Heartless crooks are using the coronavirus pandemic to trick unsuspecting residents into parting with their money.

Essex Trading Standards (ETS) has warned of a telephone scam whereby callers claiming to be from the NHS Test and Trace service asking for payment for tests.

Those being called are told that they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus and are then told they must purchase a test over the phone.

Chris French, head of ETS, said: “Absolutely no-one officially contacted by the NHS test and trace team would be asked for payment over the phone or to pay for a test.

“We would ask residents to be vigilant if they receive a call such as this, not to give any personal information and report it to us straight away. Please also make sure older or vulnerable family and friends are aware of this scam so they don’t fall prey to it.”

Director of public health Dr Mike Gogarty added: “The NHS Test and Trace service is a vital element in helping us stop the spread of coronavirus. I am disgusted that scammers are using this crucial service as a way to scam people, potentially putting people’s health at risk.

“People should not be discouraged from giving their contact details as part of test and trace, however I would ask that they remain vigilant when receiving calls, check the telephone number and not give any information such as bank details if asked.”

NHS Test and trace will never:

• ask for bank details or payments

• ask for details of any other accounts, such as social media

• ask you to set up a password or PIN number over the phone

• ask you to call a premium rate number, such as those starting 09 or 087

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