Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Police warn North Devon’s elderly residents to be on their guard after telephone fraudsters impersonating police officers continue to prey on the vulnerable, with an 85-year-old woman the latest victim.
A spate of telephone crooks pretending to be police are continuing to prey on the elderly in North Devon after a Barnstaple woman became the latest victim as she was swindled out of £18,000.
There have now been around a dozen incidents, with the 85-year-old from Sticklepath the latest to come to light, adding to £9,000 lost by another North Devon couple in their 80s.
While the full scale is uncertain, local police fear it could run into tens of thousands of pounds in North Devon alone, with incidents in Barnstaple, Braunton and Mortehoe.
They urge elderly residents and relatives to be vigilant and not be taken in by the scam, which sees the caller pretend to be from Hammersmith police station.
They say they have the victim’s grandson – or someone claiming to be them - in custody, with a laptop and ‘cloned’ bank card.
They convince the person to go to their bank and transfer money to another account to ‘safeguard’ it, telling them not to speak of it to anyone else.
“It’s the most despicable crime imaginable because it’s preying on the vulnerability of the elderly,” said PC Eamon Rogers at Barnstaple Police Station.
“This is certainly the worst I have ever come across in terms of the monetary value.
“They are quite inventive and persuasive, and the people they target are from an era that believe if a ‘policeman’ says something, it must be true.”
Another tactic sees the fraudulent policeman ask the victim to call their bank and then simply keep the line open by not hanging up, before pretending to be a bank worker.
PC Rogers urged anyone with any doubts to ask the caller for their name and identity number, and to say they would call them back.
“No police officer worth their salt would mind them calling back via the 101 number,” he said.
“Plus make sure you have a dialling tone before making another call.”
Anyone who has received similar suspicious calls is asked to contact PC Rogers at Barnstaple via the 101 number.
* Two men from London have been charged in connection with four offences of alleged courier fraud in Devon and Cornwall.
Abdul Shafee and Rahim Choudhury, both aged 18, and from Wheeler House, London, are due to appear before Bristol Magistrates’ Court today (Wednesday) charged with conspiracy to commit fraud.
The charges relate to alleged courier frauds in Braunton, Stoke Cannon near Exeter, and two in Bideford, all between March and April this year.
Both men are further charged with one offence of conspiracy to commit fraud in Dorset and Choudhury is also charged with five offences of conspiracy to commit fraud in Avon and Somerset.