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Covid fraud hotline opens

A new hotline has been launched to report Covid fraudsters who make illegal claims for support

In an initiative between government and the independent charity Crimestoppers, the public can now call a dedicated phoneline anonymously and free of charge to report suspected fraudulent activity.

Over 150 Covid support schemes have been introduced by the government to help those struggling financially, but there are concerns about possible abuse.

A recent National Audit Office report warned that business defaults and fraud could result in potential losses of £15bn to £26bn from the Covid-19 bounce bank loan scheme alone.

Cabinet Office Minister Julia Lopez said: ‘Many people work hard to pay their taxes, so it’s a gross injustice that fraudsters are shamefully taking advantage of measures set up to help people during the lockdown.

‘We cannot let criminals profit from the Covid crisis, as every pound stolen by fraudsters could be invested in our vital public services. This is why we are urging the public to report any information to the Crimestoppers Covid Fraud Hotline.’

Those concerned about potential fraud are urged to look out for tell tale signs. These can include unusual buying activity by companies and individuals, as well as cold calling by those falsely claiming that they are from the government, offering money for schemes.

The hotline will be open for 12 months and cost the government £100,000 to set up, run, deliver and publicise. It will not cover criminal activity related to the furlough, universal credit or ‘eat out to help out’ schemes. Anonymous tipsters with information about furlough fraud are being directed to HMRC.

The Covid Fraud Hotline is open 24/7, 365 days a year on 0800 587 5030. Alternatively, there is a simple and secure anonymous form online at Covidfraudhotline.org.

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