The inventiveness of some people never ceases to amaze. Yesterday, Conservative Party members were warned of concerns that an alleged scammer is seeking to exploit the Conservative leadership election as an opportunity for what appears to be a new phone con.

Several associations are now on alert after their members were contacted by a man calling himself Gareth, claiming to be from CCHQ, who attempted to extract money by telling them that they must urgently renew their membership in order to ensure they get a vote in the leadership ballot. To do so they would, of course, have to authorise immediate payment by card over the phone.

An email sent out by one association chairman in the South of England yesterday warns members that:

‘I have checked this out with the membership department in London and they have confirmed to me that they are not calling members, but have heard from other Associations whose
members have experienced the same scam. Please be aware of this and do not give your card or bank details to any one.’

Apparently ‘Gareth’ also seeks to get direct debits set up to amounts well in excess of the real membership fee, as well as one-off transactions. Anyone giving out financial details over the phone to someone they do not know risks incurring potentially sizeable losses.

As well as alerting members to beware of the scam, this raises a potentially troubling question. Is this person using a scattergun approach in the hope of finding Tory members, is he researching and contacting known members from public information, or does he somehow have access to data identifying members, which ought to be private and held securely?

Hopefully this issue will be resolved soon. In the meantime, don’t give any details out over the phone – and contact your local association directly if you have any doubts about a caller claiming to be from the Party.