‘Indies must stay alert’

Retailers have reported a spike in coronavirus scams targeting them over the past month. 

Coronavirus scams NHS public information letter

Scams are being shared across social media channels, and include an increase in the sale of illegitimate hygiene products, and HMRC texts promising grants in return for personal information. 

Hetal Patel, owner of H.R.D.V News in Maidenhead, Berkshire, told betterRetailing: “Social media can be good for information, but if the wrong information goes viral, it can create difficulties for retailers and cause further confusion.”

Chief strategy officer for counterfeit experts Incopro Piers Barclay confirmed he has seen a “significant increase in infringements trying to capitalise on the coronavirus”.

Research by the company showed more than 1,150 social media posts selling fake respiratory masks in the first week of March 2020, and over 100 lookalike listings for a branded hand sanitiser on Amazon. 

Retailers also reported a fake letter circulating on Facebook, warning of a government ban on the sale of alcohol. 

Challenged on how it dealt with the removal of the material, a Facebook spokesperson told betterRetailing: “This post was marked as false by Reuters, as part of our third-party fact-checking programme, and has since been removed by the user.”

Facebook added it had partnered with the NHS to connect people to the latest guidance, and are working with the government to launch a coronavirus health information service on WhatsApp. 

Coronavirus & landlords: advice for small business owners

NFRN national president Stuart Reddish said: “It is sad that criminals are exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to cheat people out of their money. The NFRN will continue to do all we can to alert members to the latest scams.”

He urged retailers to regularly check reliable news outlets to see if the information they receive is correct, and warned against sharing any suspicious material. 

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