An investigation is under way to track down con artists who called up Wearsiders claiming to be police as they tried to trick them out of their life savings.
Northumbria Police has issued an alert to warn people about the attempted fraud being played in phone calls.
Officers are investigating three incidents that happened in the Sunderland area but are advising people throughout the region to be on their guard.
The con involves a member of the public receiving a call from a person pretending to be a police officer.
This fake officer tells the victim that their bank account is at risk of being hacked and they face having their money stolen.
They are told to contact their bank and withdraw all of the money from their account as soon as possible and that a police officer would come to their house, collect it and take statements.
The fake officer then tells the victim to hang up and ring the local police to confirm that the story is genuine.
The victim ends the call, thinking they have hung up on the ‘officer’ but the offender does not hang up and keeps the line open and the call going.
The victim then dials their local police and thinks they are speaking to the force, when in fact, because the previous call is still open, they are still talking with the fraudster, who is pretending to be a local police officer and falsely confirms that their bank account is at risk and the ‘officer’ is genuine.
They then arrange a date and time for an ‘officer’ to come and pick the cash up and take a statement.
Police are urging people to be on their guard and to take steps to avoid becoming a victim:
•Be aware that fraudsters often use techniques to hold your phone line open, so that when you try to dial out to verify the caller, they intercept and re-answer the call, claiming to be the bank or law enforcement.
•To ensure that your phone has not been compromised, we recommend using a different phone line to verify the caller. Where a second phone line is not available, try calling a family or friend on the line first, as the fraudster will find it difficult to impersonate a voice that is known to you.
•Never disclose your PIN or online/telephone banking log-in information or card reader codes to anyone, even if the caller claims to be from the bank or police. Remember, banks NEVER call and ask you to disclose these security details.
•If you receive a call requesting your PIN, card details or online / telephone banking log-in information, end the call immediately.
•If you receive a suspicious or unexpected call, always verify the caller by taking their phone number and getting it checked independently.
•Ensure elderly relatives and neighbours are aware of the fraud and crime prevention advice.
Police say any suspicious phone calls straight away on 101 ext 69191