Trading Standards officers are warning Hartlepool residents to be on their guard against fraudsters trying to take advantage of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The warning comes after reports from around the country of criminals trying to exploit vulnerable residents’ fears of the disease.

Incidents have been reported of fraudsters knocking on vulnerable residents’ doors posing as officials from organisations such as the NHS or the World Health Organisation and attempting to sell fake coronavirus testing kits and vaccinations.

In other instances, criminals have been approaching elderly residents who may be self-isolating and offering to go shopping for them to buy essential goods before disappearing with the resident’s cash or bank card.

On other occasions, fraudsters are approaching residents and offering to sell high demand items such as toilet roll and hand gels for grossly inflated prices.

Rachael Readman, the Council’s Acting Trading Standards and Licensing Manager, said: “These are unprecedented times and people are understandably concerned, so it’s important that they are on guard against these criminals who will attempt to take advantage of them.

“If you are approached by anyone on your doorstep offering any type of service, our advice is - as always – do not deal with them. Shut the door and don’t let them trick you into letting them into your home. Official organisations will never contact you in this way.”

If you are worried about a cold caller, call Hartlepool Trading Standards on 01429 523362