Thieves running a telephone scam have now tricked £15,000 from elderly people in just two days last week. On Monday, a woman in her 70s in Saffron Walden was tricked into handing over £5,000 and a man in his 70s in the Steeple Bumpstead area fell victim to the same scam, handing over £10,000 on Tuesday.
Six other people in Uttlesford, four at Saffron Walden,one at Clavering and one at Stansted Mountfitchet, were contacted within a short space of time on Monday afternoon. Fortunately they realised they were being targeted by tricksters, ended the calls and called the police.
More than 600 similar thefts and attempted thefts have been reported in Essex since the scam first came to light in January 2013 and similar crimes have been reported in the Met Police area and other counties.
More than 90 people in Essex have been tricked out of money and the total stolen is more than £325,000. Six people have been arrested in connection with the investigation.
In both cases this week, the victims were contacted by a man claiming to be a Metropolitan Police fraud squad officer based at Hammersmith who said he was investigating fraud at their respective banks. The trickster then claimed that he needed a large sum to be withdrawn from the local branches of the bank so that the banknotes could be forensically examined.
Fraudsters claim to be Metropolitan Police Fraud Squad Officers!
Extensive publicity campaigns have been carried out across Essex to warn residents of the scam and although thefts have reduced, elderly and vulnerable people are still falling for the scam.
Most of the thefts or attempted thefts have been in the west and south of the county but there has been a sudden shift to the north and more rural communities of Uttlesford and Braintree districts.
Chief Inspector Richard Melton, the Uttlesford and Braintree district commander, said:
These are despicable crimes being carried out by thieves posing as police fraud officers, the very people they ought to be able to turn to and trust in exactly this sort of crime. Instead, they callously prey on the elderly and vulnerable and have no thought for how their victims might suffer from the loss of money that might have been saved over many years. It is vital that whenever people receive this sort of call they should put the phone down and call us, but on another phone or mobile. Part of the con involves keeping people on the line while they pretend to transfer calls to police officers or bank officials.
Anyone with information about the thieves should contact the Operation Seaford team at Grays on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
Police will never ask for your PIN.
If you think you have been a victim, call police from a different number.
If you don’t have another phone, use a neighbour’s, or wait five minutes before dialling 101 or 999 (if urgent).
Essex Watch Liaison Officer