A 29-year-old man has been charged with impersonating a police officer following reports that someone was trying to issue COVID fines to members of the public in London.
The man, whose identity has not been revealed, is alleged to have tried to fine two elderly woman £500 for not wearing a face mask, escorting them to a cash machine so she could draw out the money.
However, the alleged incident, which is said to have took place close to the Stratford Centre on 29 January, was witnessed by officers who arrested the man.
He has subsequently been charged with blackmail and impersonating a police officer.
Detective inspector Vince Fedder, from the Metropolitan Police's North East Criminal Investigation Unit, said: “Thankfully officers were on scene and quickly dealt with this incident. However the public need to be aware that some people may well see the current emergency as an opportunity to exploit others.
“I appreciate that these are frightening and lonely times for many people and we want to be careful not to cause further distress or worry.
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“However, a general conversation on how to spot a bogus officer may stop someone falling victim to these scams.”
The Met reiterated that they will always identify themselves with official documentation if they need to speak to you.
Officers will also never ask anyone to hand over cash or bank cards to a courier or to pay a fine or a fee over the phone or online and will never state you are committing a crime by not going along with it.
A Met spokeswoman said: “In the event a police officer needs to speak with you, if they are not in uniform they will identify themselves clearly by showing you their warrant card. This is proof of their identity and authority.
“If you want to verify their identity, you can ask for their warrant number, call 101 to check they are who they claim to be. A genuine warrant card will have a hologram and the signature of the Commissioner – not the holder.”
Councillor James Beckles, Newham Council’s cabinet member for crime and community safety, added: “Unfortunately during the pandemic we’ve been made aware of a number of scams in the borough whereby criminals have attempted to extort money from residents under the guise of COVID.
“If you’re ever in any doubt about whether or not you are dealing with a genuine police or council enforcement officer you can ask for proof of identification and if you remain at all unsure call the police control room on 101 to report any suspicious activity.”
Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown