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Vulnerable targeted in church collection scam

The Diocese of Down and Connor has reported the matter to the police.

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A set of rosary beads (Andrew Parsons/PA)

A set of rosary beads (Andrew Parsons/PA)

A set of rosary beads (Andrew Parsons/PA)

Scammers are targeting vulnerable people by offering to collect church envelopes containing money, the Catholic Church has warned.

The Diocese of Down and Connor said it has become aware of the fraudulent scam targeting vulnerable people within its parishes.

In a statement, a spokesman said that “unscrupulous individuals” are calling with vulnerable people and offering to take their weekly parish envelopes to the church and also offering to do their shopping but demanding cash up-front.

In a statement a spokesman for the Diocese said: “These fraudulent scams are criminal and have been reported by the diocese to the PSNI.

“The Diocese of Down and Connor would encourage all people, and particularly families of vulnerable adults, to be vigilant to such criminal activity.

“All such unsolicited approaches should be reported to the PSNI.

“In line with the Government’s ‘stay at home’ and social distancing policies, parish envelopes will not be collected at this time.

“Parishioners who choose to use their weekly envelopes as normal, should retain their envelopes and, once Government policy allows, the parish will arrange to safely collect them.”

On Sunday, the Public Health Agency said that another person has died with coronavirus in Northern Ireland in the past day.

It brings the total number of confirmed deaths in hospital settings in the region to 194.

The total number of people who have tested positive for the virus in Northern Ireland is now 2,645, a rise of 159.

The full death toll is likely to be higher after official statistics published on Friday showed the figures are around a third higher than previously reported.

The disparity is due to differences in how the statistics are gathered.

Meanwhile, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said recent reports over the UK Government’s handling of Covid-19 raise “very serious questions”.

The MP for Foyle said complacency will cost lives and cannot be replicated in Northern Ireland.

He said: “The response to the coronavirus crisis isn’t a sectarian political issue.

“It isn’t a matter of scoring points, it’s about saving lives.

“Reports about the British Government’s complacency, however, leave very serious questions about crisis coordination across these islands.

“The SDLP is committed to constructively working with all parties in the Executive as well as the British and Irish Governments to manage our response to Covid-19 and save as many lives as possible.

“That is not a blank cheque for anyone to operate free from scrutiny when the stakes are so high.

“There is simply no margin for error.”

He added: “The SDLP, working closely with the other Westminster opposition parties, will hold the British Government to account.

“In the Executive, we will work hard to make the case for a bespoke strategy for testing and tracing on this island that avoids the mistakes other administrations have made.

“Our primary focus remains preventing transmission of this virus and saving lives.”

PA