Northumbria Police has this week received several reports of pensioners being targeted by con-artists who cold-call victims claiming to be police officers.
It follows a report that an elderly man in South Tyneside had been defrauded and handed over £7,500 to scammers.
Detectives launched an investigation and uncovered scores of other people across South Shields, Sunderland and Houghton had also been contacted.
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As part of the elaborate fraud, offenders will try and coerce their victims into believing they have already been defrauded – pressuring them into handing over money, bank cards, vouchers and any other valuable ‘evidence’ to so-called investigators via a courier or by asking them to travel to London.
The fraudsters have also advised victims that family members have been arrested in London to start a conversation and then ask for bank details.
Inquiries remain ongoing and officers have today issued an urgent reminder to people to exercise caution with cold-callers.
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Woods, of Northumbria Police, said: “We are aware a number of residents have been approached in this way – and sadly one man has handed over a lump sum to a so-called courier.
“Let me be clear – these people are despicable – not only are they making money by deliberately preying on some of our most vulnerable people but they are ruining the trust they have in others.
“Many victims can sadly be unaware they have been targeted as fraudsters can be very convincing. My advice is to exercise extreme caution when speaking to a cold-caller.
“Make a note of who they say they are, what they are calling about, and hang up. When you’re sure the line is clear, use a trusted phone number to check the call was legitimate and speak to family and friends about what’s happened.
“If you are in any doubt and think you may have been contacted by a fraudster, make sure you have hung up so the line clears and you get a new dial tone between calls, then contact the police.”
These offences are being investigated under Operation Sentinel by officers from both Northumbria and the North East Regional Special Operation Unit (NERSOU)
Det Ch Insp Woods added: “Please take the time to talk to your loved ones about courier fraud and help us reinforce the message that police will never ask anyone to withdraw cash, or send us anything via a courier.
“Remember, police officers or your bank will never ask you to hand over money, or transfer funds. If you receive a call like this do not interact with them - hang up and report it.”
Earlier on Saturday, January 16, five men were arrested in London in connection with the investigation.
If you think you might have been a victim of courier fraud, or any other kind or fraud, please contact police via 101 or Action Fraud immediately by calling 0300 123 2040 Monday to Friday 8am - 8pm.