Police have launched a warning after 21 elderly people in the Horsham area were targeted by telephone scammers yesterday (Monday May 11).
Residents in Horsham, Southwater, Warnham and Rusper were targeted between 9.30am and 6.45pm yesterday.
In total, Horsham residents have been tricked into handing £111,524 to fraudsters since January this year.
Police said the scammers call and claim to be police officers, urging people to take money from their banks and transfer it or hand it over for safe keeping because criminals had got hold of their personal details.
The fraudsters keep the line open while next pretending to be bank officials or helpline advisers who then suggest the victim should move their money.
Because they control the recommended account or send couriers to collect the cash, it is easy for victims to become confused and duped into parting with their savings.
Police added the suspects claim to be detective constable Rodgers or Latchman from Holborn Police Station - on previous occasions they said they were from Hammersmith Police station.
One particular reason given by the ‘hoax officers’ is that a family member has been arrested.
Acting on one of the bogus officers instructions, an 83-year-old woman withdrew £6,400 from her bank but thwarted the would-be thieves by placing it in a friend’s safe.
And an 88-year-old woman was advised by a bogus helpline operator to transfer £5,000 from an ISA into another account and to take out £7,000 in Euros. But genuine bank officials became suspicious and refused her request.
A third woman, who had already lost £14,000 to scammers earlier this year, was contacted in a bid to extract further cash, but put the phone down on the fraudster who called her.
Inspector Clare McKnight said: “Even where the criminals have been unsuccessful, they cause immense harm to people who by virtue of their age are often particularly vulnerable. They become confused and fearful, sometimes even losing the confidence to go out and so ending up housebound.
“This is the less obvious impact of this type of crime, and we would welcome any information that may help us to track down and arrest those responsible.
“In the meantime, people should be on their guard against such calls and never disclose details of bank accounts. If suspicious, they should not use their telephone for at least 10 minutes after hanging up but if possible use a mobile phone or a neighbour’s phone to speak to Sussex Police.
“They should dial 999 if a suspect call has just been received, but alternatively can email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 101 with information, quoting Operation Edisto.”