Northumbria Police are warning people about the dangers of fraud after a number of elderly residents appear to have been targeted by conmen posing as officers.
The warning comes as the Force released new data which shows between October and December last year, more than 1,600 phone numbers across Newcastle, Northumberland, Sunderland and Durham were cold-called by a group they believe were claiming to be officers from London’s Metropolitan Police Fraud Squad.
Officers quickly launched an investigation and identified 10 complainants in the Newcastle and Sunderland area who said they had been coerced into withdrawing money and sending valuables to ‘the police’.
The illicit activity resembles that of Operation Howze, a North East Specialist Operations Unit (NERSOU) led investigation carried out in 2014 in to a type of crime known as ‘courier fraud’, where victims were led to believe they were an essential part of an investigation and were pressured into withdrawing cash and sending it to the police via a courier who turned up at their home.
Similar types of frauds have also been reported to officers in recent months where victims have been cold-called by someone claiming to be from their bank, the government or other official bodies, asking them to buy vouchers or other items.
Detective Superintendent Mick Paterson, from Northumbria Police’s Intelligence and Organised Crime Department, said: “This type of fraud is particularly elaborate and shows how shameless criminals can be in not only finding new ways to coerce and persuade people to withdraw large sums of money but also by constantly adapting their tactics to prey on the most vulnerable in our society.
“Fraud not only robs people of their self-confidence but of the trust they have in people and institutions. Sadly, we are seeing more and more vulnerable and elderly people targeted by such malicious conmen.
“We want to reinforce the message that no police force or public body would ever ask anyone to withdraw cash or send us their valuables. Many of the victims affected in these kinds of frauds do not realise they have been targeted until it is too late. We would like to hear from anyone who thinks they might have been contacted in this way.
“We are fighting hard to eradicate this type of organised crime from our streets and to make sure that perpetrators are brought to justice under the banner of Operation Sentinel, our dedicated initiative to target serious and organised crime.
“These types of crime are extremely cruel as they defraud victims of their hard-earned cash and ruin the trust they have in people and the police.”
If you think you might have been a victim of courier fraud, or any other kind or fraud, please contact Action Fraud immediately by calling 0300 123 2040 Monday to Friday 8am-8pm. If you are calling from abroad please call +44 300 123 2040.
You can also report it online at https://reporting.actionfraud.police.uk