Heartless crooks are scamming people into handing over their cash under the pretence of providing coronavirus vaccines.

Essex Police have warned residents after a spate of emails and text messages were sent out by criminals imitating the NHS.

A text message or email, said to “look very believable”, claims the individual is eligible to apply for a vaccine.

A link then takes the target to a website where they are asked for their name, date of birth, address, payment card details and proof of address.

A spokesperson for Essex Police said: “Another fraudulent text message is circulating claiming to be from the NHS, encouraging people to ‘apply’ for their Covid vaccine.

“Remember: the Covid-19 is free via the NHS only. It is not possible to purchase the vaccine or obtain via other methods.”

A spokesperson for NHS Counter Fraud Activity said: “The NHS do not charge for Covid jabs (be they new "special" types of vaccines or whatever nonsense the scammers spout), the same applies for Track and Trace, Corona Virus Tests or anything else. The NHS do not charge the public for these services.

“We, at the NHS Counter Fraud Authority do charge though, charge people... with offences of fraud that is, if the NHS is the victim of a fraud (bribery or corruption) you can report to us online 24/7 via www.cfa.nhs.uk/reportfraud.”

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