Trading Standards chiefs are warning elderly people across Harborough - watch out for coronavirus scammers.
They are urging everyone, but especially older and vulnerable people, to be extra-vigilant as “despicable” crooks try to exploit the virus emergency.
Louise Boyall, a team leader for Leicestershire Trading Standards, told the Harborough Mail: “We are calling on the elderly and the vulnerable, especially, to be on their guard.
“Unscrupulous criminals will always try to exploit a crisis, unfortunately, and exploit those members of society most at risk.”
She added: “These people will stoop so low to try to rip off the most vulnerable people in society.
“They’ll stop at nothing to take advantage of people in these unprecedented times.”
Louise warned people to beware of crooks calling at their homes offering coronavirus testing kits for cash or their credit/debit card details.
She spoke out as thousands of worried people aged over 70 across Harborough are now self-isolating at home in a bid to escape the coronavirus.
“These kits are worthless.
“They don’t work so please don’t fall for it,” she said.
“We’ve also had scammers elsewhere in the country knocking on people’s front doors and offering to go and get their groceries.
“They have taken the cash handed to them for the shopping and vanished with it.
“They have even put leaflets through doors offering their services.
“There have also been online phishing scams that you’ve got to be aware of as well.”
Louise starkly spelled out how people can avoid falling prey to ruthless virus predators.
“Do not let anyone in your home or talk to any cold callers on the phone.
“Do not hand over any money,” she insisted.
“There are a lot of genuine volunteer groups set up to help out the elderly and vulnerable.
“Check out everyone.
“And if you are targeted then note down descriptions of the callers and their car registration numbers and contact the police.
“We are also encouraging the families and friends of older people to look out for them too.
“We have all got to be on our guard and we all have to do our bit to keep people safe.
“We’ve not had a coronavirus scam reported to us yet in Leicestershire but it will happen here sooner or later.
“We just all need to work together to minimise the risk.”
Louise spoke as Northamptonshire Police echoed her warning.
A cold-caller knocked at the door of an elderly couple in Kettering last week offering coronavirus home-testing kits for their debit card details.
Fortunately the would-be victims smelled a rat and didn’t hand over any personal details. Ch Insp Peter Basham, who is leading Northamptonshire Police’s community response to the Covid-19 crisis, implored people to look out for each other.
“It is very sad that at a time when we should all be pulling together as a community, there are still those who are seeking to exploit the situation and attempt to scam the most vulnerable members of our society.
“I would like to stress that the force, nor any other agency, is offering Coronavirus home-testing,” said Ch Insp Basham.
“If these were available, legitimate businesses would not be selling them door-to-door.
“Under no circumstances should you ever give out your personal or bank details to anyone.
“And if you’re approached by someone offering services or selling goods on your doorstep, please report it to the police.
“We are also asking anyone who has contact with either an elderly or vulnerable person to please pass on this gentle crime prevention reminder to help prevent them from becoming a victim of doorstep crime.
“Such crimes can often have a much more devastating effect on their victims than just the loss of money, making a person, especially the elderly, feel exceptionally vulnerable and unsafe in their own homes.
“Being a good neighbour is still important and communities are rallying around to support each other.
“However, there may be those who seek to exploit the situation also.
“So the message we want people to make their elderly relatives aware of is simple – if you’re not sure, don’t open the door.”