Shoppers have been urged to be aware of scammers as the Northern Ireland High Street Voucher Scheme gets set to launch next week. Applications for the scheme, which will offer every adult GBP100 to spend, will be open from Monday until October 25. The pre-paid "Spend Local" cards will be available to anyone over 18 in Northern Ireland to spend on their local high street in "bricks and mortar" businesses.
Northern Ireland will be the first region in the UK to launch such a scheme which cost GBP145million and will aim to boost local businesses following the drop in footfall brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, scammers in Ards and North Down have been calling to front doors in recent weeks claiming to be Government representatives and offering to help people with applications for the voucher scheme. ScamwiseNI confirmed they are aware of the issue which has been reported to police.
They've urged people to be aware of the legitimate methods to apply for the GBP100 once the portal opens.
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Posting recently on social media, PSNI Ards & North Down wrote: "We have received a report of persons going door to door claiming to be from the Government and offering help in claiming the forthcoming GBP100 Shopping Card Voucher. "Claiming this voucher would NOT involve someone cold calling at anyone's home. "Please be alert to this scam, report any suspicious activity to police immediately on 101 and if you have an older or vulnerable family member, friend or neighbour please pass this information on to them."
That warning has been echoed by the Department for the Economy and Trading Standards NI who said at no point during the application will anyone be asked to supply their bank details. Superintendent Gerard Pollock, chair of ScamwiseNI, said with demand for the voucher expected to be very high, this is leaving people vulnerable to criminals seeking to claim the funds of others. Supt Pollock added: "I understand people will be keen to register and use their cards as soon as possible but scammers and criminals know this too and will be seeking to use this opportunity to gather personal and financial information for their own gain and your financial loss.
"So I urge everyone to be vigilant and to follow official advice on registering for the scheme by the dedicated online portal on NI Direct from September 27 or by the telephone application process from the October 11."
Supt Pollock also reminded people never to disclose their personal or banking details to anyone over the phone or online, no matter how convincing they may seem and not to allow an unauthorised person to have access to such details.
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