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Police issue coronavirus cold-calling warning

Beware of offers of help from strangers



Police in Hertfordshire have issued a warning to anyone being offered help by cold-callers. They say opportunists have been targeting the elderly and vulnerable who are self-isolating.

The warning was sent out in a message via the Hertfordshire Online Watch Link (OWL).
“In these unprecedented times, the spirit shown nationally to help each other has been tremendous. However, sadly, I need to make you aware of opportunists.”
Derrick Sweeney, the watch liaison officer says criminals are trying to take advantage of the elderly and vulnerable who are self-isolating.
“Anyone being offered kindness by cold-callers by way of running errands, collecting prescriptions and doing shopping, should not accept services from strangers who may ask for cash up front, a credit card and its PIN, or attempt to gain trust simply to execute a more elaborate scam in order to access savings.”
Mr Sweeney says that most people offering to help elderly people in their neighbourhood are genuinely kind, honest and caring.

He says the elderly who are self-isolating will need food and other supplies, and they will need someone to talk to if they don’t have friends, family or a nearby neighbour who they already know.
“If everyone makes contact with their nearest elderly neighbours WHO THEY ALREADY KNOW and gives them their phone number so that they can call for help when they need it, it will reduce the chances of them accepting help from a stranger who may turn out to be an opportunist, confidence trickster and thief.”
The OWL message also reports of flyers being posted through some doors in Bishop Stortford requesting food donations for YMCA food banks. The message says these have nothing to do with the YMCA and have been put out by opportunists trying to con people into parting with food.

Anyone who is suspicious that fraudulent activity is taking place is urged to call the police on the non-emergency number 101 and inform Action Fraud.

On Wednesday 18 March a similar message was posted on the Hertfordshire police Facebook page.
“We’ve been made aware of several social media based groups and initiatives being set up across the county to help provide support to vulnerable or affected individuals following the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We commend the community spirit and kindness at this difficult time, however we want the people who are taking part in this to take care and not to forget to maintain their own personal safety – both in terms of their own health, and online safety and security.
“Unfortunately, there are individuals out there who may take advantage of situations like this for their own personal gain.”
The Hertfordshire police Facebook post ends with suggesting that those who want to help can get involved in the Team Herts COVID-19 volunteering project.

The North Mymms Youth Project (NMYP) has also set up an initiative to help the elderly and vulnerable who are self-isolating in the area.

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Coronavirus updates

Check what shops and businesses are open and what support and help is available. Information and updates courtesy of the North Mymms Youth Project.