#romancescams | Warning as scammers target the vulnerable during pandemic

Residents have been warned to be on their guard against bogus police officers operating in the Horncastle area.

The incident appears to be an example of a worrying spike in scams locally and nationally as criminals increasingly target vulnerable people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Wolds Inspector Sarah Constantine and PCSO Nigel Wass told the News they were concerned about the situation.

Insp Constantine said: “The bogus officers say they are working for forces outside this area.

“They are very, very convincing. They only need one piece of information about an individual and then they target them.

“In this one case, a person handed over £2,000.

“Please be aware a police officer would never contact you asking for money, or your bank details.”

The News understands bogus officers have been operating in other parts of Lincolnshire including Skegness, Sleaford and Boston.

Police have not revealed details of the Horncastle scam but criminals have previously used several methods, including claiming a victim has an outstanding fine to pay in their area or a family relative needs help.

PCSO Wass revealed there are also reports locally of victims being involved in online romance scams.

He said individuals were asked to hand over money – and other details – to a website company that did not exist.

Detective Inspector Simon Mason, from the Economic Crime Unit at Lincolnshire Police, added: “We are committed to safeguarding vulnerable people and disrupting criminality that preys on victims, causing them significant financial losses.

“Romance scams are both emotionally and financially damaging for victims.

“The increasing popularity of online dating services has made it easier for criminals to target victims, so we urge everyone to be cautious and try to protect them-selves against fraud.

“Although banks are always looking out for suspicious activity, customers must be on their guard and protect themselves too.

“Always be wary of requests for money from someone you’ve never met in person.

“If you think you’ve been the victim of a romance scam, contact your bank immediately, report it to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or call us on 101.”

There have also been reports of job hunters being targeted during the pandemic, although not in Horncastle.

PCSO Wass said: “There has been an increase in scams during the pandemic when people can be more vulnerable because they are lonely or may have lost a job.

Anyone concerned they have been targeted should call 101. Anyone who has been asked to hand over money for collection should ring 999.

Meanwhile, police have stressed they will continue to operate a ‘Four E’ policy regarding groups and social distancing measures during the pandemic.

The four E’s are Engage, Explain, Encourage, Enforce (but only as a last resort)

Insp Constantine stressed that direct to suggestions locally, only once incident had been reported regarding a gathering of youngsters in the Langton Hill area.

She said officers spoke to the youngsters who divided into smaller groups and left the area.

With Halloween looming, officers have asked people to stay at home and to not knock on doors to avoid a potential breach of Covid regulations.

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