A QUICK-THINKING taxi firm has been praised by detectives for foiling a scam in which a woman in her eighties was about to hand over £5,000 to criminals.
The woman was trying to send the cash to fraudsters posing as police officers, but staff at AC Radio Cabs, in Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff, cottoned on to the scam and raised the alarm.
A conman, who called himself Charlie Adams, phoned the 83-yearold claiming he was an officer with the Metropolitan Police and two men had been arrested for trying to obtain her bank details.
He convinced her to go to her bank and withdraw her cash so police could check whether staff had also been taking a cut and even got her to arrange a taxi to take the money to London.
Taxi driver John Stannard, 58, from Leigh, knew there was something wrong when he arrived to take the money and delivered it to the police instead. He said: “I drove round to her house and picked up the envelope. It felt like it was full of money. They asked for my mobile number so they could call me and I smelt a bit of a rat.”
After picking up the package, Mr Stannard and other staff at the taxi company stalled the fraudsters on the phone, before delivering the package to Southend police station.
Mr Stannard said: “I told them it had been intercepted by police and if they wanted it, they’d have to pick it up from Southend police station.
Then the line went dead.”
The pensioner, who lives in Westcliff, but who asked not to be named, was targeted by the fraudsters last Thursday.
The fraudster claimed her bank had been targeted and told the woman that as part of the investigation he needed her to withdraw a large sum of cash from her branch to establish whether suspected staff had been handling her money.
The woman was suspicious at first, but as the conversation continued, from 2pm to about 3.30pm, she became convinced Adams was genuine and it was her duty to help.
She went to her bank and withdrew £5,000 and called a taxi to deliver it to an address in east London.
It is the latest in a long line of telephone scams police are tackling.
Det Chief Insp Paul Maleary from Essex Police said: “I’d like to congratulate the taxi driver for thinking this wasn’t right and bringing it to the attention of police.
“These people, posing as police officers, are against everything we stand for. We would never ask individuals for money to be handed over.”
Dave Clift, general manager of AC Radio Cabs, added: “We were all aware of these types of scam and I don’t think this lot will try anything like that in Southend again.”
THE VICTIM of the phone scam has said she felt she was being “brainwashed” by a thief posing as a police officer who attempted to steal £5,000.
She is one of the latest victims of a sophisticated telephone scam in which more than 100 people in Essex have lost a total of more than £380,000 since January 2013.
After being talked into withdrawing the money, she said: “I was really shocked and shaken.
When my neighbour came to be with me when the police were here, she said I looked so ill she was worried I wouldn’t survive the night.
“It wasn’t that bad, but I did feel really strange, as if I had been hypnotised into believing what he was saying.
“At the time it all sounded so convincing. He seemed to know all about me and my savings account. I have no idea where he found out about me.
“As the conversation went on, he made me think I was doing my duty as a good citizen to help the police and to be honest.
“I am still very angry at being conned and feel so sorry for the people who have had large amounts of money taken.
“Luckily, the taxi firm was suspicious and thank goodness the package was not delivered to the thieves. I am so grateful to the taxi firm.”