WARNINGS have been issued to the public as scammers try to take advantage of vulnerable people during the coronavirus lockdown.

Criminals are exploiting the situation to con people out of money and steal their personal details.

Offences include online shopping for goods which never arrive, fake treatments for COVID-19 and offers to help people with their shopping and errands by fraudsters who then steal from their victims.

Parents of school children across Dorset have been targeted in recent days by tricksters attempting to get bank details.

They have received an email which says: “As schools will be closing, if you’re entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we’ll make sure you’re supported.”

And many people with foreign holidays booked in the near future have been asked to provide bank details for refunds which do not exist.

Police in Dorset alerted residents to one incident in which scammers sent a text message claiming to be the from HMRC, offering a ‘goodwill payment’ as a result of the outbreak.

“This is a scam - if you see it, do not click the link,” a spokesman for the force said.

The public has been urged to warn elderly and vulnerable friends and family members to be on their guard.

Many have been targeted by fraudsters claiming to supply masks, hand sanitisers or even offering to clean their homes to rid them of the virus.

There has also been a dramatic increase in cybercrime with Action Fraud reporting a 400 per cent increase with losses of nearly £1 million across the UK in the last month.

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: “ We know there are cyber criminals out there who are trying to take advantage of the crisis to exploit these vulnerable people.”

The public has been warned that bogus emails, texts and apps encourage people to click on the. When they do so, devices become infected, enabling criminals to steal personal information and financial details.

Anyone who wants more information about fraud should go to actionfraud.police.com for details