A Lizard pensioner duped out of £130,000 after being conned into thinking she was helping an undercover police operation visited her bank five times to withdraw money.
The woman in her 70s, from The Lizard, lost her life savings last week after falling victim to a scam making its way across the country.
In the space of two days a couple in their 80s also lost £15,000, while at least five families have been targeted on the Lizard Peninsula during the last week alone.
Now a warning has gone out across Helston and the whole of west Cornwall, in particular to elderly people, not to become the next victim.
In all cases to date fraudsters have posed as police officers, who contact victims and demand money.
Superintendent John Green said: “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.”
The largest scam so far involved the woman in her 70s who was conned out of £130,000 over five separate transactions.
She was told that as part of an undercover police investigation she needed to transfer sums of generally between £20,000 and £30,000.
On one occasion she visited her bank twice on the same day to remove funds – but had been warned by the scammers not to tell staff any details, for fear of “blowing the operation.”
The scam is known in other parts of the country as “courier fraud”, as many victims are told to put their money into the care of a “secure” courier van or, in some instances, a taxi firm that is “sent by the police.”
However, so far in the Helston area it has centred around telephone calls, alleging to be from a police officer – most commonly from the Metropolitan Police or Hammersmith Police Station.
Names that have been used include DC Adams or PC Hopkins, although the fraudsters regularly change these to avoid suspicion.
In many cases the caller claims that the person’s bank card has been used fraudulently, or cloned, and they need to transfer their money to a “safe bank account” or a “police holding account” given by the fraudster.
Other times it is claimed that a loved one is in custody and they must pay for their release.
The victim will then be tricked into thinking they are being put through to their bank. Even if a person decides to call their bank directly, the fraudsters will leave the line open so the next call will go straight back to scammers.
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.
Often elderly victims are unwittingly defrauded of their entire life savings, being left distraught and traumatised in many cases.
Devon and Cornwall Police has recorded almost 100 of these offences since last December, but there appears to have been a sharp rise in the last week or two.
Detectives are now working with local banks and buildings societies, as well as taxi firms, as part of the investigation 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.
Anyone with any information about this fraud should contact police on 101, quoting the Operation Fardel crime reference CR/072154/14.
Key advice 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.
Remember: - Your bank will never attend your home.
- Your bank and the police will never collect your bank card or cash.
- Your bank and the police will never ask for your PIN.
- Police will never ask you to transfer money or ask for personal bank details.