The rising tide of ‘Bad Samaritans’ exploiting the vulnerable in Lincolnshire

In these troubled times, communities have been pulling together to help each other through the coronavirus pandemic, from making masks and other PPE, to shopping for vulnerable neighbours and setting up mental health support groups.

Fraud warning

However, Lincolnshire Police has reported that coronavirus has also spawned a rise in exploitation of vulnerable people, and those capitalising on the unease, uncertainty and anxiety that many are understandably feeling.

These so-called ‘Bad Samaritans’ have reportedly been conning people into thinking they are helping them, or taking advantage of people’s good nature and their desire to help others.

Statistics from independent support charity Victim Support have revealed that the fraud rate in Lincolnshire has risen by 33 percent during the Covid 19 lockdown.

Fraudsters inflict misery on millions and fraud costs the UK economy a staggering £193 billion per year.

Many of these scams are not new, but with more time spent at home, scammers and fraudsters have had more chances to contact us on our doorstep, by phone or online.

Victim Support is dedicated to supporting people affected by crime and traumatic incidents in England and Wales.

An Independent Victim Advocate for Victim Support, here in Lincolnshire, said that the charity’s aim during this new lockdown is to make as many people aware of these crimes as possible.

She said: “With the victims I’ve dealt with, a lot of these crimes are not being reported and not even telling their friends or family because they are embarrassed.

“We want to say to people who have been a victim of these crimes that we are here for them and we have a completely confidential service and they don’t even have to
report it to the police, but they can talk to us rather than end up in a spiral of anxiety.

“Anyone can be affected by these crimes, especially the elderly and vulnerable, and it’s a difficult message to get out there, especially now we’re in lockdown again.”

Victim Support has set out some tips and advice on how to avoid falling victim to scammers and con artists.

If you are unable to easily get to the shops, you may accept an offer from someone to do your shopping for you.

But sadly, not everyone is well-intentioned.

They may take money or your cash card, without returning with your shopping. Scammers may even claim to be from helpful or reputable organisations or charities, offering help to trick you out of cash. It is always best to ask someone who you know and trust to help you, such as a family member or close friend. However, when this is not possible and you take up a stranger or acquaintance on their offer, set some boundaries and stick to them.

○ Ask for ID If someone claims to be from an official organisation like the British Red Cross. Do not let them into your home before seeing it. If you are at all suspicious, ask them to leave. You can always call the organisation and ask them if they have helpers operating in your area.

○ If someone offers to help with shopping or buying medication, request that you pay when they return. People who are genuinely trying to help will generally understand.

○ Ask to see a receipt showing how much your shopping cost. If they are hesitant to do this, explain that you are just being cautious and want to make sure they are given the right amount.

○ Lots of local Facebook sites are being set up to help neighbours. But beware, some community groups are asking people who need assistance to put a red card in their window. Although this initiative is well intentioned, it can make you a target for fraudsters.

○ Coronavirus has seen shops run out of supplies such as hand sanitiser, face masks and toilet paper. 
As a result of shortages you might be shopping online, so look for a name you know. You can generally trust the larger supermarket chains, but make sure you are on their real website.

○ If you do decide to buy on smaller websites, check if they have positive reviews and how long they have been selling.

○ Be wary of sellers offering prices at well below the normal retail price. Seek advice from a trusted family member or friend before buying.

○ Use a credit card as most provide protection.

How you can get help: Contact Victim Support Lincolnshire on 0300 3030532 or out of hours support line on 0808 168 9111 or visit www.victimsupport.org.uk