POLICE have issued an urgent warning about a phone scam that has tricked pensioners in Swindon into handing over their credit cards and pin numbers – losing them more than £22,000.
Wiltshire Police have teamed up with five other forces in the South West Regional Fraud Team to back a national campaign aimed at tackling courier fraud.
A courier scam is when fraudsters call and trick people into handing their bank cards and PIN numbers to a courier on their doorstep.
So far 14 people across the town have been taken in, with several losing up to £7,000 in cash as the thieves withdraw as much cash as possible.
Detective Sergeant Jon Lee, head of complex fraud at Wiltshire Police, said the culprits were targeting the elderly and vulnerable.
He said: “These callers are very plausible, and make it sound perfectly normal to victims who are very trusting. People have handed over their life savings and in some cases continue to believe it even after we have told them it is a scam.”
DS Lee said the latest deception involved offenders with slightly different tactics, both playing on the trust people place in the police and mainly using BT landlines.
The fraud involves the perpetrators contacting potential victims by telephone, claiming to be from the Metropolitan Police.
Victims are told to either withdraw cash or send their credit cards to London by taxi or via a courier who will collect the money from their home. The culprit claims the cash will be used as potential forensic evidence for a covert investigation.
A variation of the scam involves the caller telling the victim that two people have been arrested and were in the possession of the bank details of the victim, who is then asked to phone the bogus officer back.
The trick comes as the fraudster does not hang up their phone, staying on the line until the unsuspecting victim picks up the phone again and is encouraged to provide private banking details and may also be asked to withdraw cash.
More than 130 people have been targeted in the West Country and around 90 per cent are aged 60 or over but police fear there could be more who have not reported it.
DS Lee said: “It is possible that some victims may feel too embarrassed, ashamed or humiliated to come forward. I would urge anyone who thinks they have been a victim of this crime to contact Wiltshire Police or Action Fraud immediately.
“There are a few key things to remember. First, the police and the banks will never ask you for your personal details or PIN numbers over the phone. Similarly, they would never send a so-called courier to collect bank cards or money.
“Second, if you receive a call like this, call them back from a different phone and write down numbers and names. If you have elderly and vulnerable relatives, neighbours, colleagues and friends, I would urge you to warn them of this particular crime.
“We are also appealing to taxi owners to be vigilant, especially if asked to courier small packages to London for elderly people.”
To report fraud, call 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk.