UNSCRUPULOUS crooks are using the Covid vaccination programme to scam people into giving out personal details - and the region's authorities are urging vigilance.

North Yorkshire Police are among the authorities that have received reports of a new scam where individuals are being contacted via a text message or email with an offer of paying to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

Police are urging anybody who receives such communication to delete it immediately without clicking on any of the links.

A police spokesman said: "The genuine vaccine is free of charge so any approaches or adverts for a vaccine in return for payment are highly likely to be a scam.

"We’d urge anyone to be very cautious of any website or communication which asks for personal and/or bank details and advise never to click or follow any links in a text message or email."

He added: "Unfortunately, this is yet another example of how scammers are using the Covid-19 pandemic to target people and prey on their fears.

The Northern Echo: The scam uses NHS branding and coloursThe scam uses NHS branding and colours

The scam uses NHS branding and colours

"We have also received reports of cold callers using the same approach to offer the vaccine in return for payment.

"This is a scam. If you receive one of these calls, hang up immediately."

Some of the vaccination scams are particularly convincing, using the NHS logo and blue branding to lure unsuspecting victims into parting with personal details.

The most commonly reported scam begins with a message purporting to be from the NHS, saying: “We have identified that you are eligible to apply for your vaccine.

"For more information and to apply, follow her,” - with a link embedded into the text.

Durham County Council and Cleveland Police are among the the region's other authorities urging people to be vigilant against the possible scam.

And nationally, The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has issued an alert about it.

Such messages were first reported at the end of December on the Western Isles of Scotland, but the CTSI says they are “by no means limited to the region”.

Katherine Hart, lead officer at CTSI, said: “The vaccine brings great hope for an end to the pandemic and lockdowns, but some only wish to create even further misery by defrauding others.

“The NHS will never ask you for banking details, passwords, or pin numbers and these should serve as instant red flags.”

There are several things to look out for that can help identify the scam from a genuine message.

These include the email or text message containing odd wording, bad spelling and grammar, the message asking for upfront payment or requesting personal details.

Information about the Covid vaccine roll-out can be found on the Government and NHS websites.

Suspected scam messages can be reported to police on 101.