Boy, 16, told he tested positive for Covid in ‘sickening’ phone scam

A woman has echoed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s warning over coronavirus testing scams after fraudsters targeted her teenage son.

Sunday, 20th September 2020, 7:00 am
The First Minister has issued a warning over the scams
The First Minister has issued a warning over the scams

A woman has echoed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s warning over coronavirus testing scams after fraudsters targeted her teenage son.

Nicola Bennet’s son, Robert, 16, was called on his mobile phone by a scammer who told him that he had tested positive after his mother had carried out a home test using a strand of his hair.

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He immediately realised the call was a hoax and phoned his mother, who reported the fraudsters to the authorities.

The First Minister earlier this week warned that scams attempting to get money out of people for fake covid tests were on the rise in Scotland.

Ms Bennet said: “His phone rang and the person on the other end told him he had tested positive for Covid-19 and needed to isolate.

“They said that I had done a home test using a strand of his hair. He knew it wasn’t right but it shook him for a minute.

“They were quite dramatic about it, they told him he had a serious disease that could kill. If it had been my other son, he is only 12, so he probably would have been really worried.

“We didn’t find out what the scam was as my son hung up quickly and phoned me.

“They didn’t get a chance to ask him for bank details or anything.”

The scammers, however, seemed to know that Robert, a student at college, was a minor as they asked if he was with his parents.

“It was all very strange,” said Ms Bennet, who runs a cleaning company in Edinburgh.

“I reported it as I was worried that if they targeted someone else who is more vulnerable, they could be taken in. I have clients who are in their 90s and I wouldn’t want them to be targeted.”

On Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon issued a warning over scammers targeting people by pretending to work for the Test and Protect contact tracing service.

She said: “We have become aware that some fake callers are pretending to work for Test and Protect and are trying to con people by claiming that payment is needed for a test.”

She described the scams as “truly and utterly despicable” and reminded people that Covid-19 tests are free and bona fide Test and Protect workers will never request financial information or attempt to secure payment for tests.

Andrew Bartlett, chief executive of Advice Direct Scotland, said: “It’s sickening that criminals are seeking to exploit a health pandemic, and this scam is particularly troubling. Fortunately the scammers didn’t get anywhere with this attempt, but people across Scotland should be vigilant.

He added: “There are a whole range of cons that criminals are experimenting with in the hope it will result in them getting money. The Test and Protect scheme will always be free and nobody will ever be asked to pay anything.

“Anyone with concerns about a potential scam, or who believes they may have fallen for a scam, can contact our advisers who will be able to help.”

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