Elderly residents in west Cornwall are being urged to be wise to a bogus police scam after a Helston victim was defrauded of £130,000.

Officers say scammers posing as police have begun targeting Helston and west Cornwall as part of a national scam which is commonly known as ‘courier fraud’.

At least five residents have been targeted in Helston this week with one woman in her 70s being defrauded of £130,000 and a couple in their 80s losing £15,000. In other instances, the householders suspected fraud and put the phone down.

Devon and Cornwall Police has recorded almost 100 of these offences since last December, particularly in Torbay and south and north Devon.

In many cases a person claiming to be a police officer from the Metropolitan Police will contact an elderly or vulnerable victim by telephone and inform them that their bank card has been used fraudulently.

The name DC Adams or PC Hopkins from Hammersmith police station is commonly given. The victim will then be tricked into thinking they are being put through to their bank. The victim will then disclose banking information and will be instructed to attend the local branch of their bank to withdraw a sum of money and pass it to either a local taxi firm or to a courier sent by fraudsters.

Some victims are being asked to make a transfer to a ‘safe bank account’ and the money is being withdrawn straight away.

Often elderly victims are unwittingly defrauded of their entire life savings, being left distraught and traumatised in many cases.

Over the last few weeks the number of offences has escalated, with Devon and Cornwall Police receiving numerous reports from victims across the Force area.

In March in North Devon a Bideford couple were duped out of £39,000. Four incidents were recorded in Paignton on Thursday 24 April with two victims alone having parted with more than £12,000 each.

Detectives are working with local banks/buildings societies and taxi firms as part of the investigation into the fraud and are urging anyone else who may have been a victim to come forward.

They are also repeating warnings to the public, particularly older residents, not to go along with the scam and to report any attempts to police.

Superintendent John Green said: “This is a national problem which has reached our Force area and particularly west Cornwall in the last couple of weeks.

“This is a despicable and heartless fraud with the offenders targeting elderly and vulnerable people who are trusting and willing to help who they think are bona fide police officers.”

“We are urging the public, particularly older people, to be aware of this fraud and not to go along with it. Genuine police would not phone members of the public in this way and certainly would never ask you for your bank details or ask you to send money.

“Because of the nature of the fraud and the vulnerable victims involved it is believed this offence is currently under-reported, therefore we would urge the public to come forward and tell us if they have been contacted by these people.

“We appeal to members of the public, banks and taxi drivers to be on their guard and report any suspicious activity of this nature to the police immediately.”

If you receive a phone call of this nature, police advise you to: • End the phone call immediately. Wait at least five minutes to clear the line from the scammer before making any other calls, or use another phone.

• Report the offence as soon as possible to police by telephoning 101.