Generous residents making donations in memory of a teenager who drowned at sea are being warned to watch out for fraudsters using the tragedy for their own financial gain.

Essex Police has launched an investigation into allegations of fraud in relation to a fundraiser set up for the family of Ben Quartermaine.

Ben, 15, tragically died after getting into difficultly when swimming near Clacton Pier.

Thousands of pounds have already been raised in his memory but his family are now asking donations be made to the RNLI amid concerns people are cashing in on Ben’s death.

A police spokesman said: “We received an allegation of fraud in connection to funds being raised in memory of Ben Quartermaine.

“It was reported that an approach had been made to a charity between July 30 and July 31, asking for help with raising funds in support of Ben’s family. An investigation is on-going into the legitimacy of the fundraising.”

The RNLI led the search for Ben when he was first reported missing on July 26.

His father, Mick Smith, has confirmed donations can also be made to the justgiving page set up by Lisa-Marie Timms.

Page users have already pledged £4,250, with the money expected to be split between costs for Ben’s funeral, the RNLI and Essex Air Ambulance.

Mark Stephenson, an Independent councillor for Clacton said he was shocked by the allegations of fraud.

He added: “Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that society yet again has produced a tiny group of people that take advantage of a tragic event for their own personal gain.

“We should not let these people detract from the kind and generous hearts of people who have given to Ben’s crowdfunding.”

The Charity Commission has advised donors to carry out simple checks before making a contribution in Ben’s memory.

A spokesman added: “We encourage donors to give with their heads as well as their hearts by looking for a registered charity number, performing some simple checks, such as asking for ID, and asking some basic questions about where your donation will go.”

Anyone with concerns about fundraisers in Ben’s memory should contact police on 101.