Elderly and vulnerable people from across the Horsham district are among many residents in Sussex who have been conned out of tens of thousands of pounds as part of a telephone and courier scam.
Sussex Police have been warning residents over the past two weeks about the rising problem of telephone scammers trying to con people out of thousands of pounds.
The scam sees fraudsters call victims claiming to be from either the police or a bank and tell them that their bank details have been compromised.
The fraudsters stay on the line whilst the victims try to call the bank or the police and give instructions on how they should act to safeguard their money.
They then send a taxi or courier, who may know nothing about the crime, to collect either cash or a supposedly compromised bank card.
Sussex Police said they were unable to give an exact figure on how many people had been affected by the scam and how much money had been handed over to the fraudsters but believed tens of thousands of pounds could have been stolen.
A spokesperson said: “Tens and tens of thousands of pounds could have been taken. If they get away with it they are getting two, three, five and sometimes ten thousand pounds at a time. We don’t know how much has gone overall because there has been so much reported. We don’t know if there are more victims that have not come forward. Some will be handing over money and never calling the police as they believe they have been working with the police already. There could be a lot of victims that haven’t reported it.”
The spokesperson added they were unsure whether it is just one group carrying out the scams or whether multiple groups are involved.
They continued: “We don’t know exactly how they are targeting elderly people.
“We believe it could be because of the time of day they are calling. Most of the calls are during the day.
“They are not just getting the elderly sometimes they get people who are middle age who tell them to go away.
“The message we need to get out is people who are not elderly or vulnerable but who may have parents or neighbours who may be elderly or vulnerable is we need them to help spread the message.”
As well as encouraging relatives and neighbours to spread the word police are also asking bank staff and taxi drivers to look out for any suspicious activity.
On Tuesday March 3 bank staff reacted quickly to stop an 82-year-old man from Horsham withdrawing a large quantity money which he planned to hand over to scammers after they convinced him to withdraw the cash.
On Thursday March 5 a taxi driver from Storrington became suspicious when he was asked to deliver a parcel by a 77-year-old man from Pulborough.
The parcel contained 2,000 euros and the driver returned the package to the man before alerting police.
For more information on how to deal with scams you can pick up ‘The little book of big scams’ from police stations or read it online at http://www.sussex.police.uk/media/480981/sussex_police_the_little_book_of_big_scams_online_22.03.13.pdf