Warnings of rogue ‘community helpers’ targeting households

Scammers have been knocking on doors, claiming to provide coronavirus testing kits.

Scammers have been knocking on doors, claiming to provide coronavirus testing kits. - Credit: Archant

Individuals and groups of people have been reportedly knocking on doors offering to help residents in exchange for significant sums of money.

Residents are being urged to be aware of alleged fraudsters posing as community helpers in Canute Cr

Residents are being urged to be aware of alleged fraudsters posing as community helpers in Canute Crescent in Ely. - Credit: Google Maps

In Wisbech, there have been social media reports of scammers posing as health workers knocking on doors claiming to provide coronavirus testing kits - and then insist on being given cash in return for them.

A statement released by Wisbech Town Council on social media said: “We are receiving reports that individuals and small groups are approaching households claiming to be from The Red Cross and offering coronavirus testing, and then demanding significant money for the tests.

“Please be advised this is a scam - The Red Cross are not offering any such service and nor is anyone else outside the NHS.

“If you or any member of your family is approached in this way, then please report it to the police immediately.”

A spokeswoman from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG explained all NHS healthcare workers carry identification.

“We’d urge residents to ask for ID if they’re unsure about the individual on their doorstep,” she said.

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Meanwhile, the Red Cross has confirmed it is not conducting coronavirus tests anywhere in the UK.

A Red Cross spokesperson said: “If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from the Red Cross, please ask to see identification and, if you have any concerns, contact the police.”

In Ely, a group of three men were allegedly knocking on doors in Canute Crescent in Ely yesterday (Tuesday) morning, offering elderly residents help during the coronavirus outbreak. When confronted, they left the area.

They pulled into the close-knit street in a white pick up truck with an old fridge and a tree in the back at around 9am.

While the younger man stayed in the truck, the two others knocked on the doors of elderly residents in the street.

Susan Chapman, who lives on the street, said: “They were saying they knew the elderly were frightened of the coronavirus and that they could do odd jobs and shopping for them.

“Several told them to go away and that’s when they became quite argumentative. They backed down and quickly left when someone said their CCTV was capturing their actions and facing into the road where their vehicle was parked.

“They were clearly fraudsters who were specifically targeting elderly and vulnerable people on the street - they didn’t know on all of our doors.

“They definitely knew who they wanted to speak to and we need to warn people they’re operating in the area.”

The older two men were described as being in their 40s or 50s and about 5’10” tall. One was ‘chubby’, between 14 and 15 stone, with a ‘blotchy red face’ and spoke with an Irish accent.

Mrs Chapman added: “We’re a really close-knit community here and we look after each other on the crescent.

“I’m co-ordinating our volunteer helpers for odd jobs and shopping for people, so there would be no point in targeting this street.”

The incident has been reported to police.

A police spokesperson said: “While it is fantastic to see local community groups coming together to support vulnerable people, we are aware of reports of rogue traders looking to profit from the social ramifications of COVID-19.

“If you, or someone you know is offered support by a stranger, please take all steps possible to identify them and ensure that they are offering genuine support.”

- Have you been approached by one of these fraudsters? Your experience may warn others. Email louise.hepburn@archant.co.uk with further information.