Conmen claiming to be from the church
Residents in east Belfast are on high alert after thieves posing as fundraisers for a nearby church targeted a number of local businesses and homes.
Houses in the Bloomfield and Upper Newtownards Road area have been the victim of a man or gang of men fraudulently claiming to be raising money for the nearby Bloomfield Congregational Church.
The building situated on the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Roseberry Street is currently undergoing construction work but the church have confirmed that they have not sanctioned any fundraising or given permission for any collection to take place.
Church Secretary, James Collins said that they had received a number of reports from the congregation about a male calling to houses and businesses collecting for the building fund and immediately contacted Strandtown police station.
"In the first instance a girl who had travelled back to Ireland for a visit contacted us after her granny mentioned a man had called to collect funds for the building fund.
"I suppose it's believable because there is building work going on at the church but we are looking to raise that money within the church and want to highlight that we are not and will not be going around houses collecting money," he said.
A shop assistant at one of the local businesses targeted, who donated a small amount of personal money, said there was a worry for the vulnerable and elderly people in the community.
"It's pretty normal to have a group or one person calling in to the shop looking to raise money for different causes and with some of them you do have a sense of scepticism.
"He was an older man, well dressed and he said that he was doing a collection for the building work going on at the church. I noticed that he didn't have an ID badge but when you think about it with computers nowadays, even if he did, it would be difficult to establish. I opened my purse and there was a few pounds in it which I gave him.
"It's not a big deal to me personally but I'm sure all those few pounds add up and it's disappointing that someone would abuse someone's trust like that.
"The worry is that he might get away with tricking an elderly or vulnerable person into handing over more than a few pounds.
"I would encourage anyone to check who they are handing money over to or if you want to make a donation, go to the place yourself and hand it in personally."