Essex: Fake police officers in new bank scam

Friday, March 28, 2014
6:58 AM

Fraudsters have tricked a north Essex man out of thousands of pounds by posing as police officers.

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He is the latest victim of a scam which has targeted 700 people in the county in just over a year.

The victim, a middle-aged man from the Dedham area, fell prey to a fake phone call on Monday evening.

Speaking exclusively to the EADT the man, who has asked not to be identified, said he felt sick when he realised what had happened.

The thieves took several cards, then made online purchases and withdrew £2,500 from a Manningtree cash machine, stealing around £5,000 altogether. He was one of 21 people targeted within 24 hours.

In all cases the caller claimed to be a detective from either the Metropolitan Police or their Essex counterparts, with similar false names used by the callers.

If successful the criminals use couriers to collect the cards from the victim’s address. The fraudsters sometimes invite the victim to call their bank but stay on the line, meaning if the victim calls immediately from the same phone they are simply reconnected to the criminals posing as bank officials.

This happened in the latest case when the victim was on the phone for about 90 minutes.

The victim, the only one to fall foul of the con in the latest calls, said: “Initially I was surprised – I didn’t think it was normal for the police to call.

“But he gave me his name and badge number, said there had been some fraudulent activity on my card and there were some people in custody, and it became very real and convincing.

“There was no time to think or consider anything else.

“They were extremely cunning. I didn’t tell them my PIN but typed it, and only gave four digits from my card. I was left feeling physically sick when it all dawned on me.

“I hold down a job and think I have a reasonable level of intelligence but it leaves you feeling very vulnerable, untrusting, and embarrassed.

“It will take some time for that trust to come back.”

A knock-on effect is victims are left without cards to do things such as shop online or buy petrol.

Essex Police is working with five neighbouring forces within the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit to tackle the national scam.

More than 100 Essex victims have been tricked out of more than £355,000 since January last year.

One man in his 70s, from Steeple Bumpstead, was conned out of more than £10,000 earlier this month.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Maleary, from Essex Police, said: “These criminals are having a significant impact on some of the most vulnerable members of our society and, sadly, no individual is immune from this type of fraud.

“Fortunately the majority of people quickly hang up or tell the tricksters to go away in no uncertain terms. But one successful crime is one too many and we will continue to issue these warnings.

“All their claims are absolute rubbish because the police and banks would never ask for details over the phone then send a courier to collect cards or cash.”

Advice from Essex Police:

- Police or bank officials would never call you and ask for your full bank details or to withdraw large sums of cash.

- If you think you have been a victim, call police from a different phone.

- If you don’t have another phone, use a neighbour’s, or wait five minutes before dialling 101 or 999 (if urgent).

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