A warning has been issued to County Durham residents not to give out personal information over the phone as scam callers take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic.

The trading standards and corporate fraud teams at Durham County Council are urging residents to be on their guard as opportunist criminals exploit the uncertainty surrounding the current outbreak.

Reports have been received of hoax telephone calls claiming to be from council services, including registrars and the County Durham Together community hub.

A member of the public received a call claiming to be from Durham County Council Registration services. The cold caller advised of the need to take card payment to register the birth of a child.

Residents are being reminded that Durham County Council would not make calls out of the blue or seek for payment to be made or ask for personal and credit card information for birth registrations. No births are currently being registered anywhere in the UK. Deaths however are being registered over the phone, but there is a strict verification method that they are adhering to.

Anne Robson, superintendent registrar with Durham County Council, said: “We would never contact the public seeking information and payment in this way.”

Callers pretending to be from the authority’s community hub and requesting bank account/bank card details are also being reported.

The County Durham Together hub offers support and guidance to people during the pandemic, including support around essential food supplies, linking people to existing local services where possible.

Where there is no other support available, the community hub may provide a food parcel or, for people with specific dietary needs, essential shopping. If this is the case, payment procedures will be discussed during the conversation. However, the hub will never ask for bank or bank card details. Anyone asking for such details is a scammer, and no personal information or payment should be given.

Joanne Waller, head of community protection with Durham County Council, said: “In these changing times we would urge the public and business to take care when contacted by people by phone, email or letter seeking payments or personal and financial information. Take the time to check out the person or organisation making the request to confirm that they are in fact genuine.”

Paul Bradley, chief internal auditor and corporate fraud manager said: “Fraudsters are taking advantage of these unprecedented times, with the fraud threat higher in emergency situations. We encourage anyone who has any concerns to report fraud and scams to Durham County Council. Your information will be taken seriously and will be investigated. If you wish you can remain anonymous.”

Details on how to report fraud and help from Durham County Council can be found at www.durham.gov.uk/fraud or by phoning 03000 266 745.

Details of how to protect yourself and family from frauds and scams, including current coronavirus scams, can be found at www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk