Residents in Sussex are being warned to stay alert after fraud attempts by scammers claiming to be police officers or bank staff.
Police said three recent incidents in Brighton and Billingshurst follow several other cases between May 9 and 16, when officers received six reports from across Brighton and Hove.
Sussex Police said it is likely the cases are linked with the three more recent ones.
Three recent fraud attempts
On Wednesday, May 24, an 86-year-old Brighton woman received a call from someone claiming to be a police officer. He said she should call 161 and confirm his identity. She typed 161 into her phone without hanging up and a woman ‘confirmed’ his identity and put him back on the line.
The caller said someone had tried to withdraw £700 from her account in Liverpool, and the victim said it wasn’t her and confirmed she had all of her cards.
Later in the afternoon the suspect called again, and said someone had interfered with her account so he had upgraded her spending limit to £10,000 but she needed to go and spend £10,000 so that the next time the account was used there would be no money in it. However she simply transferred the money to another account.
The suspect then said that he wanted her to go a buy an expensive watch, not to take the stickers off and pretend it was a gift for someone, also in order to empty the account so thieves could not use her building society account again as it would be empty.
The victim went to a watch shop in Brighton and purchased a £9,600 Rolex watch.
The suspect had given her a password and soon after she got home a ‘courier’ turned up, gave the password and left with the watch.
On Tuesday, May 31, an 86-year-old Billingshurst woman had a call from someone who said they were from her bank, asking if her new debit card had arrived. She replied that she was not expecting one.
The caller then said the new card could be sent by courier and ten minutes later a smartly dressed male ‘courier’ arrived with what appeared to be a replacement card.
They cut up her old card but the caller, still on the line, said they needed her PIN number in order to set up a new one. She supplied this but thankfully as the ‘courier’ left a friend of the woman came round. Together they became suspicious and promptly called her bank to freeze the account.
On the following day, Wednesday, June 1, a 69-year-old Brighton woman received a call from someone who said he was a police officer and that money had been taken out of her account.
At his insistence she went to the same watch shop in Brighton involved in the previous Brighton case and asked to buy two valuable watches which the caller said would prevent more money being stolen. However the shop manager became suspicious and the attempt failed, so the caller told to go to her bank nearby to withdraw £5,000 cash.
But staff there became suspicious too and the attempt failed.
PC Bernadette Lawrie, the Sussex Police Financial Abuse Safeguarding Officer said: “The police do not contact people and ask them to withdraw or hand over cash or valuables to officers, and neither do bank staff.
“The people carrying out these frauds are deliberately targeting those they think are vulnerable, using varying and subtle tactics.
“Please do look out for your friends, family and anyone you feel may be at risk by passing out this message, to help prevent further people falling victim to this type of fraud.
“If ever you doubt a telephone caller is genuine, simply hang up the phone. If speaking to callers at the door, always ask for ID and satisfy yourself that it is genuine before dealing with that person.
“We want to hear from you if you have received similar calls to these mentioned above or have any information which could help our investigation. Descriptions of those who have attended to collect money differ.
Anyone with information on similar phone scam attempts, should contact police online or by calling 101 quoting Operation Signature.
For more information about Operation Signature, click here.