In these uncertain times for everyone it is difficult to think ahead. We have all been forced to think differently and work differently.

The phenomenal team approach I witnessed in such a short space of time to ensure that business continues whilst putting the welfare of clients and staff at the forefront was second to none.

That was the good part.

Unfortunately, the bad part started when our fellow humans began stockpiling food leaving those on low incomes and those unable to attend to supermarkets due to shift patterns unable to buy basic things needed to keep them alive and healthy.

That was just the beginning.

Fraudsters began playing on the fear created by COVID-19 and the need for the elderly and vulnerable to reduce social contact.

Councils have already seen coronavirus-related scams involving fraudsters knocking on the doors of older people asking for cash upfront in exchange for running errands; or impersonating council officers or health officials offering mandatory coronavirus testing. More elaborate scams include gaining access to savings or stealing a person’s identity. There are also email scams offering HMRC refunds.

Not only are those who are self-isolating at risk of falling victim to these fraudsters, but by letting people into their homes, unsuspecting victims are at greater risk of catching coronavirus.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Keeping the elderly and those with underlying health conditions safe is every council’s top priority, and councils will do everything in their power to prosecute fraudsters and seek the toughest penalties for criminals taking advantage in this despicable way.

Despicable is one way of describing such actions. Prosecuting those responsible has its own problems.

The difficulty with that is; the justice system is barely recognizable from what it was just 2 months ago. No new jury trials are going ahead, police stations having logistical difficulties adhering to the safe distancing advice and some courts temporarily closing. Emergency measures are in place for custody and overnight prisoners.

The financial assistance offered from the Government will undoubtedly also fall foul to fraud in great numbers, I fear. Time will tell on what scale.

It goes without saying that anyone taking advantage of this horrible situation we find ourselves in deserves to feel the full force of the law, there may be a waiting period before that occurs but the recurring message is that “the full force” will be dished out to those responsible.

Stay safe everyone, be kind to yourself, look out for your neighbours, the elderly and the vulnerable. This will end at some point and I sincerely hope society becomes a better place for it.

This blog was written by:  Lynn Mahon

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