Fraudsters have targeted dozens of elderly people across the Westcountry, conning some out of their life savings, Devon and Cornwall Police have warned.
The force said it had seen almost 50 cases of the phone fraud since December with conmen posing as police officers. Victims have been defrauded of sums between £4,000 and £39,000.
A national scam commonly known as a “courier fraud”, conmen have particularly targeted the Torbay and South Devon area.
Detective Superintendent Ken Lamont said the known cases could be the “tip of the iceberg” with some victims too embarrassed to report the matter.
“The extent of these offences is still to be fully ascertained but they are across the force, being most prevalent in Torbay and the south Devon areas,” he said. “This is a heartless and callous fraud with the offenders targeting elderly and vulnerable people who are trusting and willing to help who they think are bona fide police officers.
“We are urging the public, particularly older people, to be aware of this fraud and not to go along with it. Genuine police would not phone members of the public in this way and certainly would never ask you for your bank details or ask you to send money.
“Because of the nature of the fraud and the vulnerable victims involved it is believed this offence is currently under-reported, therefore we would urge the public to come forward and tell us if they have been contacted by these people.
“We appeal to members of the public, banks and taxi drivers to be on their guard and report any suspicious activity of this nature to the police immediately.”
The cold callers claim to be from the Metropolitan Police, telling victims that their bank card has been used fraudulently. They are then tricked into thinking they are being put through to their bank.
Having disclosed banking information, they are then told to withdraw a sum of money and pass it to either a local taxi firm or to a courier sent by fraudsters.
In March, a Bideford couple were duped out of £39,000.
Four incidents were recorded in Paignton on April 24 with two victims alone having parted with more than £12,000 each.