Authorities in Richmond are warning business owners over a scam that convinces people to buy unnecessary air purifying machines by exploiting fears related to coronavirus.

The scammers, who are reportedly targetting business owners in particular, seek to cajole them into purchasing 'Covid-19 safe air purifiers’ by pretending they are a legal requirement.

False letters written by the fraudsters purport to be from a ‘Covid Safe Taskforce’ with the government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy.

The National Anti-Fraud Network launched an investigation after being sent such letters, and this in turn prompted Richmond Council to warn businesses in the borough not to be taken in by the scheme.

"In what has been an incredibly challenging year for businesses, we have sadly seen devious criminals taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to commit fraud," Nick Steevens, who heads Richmond Council's regulatory services, said.

"We are working hard to educate businesses on what they need to do to reopen safely. Any business who receives this letter, please be warned – it is a scam," he added.

"Do not be fooled. If you receive this letter, please report it as soon as possible."

The letters themselves falsely claim that from May 3, 2021, all businesses have a legal requirement to buy the air purifies.

The devices are said to be £123.80 each and that businesses must have a minimum of two devices, up to a maximum of 10, depending on the business type and size of premises.

The letter also erroneously claims that a failure to purchase air purifying devises could lead to fines of up to £5,000.

Fraud related to the Covid-19 pandemic remains a serious issue in the UK.

According to the group Action Fraud, some £34.5 million had been stolen in the UK since March 2020 in scams related to Covid-19.