Police are warning residents in Exeter and East Devon to be vigilant of phone scams and bogus callers after fraudsters swindled one elderly victim out of £18,000.
Detectives say the areas have seen a rise in reports of cons where criminals – who prey on vulnerable householders – often pose as officers or bank officials.
The crooks ask residents to withdraw cash, purchase goods or provide bank card details and PIN numbers for collection by a courier.
They will often tell their targets to call back on 999, 101 or 161 to verify that they are genuine, however, this is part of the scam.
The line is in fact kept open so that the victim continues to speak to the fraudster believing they are genuine officials.
An elderly woman living in the Heavitree area of Exeter this month (February) received calls from a male claiming to be ‘PC Murphy’ from the police ‘fraud squad’.
She was asked to withdraw £5,000 in cash – and the swindle was only scuppered when an official at her bank became suspicious.
The same victim had previously been approached by bogus builders offering non-existent services to local people.
They requested cash payments for uncompleted and unnecessary work, causing the woman to hand over £18,000 in cash.
Police are asking people with elderly or vulnerable family, friends or neighbours to share the warning with them.
Detective Constable Ed Mitchell, of Exeter CID, said: “The fraudsters are extremely convincing and persistent and often target the elderly or vulnerable, resulting in the loss of thousands of pounds.
“It’s important to remember that police officers and bank officials will never ask you to withdraw money, purchase goods or hand over private banking details.
“Please help us to raise awareness by sharing this with your friends and family, especially if they are vulnerable or elderly.
“If you believe that you are a victim of this scam, please contact police on 101 using a different phone to that used to communicate with the fraudsters.
“If a fraud is in progress or someone’s life is in danger, call 999 immediately.”
Devon and Cornwall Police has issued the following advice:
- Be sceptical of callers, even those who claim to be officials;
- Don’t be afraid to put the phone down with a brief, ‘No, thank you’;
- NEVER give personal information, such as your date of birth or bank details, to unexpected callers;
- Remember that police or your bank would NEVER unexpectedly call you and ask you to withdraw cash, or move your money to another account, as a result of fraud or any other reason;
- If callers suggest you call your local police or bank to check who they are, use another phone or ensure the line has been fully disconnected by phoning a friend or relative first, or by waiting at least five minutes. Otherwise you may think you’ve phoned a number, but you’re simply talking to the fraudsters again. This is a common tactic of criminals;
- If a caller asks you to type your bank PIN number into your telephone handset – do not do this, as fraudsters can use technology to identify the numbers;
- You can opt out of many cold calls by registering for free with the Telephone Preference Service on 0845 070 0707.
For more advice, click here.