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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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News

Council’s Planning Committee approves ambitious dockyard plans

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’s Planning Committee this morning (Tuesday, May 18) approved an application for the construction of a new marine engineering project at Pembroke Dock’s Royal Dockyard.
The plans, vociferously opposed by local heritage groups, passed unanimously.

The matter will now go to the Welsh Government, which has reserved its position on the scheme’s approval.
Committee members expressed the view that the balance between heritage and economic development were balanced, with strong views expressed on either side. They decided the balance of the application favoured economic development subject to conditions regarding aspects of the site’s preservation and its ability to be restored in the future.

The Committee members who attended a site visit on Wednesday, May 12, said it was the most informative and best site visit they had this council term. Visiting the site gave them a clearer idea about what was planned and the scale of the project, which would not have been gained from a paper exercise.

While the approval of the scheme was unanimous, one element of the reserved matters caused some members concern: the height and size of the proposed massive new sheds which would be built at a later phase of the project.
Cllr David Pugh, seconded by Cllr Steve Alderman, moved an amendment which would approve the project and delegate reserved matters to officers apart from the sheds’ construction, which would return to the Committee for detailed approval.

Cllr Tony Wilcox and Cllr Mark Carter emphasised the need for certainty regarding the project’s development, a position supported by Cllr David Howlett, Cllrs Pugh, Alderman and Cllr Stephen Joseph said that little delay would be caused to the scheme by bringing the sheds’ development back to the Committee. They noted the significant intrusion of the sheds into the landscape for miles around.

Planning Officer Mike Simmons advised that the project would proceed in five phases and that the applicant, Milford Haven Port Authority, was keen to proceed with the first phase as soon as possible. The first phase would be the infilling of the docks and pool, removing a caisson gate and preserving it, before the building of new slipways.
The Port Authority already accepted the sheds would only be built if there was commercial demand for them.
The amendment proposed by Cllr Pugh passed by six votes to five with two abstentions.

It means before the sheds are built, the Committee will decide the detailed application relating to them.

All other aspects of the development will be decided by officers.

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Business

Further Covid-19 business support packages to become available soon

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PEMBROKESHIRE businesses that remain affected by Covid-19 restrictions can check their eligibility for a new package of support from the Welsh Government.

This latest support package will help those businesses eligible to meet ongoing costs through to the end of June as they prepare for re-opening and more normal trading conditions.

Businesses that stand to benefit include:

  • nightclubs and late entertainment venues
  • events and conference venues not covered by the Welsh Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF)
  • hospitality and leisure businesses, including restaurants, pubs and cafes
  • supply chain business, which have been materially impacted by restrictions

An eligibility checker has opened on the Business Wales website so businesses can find out how much support they are likely to be entitled to and how to apply.

See more information and check your business’ eligibility at: https://businesswales.gov.wales/coronavirus-advice/

Funding will be calculated based on the size of the business and the type of restrictions they are under.

Businesses will be able submit applications to the Welsh Government from 24th May 2021 for grants of up to £25,000 and by the end of the month to Pembrokeshire County Council for smaller fixed Discretionary Grants.

To keep up to date and see the future application process for the Discretionary Grants please see: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/business-advice-and-support

The above link will be be updated with the latest information.  

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News

£50,000 funding windfall for low carbon community projects

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OVER £50,000 of funding has been awarded to local projects through the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund (SDF).

Since June 2020, the Fund has focussed on supporting community-led projects that contribute towards a reduction in carbon and help respond to the climate emergency. These can include:

·       Installing renewable energy generation facilities, such as solar panels, to a community building

·       Transport initiatives that promote reduced carbon emissions

·       The installation of community facilities that minimise waste, such as water fountains

·       Any other community-based carbon reduction initiatives.

Tenby RFC were among those to benefit from the most recent round of grants with an initiative to install recycling bins and litter pick stations at each of the sports facilities in the town.

There were two successful applications from the Solva area – one for the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels at Solva Community Clubhouse, and the other from the Community Organised Allotment for Solva Tenants (COAST) to help with set-up costs.

Others to be awarded an SDF grant were the Paul Sartori Foundation and the EcoDewi community group. The Paul Sartori Foundation’s project involved fitting of tracking devices onto warehouse vans to enable route optimisation and increased fuel economy; while EcoDewi secured funding to support a part-time role organising community engagement events and volunteering activities, and developing wider community partnerships.

Jessica Morgan, Funding and Grants Officer for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Trust said: “It’s been wonderful to see such variety in the applications we’ve received, and the innovative climate emergency solutions suggested by communities in the National Park.

“We look forward to receiving the next round of applications, and would encourage any community-led group or organisation that needs support to fund projects that will help reduce carbon and/or respond to climate change to apply as soon as possible.”

The next deadline for SDF applications is Friday 10 September 2021.

To find out more about SDF grants, and to apply online or download the application form please visit www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/sdf.  

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