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Warning as ‘unscrupulous fraudsters’ try to exploit coronavirus outbreak

PUBLISHED: 16:49 20 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:50 20 March 2020

Police have warned that scammers could be looking to take advantage of the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Getty

Police have warned that scammers could be looking to take advantage of the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Getty

Archant

Scammers and cold callers are capitalising on the coronavirus outbreak, police have warned, following a near miss in the county.

In recent days, an elderly person living in the north of the county was telephoned by somebody claiming to be from a company called Southern Electric - promising to help them with their electricity bill.

The person was told by the caller that they would visit their home and in exchange for £520 cash, £5,000 would be put onto their electricity bill “as part of helping people through the coronavirus outbreak”.

But for the person’s bank refusing to allow the victim to withdraw that amount of cash the scam may have succeeded.

Chief inspector Craig Miller, of Norfolk Constabulary, said: “It’s great that communities across Norfolk are coming together to help one another during these unprecedented times. However, we sadly know from previous experience that criminals will take advantage of any opportunity for their own means and this situation is no different.

“We would urge residents, particularly those who are vulnerable, to only deal with people they trust and that if anyone has any doubts about those who are approaching them, and are concerned, we advise that they don’t engage, and report suspicious behaviour to police.

“The majority of groups are well intentioned and will be working through charities, or through a local authority and should have proof that they are doing so.”

The warnings have been echoed by Norfolk County Council’s trading standards team, which is working alongside police to keep abreast of any potential threats and warned that some scammers had been posing as members of the British Red Cross.

Margaret Dewsbury, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for communities and partnerships, said: “It’s shameful that unscrupulous fraudsters are trying to take advantage of the pandemic to make money. Particularly when so many people are volunteering to help support and protect their friends and neighbours.

“Something we can all do is complete the quick and simple Friends Against Scams training online. This allows everyone to better understand and spot scams, and recognise when people are being scammed in our community. Visit www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/elearning/Norfolkand make yourself scam aware.”

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Alongside the warning, police have issued the following pieces of advice:

• Only accept help from people you know and trust - never deal with unexpected cold callers

• Do not give your credit card details out - give cash and ask for a receipt

• Give people doing your shopping a list within your budget

• Know that police, health workers and others will not call at your house to test for the virus and would not ask for money

• Do not transfer any money across to someone who calls you over the phone, banks will not ask for your personal security details

If you feel in immediate danger call 999 or if you know someone is vulnerable and has been a victim of fraud, please contact Norfolk Police on 101 or Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.ukor call 0300 123 2040.

You can report scams and suspicious telephone cold calls to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on freephone 0808 223 1133.

MORE: Coronavirus patient leaves Norwich hospital before positive test result


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