POLICE are warning people to be aware of scam texts pretending to be NHS invites for the Covid-19 vaccine.

The health service began a trial of texting people to invite them to book their coronavirus jabs - but fraudsters are sending similar messages and asking for bank details or personal information.

Almost 400,000 people aged 55 and over and 40,000 unpaid carers will be the first to get a text alert inviting them to book a slot as part of the latest development in the NHS vaccination programme.

The genuine messages include a web link for those eligible to click and reserve an appointment at one of more than 300 large-scale vaccination centres or pharmacies across England. Texts will arrive in advance of the standard letter.

Reminders will be sent two or three weeks after the original alert to encourage people to get their vaccine if they have not taken up the offer.

Some GP-led and hospital vaccination services, which operate their own booking systems, are already using texts for invites. Introducing them to the national booking service for vaccine centres and pharmacy-led services will help increase uptake of the life-saving jab, particularly as the NHS moves on to younger groups.

People will continue to receive letters inviting them to book an appointment as well as a text alert, ensuring people who don’t have a number registered or need information in different languages or formats don’t miss out.

People should not receive a text message or a letter from the NHS if they have already been vaccinated and this has been recorded so be wary if you receive such communication afterwards. If people cannot or would prefer not to travel to a vaccination centre or pharmacy-led site, they can choose to wait to be invited by a local GP-led service.

The text will be sent using the government’s secure Notify service, will show as being sent from ‘NHSvaccine’, and not ask for payment or banking details.

Wiltshire Police detective sergeant, Sean Tregunna said: “Coinciding with the roll-out of vaccination invites via text message, we’re pre-empting a rise in text message scams, whereby fraudsters try to collect personal details from people, encourage them to ring premium rate numbers or enter their bank details. The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details, your PIN or banking password.

“Of course some people might be worried about scams which have been widely publicised, but if the message comes from ‘NHSvaccine’ and links to the NHS.uk website you can be sure that it’s a legitimate invite.

“It’s also worth remembering that the NHS will also never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine or ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.”

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or call on 0300 123 2040.