As communities come together during the coronavirus outbreak, police are urging people to be vigilant to scammers and bogus officials.

The warning comes after cold callers targeted an elderly North Norfolk resident who was phoned by someone claiming to be from Southern Electric. 

The caller said they would visit the resident’s home and for a cash payment of £520, a credit of £5,000 would be put onto his bill “as part of us helping people though the coronavirus outbreak”. 

When the resident visited the bank to withdraw the money, staff prevented the withdrawal. 

Chief Inspector Craig Miller said: “We sadly know from previous experience that criminals will take advantage of any opportunity for their own means.

“Scams are likely to come in many forms, from those pretending to be police officers or working for healthcare organisations calling on people to say they are testing for the virus, to those who fraudulently sell face masks, or offer to do shopping and taking money. 

“We urge residents to only deal with people they trust and if anyone has any doubts we advise 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.”

Norfolk County Council’s Trading Standards team is working with police and continuing to fight scammers. 

It has urged people to sign up to scam alerts online at: www.norfolk.gov.uk/tsalerts

Margaret Dewsbury, 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.”

The advice from police is:

• Only accept help from people you know and trust. Never deal with unexpected cold callers

• Don’t give your credit or debit card details·        

• Police, health workers and others would not call at your house to test for coronavirus or ask for money regarding investigations

• Always check the identification of cold callers, especially if they are dressed in uniform

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

•  Do not trust anyone asking for money transfers or cash over the phone         

• Do not make shopping purchases from a company or person you do not know and trust.