people into parting with their money.

And nationally, there’s been another attempt at mass fraud. Criminals have been sending out fake texts that look like they’re from the government. As the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) tweeted:

Katherine Hart from the CTSI said the text:

issues a fake fine which tells the recipient to pay a fine or face more severe action.

Anyone who receives this text should ignore it. It is simply another ruse to steal the payment details of users. In all of these cases, do not click, or tap any links that these messages ask you to.

Be sensible

In light of the increase in scams and fraudulent activity, Bromley Council issued the following advice to residents via an email seen by The Canary:

  • “Seek assistance from trusted neighbours and friends wherever possible, or reputable local charities and churches if this isn’t possible”.
  • “Only give cash to someone you know well and trust”.
  • “Do not give your bank card and pin number out to anybody”.
  • “Plan in advance as online shopping deliveries currently take over 7 days to arrive”.
  • “Consider alternative delivery services to the supermarket, such as the local milk man (who can deliver groceries as well as milk) or businesses delivering food locally such as ‘veg box’ type deliveries”.

It seems that even during a worldwide crisis, there are people out there still wanting to exploit people’s fears for personal gain.

Featured image via Channel 4 News – YouTube and StanWilliamsPhoto – pixabay 

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