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Scammers trying to take advantage of cornavirus outbreak

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PEMBROKESHIRE residents are being warned to be on their guard against a series of scams attempting to take advantage of the coronavirus outbreak.

Miracle cures, bogus testing kits and counterfeit hand sanitiser are just some of the coronavirus or Covid-19 themed scams being reported nationally.

Whilst no direct reports have been received yet, Pembrokeshire Trading Standards and Dyfed-Powys Police are warning everyone to be on their guard and to look out for vulnerable friends and family who may be targeted.

Scammers are exploiting the coronavirus situation, dressing up familiar old scams to make them appear credible.

Tactics are employed by phone, mail, on the doorstep and online. Some examples include –

Online

  • Bogus World Health Organisation (WHO) emails seeking personal information and delivering malware to corrupt your data.
  • Payment for a list of infected people in your area where you may be required to pay by bitcoin or asked to click on a link which delivers malware

Holiday Refunds

  • Fake websites to claim holiday refunds

Counterfeit Goods

  • Counterfeit or poor quality hand gel and face masks that will not provide the protection they claim

Donations

  • Bogus charities seeking donations for victims of Covid-19
  • Donations for a Covid-19 vaccine

Phone

  • Calls to piper lifeline users that they owe money
  • Criminals claiming to be your bank or utility company

Miracle Cures & Supplements

  • Miracle cures or other health supplements that claim to treat or prevent the virus.

Doorstep

  • Offers to shop and collect medicines, with thieves taking upfront cash payments and not being seen again.
  • Handing over bank cards with pin numbers and personal details resulting in substantial money loss.

Loan Sharks

  • Illegal money lenders prey on people’s financial hardship, charging extortionate interest rates and fees and threats of violence. Report it to the Illegal Money Lending Unit tel. 0300 123 3311 or email imlu@cardiff.gov.uk

Businesses have also been targeted by bank mandate fraud –

  • Emails seeking urgent payment due to cash flow problems,
  • False claims of changes to bank account details in an attempt to pay the scammer instead
  • Third parties claiming to act on behalf of employees incapacitated by the virus

Sandra McSparron, Lead Trading Standards Officer at Pembrokeshire County Council, said: “The list is endless – scammers have no limits, no morals, no scruples – they just want to profit”

“This is a difficult time for everyone, especially vulnerable people who are self-isolating or shielding”.

“Simple acts like keeping in touch by phone or online can make all the difference. Seek advice and support if you or someone you know is concerned about any suspicious contact.”

Cllr Cris Tomos, Cabinet Member for the Environment, Public Protection and Welsh language, added: “It is a very sad but unfortunate fact of life that scammers will try to take advantage of any situation they can to try to get their hands on people’s money.

“We know there are such scams linked to coronavirus being circulated so please follow the advice of our Trading Standards Team and be very wary of unsolicited calls emails, etc and protect yourself and your family from these criminals who are preying on extra vulnerabilities at this time.”

 

Trading standards offer the following advice –

  • If you are unable to go out and need help with essential matters such as shopping and collection of medicines, contact the Council’s Community Coordination Hub (details below). Be wary of anyone turning up on your doorstep without prior arrangement.
  • Don’t click on links or attachments in suspicious emails
  • Never respond to unsolicited emails and phone calls asking for personal or financial details
  • Make sure your anti-viral software is up-to-date
  • Don’t make on the spot decisions – take time and speak to someone you trust for their opinion
  • If you can, carry out your own checks online for adverse reports about a business
  • Register with the Telephone Preference Service to reduce unwanted telemarketing calls tel: 0345 070 0707 or via their website tps@dma.org.uk
  • Don’t take someone’s word who they claim to be – take steps to verify it yourself. Genuine callers will understand and not pressurise you.
  • Consider obtaining a nuisance telephone call blocker to stop nuisance and scam calls. If you would like a free trial of one contact Pembrokeshire Trading Standards team on 01437 764551 or email tradingstandards@pembrokeshire.gov.uk
  • If you need any repairs or home maintenance, ask family and friends for recommendation and if possible obtain a few quotes before you decide
  • Above all, speak to someone if you do have a problem as scammers will often persist to contact you where you have previously made a payment or given personal information

Hiking Up Prices

In addition to scams some retailers have ramped up the price of goods in high demand such as hand gel, paracetamol and toilet roll, a process known as price gouging.

Examples include a standard box of paracetamol priced £59 online and a small bottle of hand sanitiser priced £30.

Competition watchdog the Consumer and Markets Authority, has set up a taskforce to crack down on businesses that cash in during the outbreak.

It states action will be taken against traders that do not heed the warning. eBay has already suspended hundreds of “bad seller” accounts. You can report inflated price concerns to the CMA via the www.gov.uk website.

Pembrokeshire County Council has set up a Community Coordination Hub Team to support vulnerable residents affected by the COVID-19 virus, providing voluntary services such as grocery shopping and medicine delivery.

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Police turn away caravans and campervans heading for Pembrokeshire

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PEMBROKESHIRE is currently closed to visitors’ is the message from Dyfed-Powys Police as officers work to prevent the spread of Coronavirus within the county.

Despite the Prime Minister placing the UK under lockdown on Tuesday (March 24), some people continue to flout the rules and are still treating the area as a holiday destination.

Sergeant Hamish Nichols, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said patrols conducted over the last two days had resulted in more than 200 reminders to the public about what currently counts as ‘essential travel’.

“Yesterday we turned away numerous caravans and camper vans whose owners were travelling to Pembrokeshire to self-isolate,” said Sgt Nichols.

“We have also spoken to two campsite owners who have been open for business, and have issued stern advice to them and to all holidaymakers.

“While the majority of local people have taken the government guidelines seriously too many people seem to think the rules do not apply to them.

“The message is clear – this is a lockdown, not a holiday, and anyone who ignores the current restrictions not only puts people’s lives in danger but also risks further action being taken against them.”

Patrols of beaches, coastal areas, and other public spaces will continue this weekend, with officers also conducting increased stop checks on roads across the force area.

Where members of the public refuse to listen to advice, officers will be able to issue penalty notices of £30, which if not paid within 14 days double to £60.

Individuals who do not pay a fixed penalty notice could be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose further fines.

If an individual continues to refuse to comply, they will be acting unlawfully, and the police may arrest them.

“Enforcement is a last resort, and officers will always apply their common sense and discretion to every situation,” said Sgt Nichols.

“But the powers are now available and we will use them if we have to.”

Chief Inspector Louise Harries added: “Our staff are working tirelessly in already difficult times and I ask that people adhere to the simple rules set.

“This will enable us to put our resources towards supporting all agencies in response to this crisis and continuing to protect our communities and victims.”

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Bluestone National Park Resort is to become a COVID-19 recovery centre

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Bluestone National Park Resort is to become a Recovery Centre for patients in Pembrokeshire, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the wake of the ongoing public health emergency, part of Bluestone’s extensive facilities, as well as open spaces, will be utilised to help treat those in need and those recovering from the virus. Bluestone is joining a local, regional, and national effort to do everything possible to prepare for the unfolding outbreak – and ultimately save as many lives as possible.

Bluestone provides a significant addition to the resources and facilities of Hywel Dda University Health Board, which is responsible for the health and wellbeing of the residents of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

Members of the Bluestone Team will continue to provide security and management of some of the facilities on the site, while the Health Board will manage the addition of medical resources, and Pembrokeshire County Council will lead work on the site. The details of additional personnel required to support the effort, under the full guidance of the Health Board, are currently being worked up, and the facility will available to those in need as soon as possible.

Dr Phil Kloer, Medical Director and Deputy Chief Executive at Hywel Dda, said: “We have followed the situation in Italy closely to learn where possible and to help our planning. Our European colleagues have provided feedback that patient flow and throughput is a critical factor in response to COVID-19 pressures. Delivering these additional beds for patients will therefore be essential to help us manage patient flow over the coming weeks. We are extremely grateful for all of the support that we are receiving from Bluestone and Pembrokeshire County Council to help make this happen and am confident this facility will offer a good environment in which our patients can recover.”

Speaking following the announcement, William McNamara, CEO of Bluestone said: “We are living and operating in previously unimaginable circumstances. It is moments like these that it’s vital we come together to support each other – as family, as friends and as a community.

“It is right that Bluestone is utilised in this time of great national need. We all want – and need – to do whatever we can to make a difference and contribute to tackling the unfolding coronavirus emergency.

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with those who are personally affected by this unfolding situation.”

Cllr David Simpson, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, added: ”We are very grateful to William and the Bluestone Team for coming forward and making the Bluestone site available. The facilities are going to provide significant additional resources to the local area as we battle the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

“I know that this is an uncertain and worrying time for residents across Pembrokeshire and Hywel Dda. The community is doing a truly heartening job of pulling together – and we will get through this together.”

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Be a considerate neighbour during the coronavirus lockdown

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DURING the current lockdown, Pembrokeshire County Council has seen an increased number of complaints from members of the public who are affected by the actions of their neighbours.
While we are all largely confined to our homes, we ask householders to consider the impact of their actions on others, especially the elderly and vulnerable and those on night shifts.
During the first full week of lockdown we have seen some sunny, warmer weather. It has been ideal for spending time in the garden or on balconies but please be considerate and ensure your actions do not disturb your neighbours.
The Council wishes to stress that most activities will not be a problem but we would ask you to think about the volume of your music and the times that you are doing any DIY.

Music:
• consider the volume of any stereo equipment. If it can be heard beyond the boundary of your home/garden, it is too loud and needs to be turned down
• position any speakers indoors, pointing away from neighbouring properties
• don’t put speakers on party walls or floors
• don’t stand outside making noise on balconies or in gardens late at night

DIY:
• is the work noisy? Keep noisy work to a minimum and think about the hours you are undertaking this work. Try not to do this work late at night
• will the work cause any other issues such as dust problems? If outside please think about the wind direction
• is the work on shared walls where neighbours can hear? Consider the time of day when doing this work
• call neighbours and tell them about the work and how long for so they will be aware and can discuss any concerns they may have (they may be on night shifts)

Can I have a Bonfire?

We ask householders to be considerate and think about what you are burning. Serious harm is unlikely if exposure to bonfire smoke is brief but problems maybe caused for asthmatics, bronchitis sufferers, people with heart conditions and children.
Bonfire Guidelines:
When lighting a bonfire please follow the guidelines listed below to prevent causing problems with neighbours or causing a serious nuisance.
• only burn dry material, do not burn damp material – damp material is likely to smoulder and therefore produce more smoke. This will contain pollutants including carbon monoxide, dioxins and particles.
• never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres or anything containing plastic, foam or paint – this not only creates an unpleasant smell but also produces a range of poisonous compounds.
• never use old engine oil, meths or petrol to light the fire or to encourage it
• avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions – smoke hangs in the air on damp still days and in the evening. If it is windy, smoke may be blown into neighbour’s gardens and across roads.
• avoid burning when air pollution in your area is high or very high. This information is included in weather forecasts, or you can check by ringing 0800 556677
• never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder – douse it with water if necessary.
Dogs:
Dogs may bark because they are lonely. Constant barking or whining can be disturbing to your neighbours. A well-trained, happy dog will not bark unnecessarily. Please don’t leave dogs outside for long periods unattended. The lockdown is a great time to play with your dog and keep them entertained.

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