RESIDENTS in Thurrock have been urged to be on their guard against fraudsters who pose as police officers to steal from the bank accounts of elderly and vulnerable victims following four incidents in Thurrock.
One victim in Grays was tricked out of £1,000 but the three others, two in Stanford-le-Hope and one in East Tilbury, suspected a scam and called Essex Police.
Nearly 40 thefts and attempted thefts have been reported in the county, mainly in the Loughton and Chigwell area, since the offences first came to light in January 2013.
More than 2,000 similar offences have been reported in the Metropolitan Police area in the past two years.
In most of the incidents since January victims were contacted by telephone by fraudsters posing as officers from the Metropolitan Police. Various stories are used to trick a victim into thinking they are a victim of bank account fraud and in most cases a courier is sent to collect the cards and in some cases valuables items have been taken “for safe keeping”.
Following an extensive publicity campaign in Essex, including coverage on TV, radio, newspapers and websites, most of the recent incidents have been attempted thefts. In those cases the potential victims quickly became suspicious and put the phone down.
But the £1,000 fraud at Grays, where the victim gave her bank cards to a courier and three attempted thefts in Thurrock, which all occurred between June 20 and July 5, still highlight the need for vigilance. Essex officers are, also concerned that the fraudsters might continue to use different stories to trick people or simply try to pester victims into giving away their bank details.
Chief Insp Ben Hodder, the Thurrock district commander, said: “This type of fraud against elderly and vulnerable people is all too common. The fraudsters don’t hang up when the victims are asked to telephone their bank, which means the call is still connected.
“Victims don’t notice the lack of a dialling tone when they telephone the bank, or realise that it is the fraudsters now pretending to be the bank. Sadly, a number of victims give out their bank and card details and suffer loss. Our advice is never give any personal details to anyone, especially over the telephone and to ‘cold-callers’.”
Anyone with information about the thieves or anyone who has been approached by suspected fraudsters should contact Essex Police on 101.