Over 150 pandemic support schemes have been introduced by the government to help those struggling financially, but a minority of individuals have been abusing them by claiming loans and grants illegally.
In an initiative between the government and independent charity Crimestoppers, the public can now call the new Covid Fraud Hotline on 0800 587 5030, anonymously and free of charge, to report suspected fraudulent activity or fill out a simple, secure anonymous online form at Covidfraudhotline.org.
Matt, a TV presenter, journalist and consumer champion, said: “It’s been a really difficult time for everyone and it seems fraudsters are taking the opportunity to profit.
“However, you can help the Crimestoppers Covid Fraud Hotline gather vital information on those fraudulently taking advantage of Covid support packages.
“Always check your accounts and if there are any anomalies, ask yourself who has been in touch with your business recently as they could have used your identity and taken out a loan or grant on your behalf.
“If you are worried and think you may have been defrauded, please call the Covid Fraud Hotline; remember, it’s completely anonymous.”
Although fraud is a hidden crime and can take a great deal of time to be discovered, Matt is also advising the public look out for tell-tale signs to stop them becoming victims.
These include unusual buying activity by companies and individuals and cold calling by those falsely claiming they are from the government offering money for schemes.
Specific types of fraud include identity theft to obtain loans, false claims for grants, misrepresentation and use of mule accounts.
Angela Parker, Crimstoppers Scotland national manager, said: “Fraud against the public purse denies access to vital funds that benefit us all.
“It’s crucial that anyone in Scotland who has information or knows of someone who has fraudulently claimed grants or loans contacts our helpline, completely anonymously, and tells us what they know.
“You’ll be doing the right thing to help ensure the public purse is protected.”
The Covid Fraud Hotline is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0800 587 5030 or fill in the form at forms.theiline.co.uk/crimestopperscovidfraudhotline.