Police are warning the public after a spate of distressing scams targeting vulnerable and elderly people. Scammers are pretending to be officials from banks and police services and coercing people into handing over cash and valuable items.

The scam starts with a victim being cold called by someone pretending to be from either their bank or the police. They then instruct victims to withdraw money after which they will be visited at their home address and this money will be collected from them. In a similar scam, victims are told to transfer money into a secure bank account and give fraudsters their bank cards or valuable items such as watches and jewellery. Fraudsters have even been so bold as to pose as police officers and visit victims home addresses and collect bank cards from them, telling victims that their accounts have been compromised and if they do not do what they are asked they could risk losing all the money held in their accounts. For those who fall victim to such scams the repercussions can be devastating as the money is hard to recover and they have come face to face with a criminal. To make matters worse criminals mainly single out and target elderly and vulnerable people who are trusting of the police and their banks as they are more likely to have had the same bank account for many years.

Police are warning that during the pandemic people are more likely to fall for these types of scams as they are more isolated at home during lockdown, and more willing to engage in conversation with people they do not know.

To protect themselves people are being asked to think before they engage with anyone initiating contact with you or claiming to be from your bank or the police. Neither a bank nor the police will call you and ask you to disclose your personal details or pin number over the phone. They will also never arrange to pick up your bank card via a courier and if you receive calls from people claiming to do this, you should hang up the phone immediately. Often a scammer will keep your phone line open so if you do try to call the bank back it could be the scammer still on the other end. So, to further protect yourself, make sure you have fully hung up the line by waiting five minutes before you make a call, or alternatively use a different number to make a call.

Action Fraud recommend the following to protect yourselves and loved ones from falling victim:

  • Your bank or the police will never call you to ask you to verify your personal details or PIN by phone or offer to pick up your bank card by courier. Hang up immediately if you receive a call like this.
  • If you need to contact your bank back to check the call was legitimate, wait five minutes; fraudsters may stay on the line after you hang up. Alternatively, use a different line altogether to contact your bank.
  • Your debit or credit card is yours: do not let a stranger take it from you. You should only ever have to hand it over at your bank. If it is cancelled or expired, you should destroy it yourself.

Spot the tell-tale signs:

  • Someone claiming to be from your bank or local police force calls you to tell you about fraudulent activity, but is asking you for personal information, or even your PIN, to verify who you are.
  • They are offering to call you back so you can be sure they are genuine, but when you try to return the call, there is no dial tone.
  • They say they are trying to offer you peace of mind by having somebody pick up the card for you, to save you the trouble of having to go to your bank or local police station.
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