Trusting pensioners worried about going out during the coronavirus lockdown are being preyed upon by fake charity volunteers claiming they will do their shopping.
Merseyside Police and Age UK have warned about the scam after a series of suspected frauds in Wirral.
The force says there have been reports of incidents in Liscard, Seacombe and Wallasey of offenders – some claiming to be from Age UK and similar charities – approaching elderly people in the street and asking for money.
The con-artists promise they will buy the pensioners' shopping, but disappear with the cash.
Under measures designed to stem the spread of coronavirus, Brits have been urged to keep shopping to a minimum and pensioners are at increased risk of developing serious illness.
Officers are warning people across Merseyside to be wary of anyone asking for cash up front promising to do shopping, and Age UK Wirral has confirmed none of its volunteers or staff are asking for money.
Community Inspector Paul Harrison, of Merseyside Police, said: “It is appalling to think that there are people who would seek to exploit vulnerable people in this way, and would use the current situation and the admirable efforts of Age UK as a cover for their criminality.
“I would ask people to exercise due caution if they are approached by anyone they do not know and trust who is claiming to be acting on behalf of any charity or organisation in this way.
"Always ask for proof of identity – anyone genuinely representing an organisation would be more than happy to do so. And if in doubt, do not hand over cash in the street or on the doorstep.
“Age UK Wirral have confirmed that while they are offering to do shopping for elderly people in our community, none of their staff are taking any reimbursement whatsoever for any goods.
"They are funding such shopping with their own resources, providing a vital service, and their good work should not be undermined by the callous actions of these people.”
Inspector Harrison added: “Due to a reduction in general calls to the police, we have more officers on the streets ready to deploy to reports such as this of any criminals exploiting the current situation to commit crime.
Have you been affected by coronavirus? Are you a frontline NHS worker with concerns to raise? Email: email@example.com or message on Facebook
“If you are approached by someone you don’t know asking for cash to do shopping, please decline and report it to us. We will investigate every incident fully and look to take the offenders off the streets and before the courts.”
Anyone with information on this activity is asked to contact Merseyside Police social media desk via Twitter @MerPolCC or Facebook ‘Merseyside Police Contact Centre’. You can also call 101 quoting incident reference 20000199438, or contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously, on 0800 555 111 or via their online form here.
For more information on ways Age UK are helping during the Coronavirus pandemic, click here.