Professor supports NHS response to protect vulnerable people from Covid-19 scams – Bournemouth University

A Bournemouth University professor has been providing resources to help NHS staff protect vulnerable people from scamming during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Professor Keith Brown has been assisting the NHS Covid-19 Emergency Response, working with the Deputy Directors of Nursing and Safeguarding for NHS England to produce weekly videos to help NHS and community workers identify people at risk of being scammed.

Criminals are exploiting the pandemic to scam elderly and vulnerable people who are likely to be self-isolating at home.

“There’s been a surge in scamming and fraud,” said Professor Brown, who is Director of the National Centre for Post-Qualifying Social Work and Professional Practice.

“In situations like this you get the best of people and the worst of people, and it’s evidently an opportunity that some people are using to defraud the vulnerable.

“If older people are isolated at home, they are more susceptible to people phoning and mailing them, as well as knocking on their door.

“These people are also going to be lonely and the longer they are isolated and out of touch with other people, the more affected they will be.”

Reported scams include offering false coronavirus tests, phishing emails, and people taking money or card details by knocking on doors and offering to buy food and essential supplies.

Professor Brown’s videos will be used by the NHS safeguarding team and added to an online portal for NHS and community workers.

He said: “We are asking community workers to be vigilant – if they are visiting vulnerable people, is there a pile of unsolicited mail or is the telephone ringing constantly?”

“The best way to protect people is to physically prevent them from being ‘attacked’ in the first place.  Once a scammer gains access, they put people under enormous pressure and hound them until they crack, to give their bank details or personal information.”

His advice includes setting up mail redirection services so friends or relatives can check for scam mail, call blocking technology, and a doorbell camera so that you can see and record those approaching a loved one’s house.

Professor Brown has previously helped to create national guidelines around protecting vulnerable people from financial scams.

His team has led the national research into fraud and financial scams on behalf of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute and the National Trading Standards Scams Team.  He has also been working in partnership with key organisations and politicians to develop research and raise awareness of the impact of financial scamming on society, and the National Centre has produced three all party parliamentary reports into fraud and scams.

He said: “The fact that we were the first port of call for NHS England demonstrates our reach and reputation. We as a BU community need to remind ourselves in these difficult times that some of our work really is of national significance and makes a difference to our society.”

Find out more about the work of the NCPQSW and protecting yourself from financial scams on the NCPQSW website.

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