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‘Worst in society’ scamming vulnerable during coronavirus lockdown, council leader warns

PUBLISHED: 11:10 08 April 2020 | UPDATED: 11:10 08 April 2020

Councillor Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said that coronavirus was bringing out the

Councillor Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said that coronavirus was bringing out the "best and worst" in society. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

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The “worst people in society” are using the coronavirus crisis to target the elderly and vulnerable, according to the leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

Great Yarmouth's Town Hall has become a Great Yarmouth's Town Hall has become a "food distribution hub" during the coronavirus lockdown. PHOTO: James Bass

Carl Smith’s warning came as the council alerted residents to a rise in criminal “cold calling” scams across the borough.

This typically sees criminal groups turn up on people’s doorsteps, or call on the phone, claiming to represent charities and offer favours which seem legitimate but in reality are not.

These could be food delivery serivces or an offer to do shopping in return for money.

While praising the response of most of the borough’s citizens, Mr Smith slammed the growing trend as “an opportunity for the worst in society to exploit the vulnerable.”

Norfolk and Suffolk Trading Standards, police and the NCA have all issued warnings over scammers taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Getty ImagesNorfolk and Suffolk Trading Standards, police and the NCA have all issued warnings over scammers taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Getty Images

He said: “These exceptional circumstances have brought out the best in our communities, who have pulled together marvellously in response, but has also, sadly, presented an opportunity for the worst in society to exploit the vulnerable.

“As part of the Norfolk-wide response, our Community Team have been calling our most vulnerable residents to offer reassurance and support, which includes delivery of food and medicine where needed.

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“But no member of that team would cold call a resident and ask for their bank details or payment.

Shelia Oxtoby, the council's CEO, helping organise supplies for community foodbanks. PHOTO: GY Borough CouncilShelia Oxtoby, the council's CEO, helping organise supplies for community foodbanks. PHOTO: GY Borough Council

“All members of the Community Team, whether council staff, volunteers or from a community group, should be able to provide ID.”

The council is warning residents that if anyone phones up or knocks at their door claiming to represent a charity, community group or the council, ask for their ID.

This is especially true if they ask for money or bank details, a council statement added.

The warning comes as National Trading Standards reported a rise in scams related to coronavirus directed at those most in need.

To tackle the phenomenon, a Scam Prevention Service has been set up by Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner.

This service works in with the council, police and victim charities and provides confidential specialist support to those who have been targeted by scams.

For information, call 0300 303 3706 or visit www.nsvictim care.org/help-and-support-2/norfolk-scam-prevention-service/


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