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Fraudsters are targeting elderly and vulnerable people with a fake vaccine, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCAA), has said.

Officers warned that the scammers are demanding bank details or cash payments for access to a jab – something the NHS would not do when administering a legitimate dose.

The National Economic Crime Centre is working with government and law enforcement to urge people to remain vigilant and follow basic advice in relation to the NHS Covid vaccination programme, which will always be free.

The NHS will never ask for payment for vaccines or bank details.

In the UK, coronavirus vaccines will only be available via the NHS in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. At the appropriate time, people will be contacted directly by the NHS, their employer, a GP surgery or local pharmacy to receive the vaccine.

The vaccine is free of charge and at no point will people be asked to pay.

Graeme Biggar, the director general of the National Economic Crime Centre at the NCA, said:

“The current level of reported fraud in relation to the vaccine remains very low but is increasing. The advice is very simple. The vaccine is only available on the NHS, and you will never be asked to pay for it or to provide your bank details. Anything that suggests otherwise is a fraud.”

Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez said:

“I am sad to say that throughout the pandemic, we have seen fraudsters adapt their methods to take advantage of covid support schemes and exploit the fears of vulnerable people when they feel at their most anxious. This latest scam, which plays on people’s hopes for a vaccine, is one of the most callous and despicable so far, which is why we want to arm everyone with the knowledge that the NHS will never ask for cash or financial details to pay for the vaccine or verify a patient’s identity.”

Security minister James Brokenshire said:

“It’s a sad reality that scammers and fraudsters are using the pandemic to fleece innocent people out of their hard-earned cash. If you receive an email, text message or phone call claiming to be from the NHS and you are asked to provide financial details, or pay for the vaccine, this is a scam.”

The public are asked to remember that the NHS will never:

· Ask for bank account or card details;

· Ask for a PIN or banking password;

· Arrive unannounced at someone’s home to administer the vaccine;

· Demand proof of identity by sending copies of personal documents such as a passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.

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