Scammers are stealing money from the elderly stuck in coronavirus isolation by offering to go shopping for them.
Police in Camden, north west London say they have received reports of individuals offering to help the elderly but then running off with the money.
It comes amid concern from across the country of criminals using coronavirus as an opportunity to exploit the vulnerable.
Coronavirus-themed phishing emails have been used to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive personal and financial information.
And online market place sellers have been selling hand sanitiser products for more than 5000 per cent their recommended retail price.
Supermarkets remain busy today as desperate shoppers try to get their hands on essentials including toilet roll and pasta (pictured, Brent Cross shopping centre in north London at 5.30am today)
Camden Police has warned of scammers offering to go shopping for the elderly and then running off with the money
Camden Police warned today: ‘We have recently received a small number of reports of individuals offering to go shopping for the elderly within our community as a means to then keep their money.
‘As ever, please ensure you or those more vulnerable in your circles treat such invitations with caution.’
It comes as England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said new stricter advice for the ‘extremely vulnerable’ will be coming in the next week or so.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘It is strong advice for the over-70s and there will be in the next week or so an announcement over people who are extremely vulnerable irrespective of their age where the advice is even stronger about staying in the home.
‘What I want people to do is take away that this advice is very strong and to the extent possible you should ask a neighbour to do food shopping for you, or a friend.
‘And keep these visits to places where you can come into contact with other people as low as you can reasonably keep them.’
Empty supermarket shelves in Coton near Leeds, Yorkshire, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on people to stay away from pubs, clubs and theatres and work from home
After a frantic weekend of buying, shops remain empty despite the desperate attempts of staff to re-stock the shelves (pictured, a supermarket in Durham today)
Fresh fruit and vegetables were hard to come by for shoppers at this supermarket in Coton near Leeds, Yorkshire today
Action Fraud has already warned of coronavirus scam costing victims more than £800,000 in one month – although the latest reported incidents in Camden would more likely be classed theft rather than fraud.
Since February, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has identified 21 reports of fraud where Coronavirus was mentioned.
Of the 21 reports, ten were made by victims that attempted to purchase protective face masks from fraudulent sellers. One victim reported losing over £15k when they purchased face masks that were never delivered.
A spokesman said: ‘We have also received multiple reports about coronavirus-themed phishing emails attempting to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive personal and financial information.
‘One common tactic used by fraudsters is to contact potential victims over email purporting to be from research organisation’s affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
‘They claim to be able to provide the recipient with a list of coronavirus infected people in their area. In order to access this information, the victim needs to click on a link, which leads to a malicious website, or is asked to make a payment in Bitcoin.’
Elderly shoppers enter the branch of Iceland in the Kennedy Centre, Belfast, which has opened an hour early at 8am especially to allow elderly people the opportunity to shop freely
Not all the elderly have taken to staying inside just yet, with some seen out shopping early at Iceland in Belfast this morning
West Midlands Police has reiterated the concerns of Action Fraud saying it was aware of ‘multiple reports’ of people trying to use coronavirus for financial gain.
Kloe Burrows from the force’s economic crime unit, said: ‘Times like these can bring out the best and worst in people. While some will be looking out for vulnerable relatives and friends we also know a small minority will be looking to profit from the worry and concerns caused by Coronavirus.
‘Our advice is to be mindful of clicking on links in emails or messages, paying for items online from companies you have not researched and giving people money or your bank details if they knock on your door and offer to do some shopping on your behalf if you are unable to get out.’
Technology firms including Facebook and Google have joined forces to protect and inform people during the coronavirus outbreak.
The group of companies, which own and run some of the world’s biggest online platforms, have said they have committed to work together and with governments in response to the pandemic.
In a joint statement, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit and YouTube said they would help ensure people could stay connected to each other during isolation as well as fight any misinformation and fraud linked to the outbreak.
‘We are working closely together on Covid-19 response efforts,’ the statement said.
‘We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in co-ordination with government healthcare agencies around the world.
‘We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.’