Locals have been warned that a new HMRC scam is targeting Ayrshire citizens.

The public are asked to remain vigilant as reports show that one resident was told by a scammer that if she did not complete a payment over the phone, the police would come to her home.

North Ayrshire Trading Standards state that HMRC would never use tactics like this as an attempt to get payments. They encourage everyone to never give their details over the phone.

Thousands of people received an email entitled 'Penality Charge Ref' which claims that the recipient has used a road in an area where a parking charge scheme applies.

The recipient is ordered to pay the charge by credit or debit card to the ‘Home Office’ before a certain date and is threatened with increased fines, and even County Court action, if the charge is not paid.

While the email may appear authentic, Police have warned people not to open it or attempt to pay the 'penalty charge'.

This act is known as ‘Phishing’ - fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information or data, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity. These often take the form of emails from banks, HM Revenue and Customs or online companies such as Amazon or Netflix.

Jamie Greene MSP said: “Unscrupulous criminals will do almost anything they can to separate people from their hard-earned money and it is important that we are all aware of the signs to look for when it comes to fraudulent emails.

“For instance, whilst some emails claim to come from a certain sender, if in doubt look at the specific email address, not the name on the email, to see the true address of the sender.

“Fraudulent emails may also contain other clues such as spelling mistakes and grammar errors.

“Suspicious emails should be sent the National Cyber Security Centre’s Suspicious Email Reporting Service at report@phishing.gov.uk”.