Wiltshire residents and businesses are being warned to watch out for criminals going through their bins looking for used lateral flow tests as part of a new “disgusting and immoral” scam.

The fraud, which is tipped to spread across the county, involves both positive and negative tests changing hands for cash in a hidden market revealed by a waste collection company.

The company, Divert.co.uk, says that Covid scammers are selling on tests for money as buyers attempt to trick employers and venues and it claims that refuse collectors are being offered money to allow people to pick through waste in order to find used test devices.

“It’s a disgusting and immoral trade,” says Divert.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall.

He added: “This kind of selfishness and stupidity will lead to further infections and deaths.”

Mr Hall said the scam is two-fold. First, there’s a trade in negative test results for people who want to use them to fool employers and venues that demand a negative test result, and for phone apps to claim that the person is clear of Covid.

“These are people who have either tested positive, or simply don’t want to go through the bother of taking a test,” said Mr Hall.

“Whatever their motive, they want to mix with colleagues, friends and the general public without a thought for their welfare.”

The second trade is in positive tests results, for those who fancy paid time off work.

“Why anybody would fake having a potentially deadly disease after everything we’ve been through in the last two years is beyond us, but here we are,” said Mr Hall.

He added that he believed the used test trade had, or would soon, spread across Wiltshire.

“One would presume it’s happening locally, or it’s only a matter of time before it does,” said Mr Hall.

“It might not be foxes or rats going through your bins. At least not the rodent kind of rat, a different, two-legged kind of vermin.”

Divert.co.uk says it has had reports of refuse operators being approached by “shady individuals asking to rifle through waste looking for used tests”, and in some cases, they’ve been offered money for doing so.

The company says commercial refuse collectors have found sacks of everyday office waste – usually ignored by four-legged vermin - torn apart to find lateral flow tests.

“It’s absolutely maddening, refuse workers have a hard enough job as it is without clearing up after these goons,” said Mr Hall.

“As far as we know, nobody’s been threatened by these criminals, but it can only be a matter of time.”