December 5 2013 Latest news:
Friday, September 13, 2013
Hundreds of people in Essex have been conned out of thousands of pounds after being targeted by telephone callers posing as police officers and bank officials.
Last night police urged people to remain vigilant after they revealed thieves had called 270 people – many of them vulnerable – since January in an attempt to obtain bank account and credit card details.
The vast majority of attempts have failed but in 38 cases victims have fallen for a variety of false stories and lost sums ranging from a few hundred pounds to £22,000.
In some of the successful crimes the criminals told people they had been the victim of fraud and police needed bank account numbers or debit or credit cards for forensic examination.
Couriers were sent to collect cards which are quickly used to obtain cash or buy valuable items from major stores. In one recent case a man was told by a bogus caller that police investigations had found that money in his bank account was counterfeit.
He received calls over a three-day period and was asked to withdraw £4,000 for “tests” but never saw the money again after he was told that they had found the notes were fakes.
The calls started in west Essex earlier this year and now the criminals are believed to be working elsewhere in the county.
Incidents have been regularly reported across a wide area, including Colchester and Braintree.
Police say an extensive publicity campaign has helped alert potential victims, who in most cases have become suspicious and put the phone down.
But detectives are still extremely concerned that the fraudsters might continue to use different stories to trick people or simply try to pester victims into giving away their bank details.
Detective Sergeant Neil Hudson, who is leading a team of officers investigating the frauds, said: “There has been a considerable amount of publicity and community appeals to warn people about these potential scams.
“The fact that 270 people have been contacted and 38 have lost money shows that the warnings have had a considerable effect. But some elderly or vulnerable people are being tricked by these thieves.
“These criminals are using a wide range of different stories to convince their victims that their bank accounts have been tampered with. “The victims tend to be vulnerable or elderly people, ranging in age from 70 to 90, although some much younger people have been targeted.
“We would urge everyone to be on their guard and if you have elderly relatives to make sure that they are warned about these despicable crimes.”
Anyone with information about the thieves or anyone who has been approached by suspected fraudsters should contact the Operation Seaford investigation team on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.