POLICE have issued an urgent warning to people in south Essex area to be on guard against phone fraud after three elderly victims lost £13,000 in three days.
A man in his 80s in Leigh was tricked into handing over £5,000 on Tuesday, a woman in her 70s lost £3,000 on Wednesday and an elderly man in Southend handed over £5,000 on Thursday.
In all cases the victims were contacted by a man claiming to be a Metropolitan Police fraud squad officer based at Hammersmith who said he was investigating fraud at their respective banks.
The trickster claimed that he needed a large sum to be withdrawn from the local branches of the bank so that the banknotes could be forensically examined.
Southend district commander, Chief Inspector Matt Bennett, said: “The man at Leigh had already handed over £5,000 when the tricksters asked for another £9,000. His bank became concerned when he tried to make another large cash withdrawal and called police when they released what had happened.
"These are despicable crimes being carried by thieves posing as police fraud officers, the very people they ought to be able to turn to and trust in exactly this sort of crime.
“Instead, they callously prey on the elderly and vulnerable and have no thought for how their victims might suffer from the loss of money that might have been saved over many years.
"It is vital that whenever people receive this sort of call they should put the phone down and call us, but on another phone or mobile. Part of the con involves keeping people on the line while they pretend to transfer calls to police officers or bank officials.”
More than 640 similar thefts and attempted thefts have been reported in Essex since the scam first came to light in January 2013, and similar crimes have been reported in the Met Police area and other counties.
More than 100 people in Essex have been tricked out of money and the total stolen is more than £350,000. Six people have been arrested in connection with the investigation.
• Police or bank officials would never call you by telephone you and ask for your full bank details or ask you to withdraw large sums of cash.
• If you think you have been a victim, call police from a different number.
• If you don’t have another phone, use a neighbour’s, or wait five minutes before dialling 101 or 999 (if urgent).