TRICKSTERS posing as cops have claimed more than £12,000 from vulnerable south Essex residents in a county wide scam.

Three people in south Essex were targeted by the conmen in the fraud that has been rife across Essex since the start of 2013.

A Canvey man in his 80s lost £5,000 on Wednesday, January 15, a Leigh man in his 90s was tricked out of the same amount on Tuesday, January 21 and a Westcliff woman in her 70s had £2,000 stolen yesterday.

In all three cases the victims were hit by telephone calls for men who claimed to be Metropolitan Police officers who said they were investigating bank account fraud.

The victims were asked to give their bank cards or cash to be used for forensic evidence and they were later collected by couriers using local cab firms.

Det Sgt Neil Hudson said: "Some elderly people are still being tricked by these despicable thieves so it is important that everyone is always on guard against any telephone callers claiming to be from the police or a bank and asking you to send them money. If that happens, put the phone down, wait a few minutes until you get a dialling tone and call Essex Police to report it.”

Since Wednesday, January 1, thieves have made 21 attempts to steal from elderly people across Essex and all but three realised that the telephone calls they received were scams.

More than 550 thefts and attempted thefts have been reported in Essex since January 2013 and more than 80 people in Essex have been tricked out of money. More than £286,000 has been stolen in total, with six people arrested.

Det Sgt Hudson added: "It is important that anyone who is called by these fraudsters lets us know so that we can investigate and establish which different stories are being used by the thieves and to see how they are targeting different areas.”