A WOMAN is warning people of a scam in which a man used a five-year-old boy to cheat cash out of unsuspecting neighbours.

Karen Robinson, of Essex Way, Benfleet, was appalled when she discovered a charity donation to a young boy doing a sponsored walk was a rip-off.

Aman, in his thirties, appeared at her door with a five-year-old boy who he said was his son. He said they were from Basildon and the boy was taking part in a sponsored walk with school friends for animal charity PDSA.

Mrs Robinson, 48, said: “The man explained the children were walking 5k and that last year it was rained off, so the boy was really looking forward to it. I filled my details in on the formhe had and handed over £5.

“The little boy put a tick in the box to indicate I had paid in advance. I could see my neighbours had done the same. Half an hour later as I drove down my road I saw the man with a group of people including two policemen and a squad car.

“I was shocked, more because of the children involved. There was another couple with an older girl covering the opposite side of the road.

“How do these people sleep at night?”

Mrs Robinson said she had heard from neighbours that residents in Vicarage Hill had also been targeted.

She added: “I would advise people not to trust anyone. It’s sad, but just how it is now.”

Nadia El Hatimi, PCSO for the area, said: “The police were called. We found two men, a young boy, and a woman with a pushchair and child. We had our suspicions and they are known to the police. We seized the money from them and an officer is now dealing with the incident.

“The money will be donated to the PDSA as residents thought that was where the cash was originally going.”

A spokesman for the PDSA said: “Any charity would advise residents to always ask for some form of identification if someone says they are collecting on behalf of a charity.”

Police suggest residents ask for identification when people turn up at their door, consider installing a door chain and using it until they see identification.