ARRESTS have been made in London today as part of a police probe into a £1 million telephone scam that affected elderly and vulnerable victims in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.
Officers from the south west regional organised crime unit, Zephyr, swooped on properties in Tower Hamlets and arrested three men, all aged 18, on suspicion of fraud.
The move follows a three-month investigation into the scam, in which crooks phone up pretending to be police officers and convince people to hand over large amounts of cash to couriers to be sent to London.
Most of the 300 known victims in the region have been aged over 60 and one was duped out of £40,000.
Police believe there could be many more. Det Ch Insp Will White appealed for anyone who might have been affected by the con to come forward.
“It is possible that some victims may feel too embarrassed, ashamed or humiliated to come forward and report that they have been duped. We would like to hear from these people,” he said.
“The more we talk about this scam and the more people who are made aware of it, the less likely that they are to become victims. We need people to spread the word. If you have elderly and vulnerable relatives, neighbours, colleagues and friends warn them to be vigilant and on their guard for telephone calls of this kind.”
In some cases the fraudster claims the money is evidence for an investigation and that it is needed so it can be forensically examined.
Another trick involves someone claiming to be a London-based police officer, who informs the victim that two people have been arrested with their bank cards. The victim is asked to call the bogus officer and is given a false collar number and telephone number to reassure them.
Because the fraudster does not replace the handset the unsuspecting victim dials under the impression they have reached a genuine police officer, not realising they are talking to the fraudster.
The crook then encourages the unsuspecting victim to provide private banking details and may also be asked to withdraw cash.
Det Ch Insp White said: “In previous incidents the victims did the right thing when they became suspicious of callers. They hung up the phone and called the police.
“They waited until they could hear a dialling tone or used a different phone to call us, ensuring that the scammers weren’t still connected to the line.”
He added: “The police and the banks will never ask you for banking details or PIN numbers on the phone. Similarly, they would never send a so-called courier to collect bank cards or money.