Merseyside Police is appealing for elderly and vulnerable people across Merseyside to be on their guard after a series of incidents this week in which men posing as police officers have called people on the telephone and asked them to withdraw cash from their bank accounts.
During the first, on Tuesday, 2 December, a woman in her seventies from St Helens was called on the phone by a man who said he was a Detective Constable from Hammersmith Police. He told her someone had tried to get access to her bank account and she needed to draw the rest of the money out so that it could be checked for fingerprints.
The woman went to her bank and drew out a substantial amount of cash. She took it home and almost immediately the phone rang again and the same man said there was a courier at the door to collect the money. When the victim opened the door, a man who’s described as Asian was stood outside. He said he was a courier acting for the police and took the money away.
A similar incident happened the next day, in which a woman in her 80s from Clock Face, St Helens was targeted. The offender again claimed to be from Hammersmith Police and told the woman to get a taxi to the bank. The woman did this but luckily the bank were concerned about her and only gave her £2,500.
When she arrived home the offender called again and told her a courier was waiting to collect the money. When she opened the door, again a man described as Asian was waiting to take the money away.
Two other incidents have happened where a man posing as an officer has called people and said there may be a problem with their accounts. In each case the person became suspicious and refused to give any details or hand over any money.
There have been similar offences across the country over recent months, including in the West Midlands and London, and officers from Merseyside Police are working with other forces as part of an investigation into all these incidents.
Superintendent Louise Harrison said: “All these offences are very similar and we believe they are all linked.
“I would like to reassure people that incidents like these are comparatively rare but when they do happen they can have a big effect on the victims.
“Offenders are usually very plausible and can pose as a range of officials, not just police officers. However, any genuine official would never call people over the phone and ask them to withdraw money from a bank account. If anyone does, never give out any personal details and never hand anything over.”
Superintendent Harrison added: “We are also working with the banks and I know their staff are on the look-out for suspicious transactions or anyone who they believe may be the target of offences such as these. The offenders are extremely cunning and tell victims not to divulge why they want the money. Being alert and getting to the bottom of these reasons could stop them becoming victims.”
Merseyside Police is also issuing the following crime prevention advice in relation to people who call at your door, including any people posing as officials. Taking these simple steps could prevent you, or your family, becoming victims:
- Remember to close and lock the back door before answering the front door
- Always ask to see the identification of the person calling
- If you are in any doubt about the identification shown, phone the company they claim to represent and check – don’t use the phone number they give you, look in the phone book for it
- Ask the person to wait outside while you check and never leave your front door open while you do so
- If the caller claims to be from an electricity, gas or water company, ask them to quote your customer reference number. A genuine caller from these utility companies will have that information
- If the caller claims to be from the police he/she should have a warrant card and this can be checked by calling Merseyside Police on 101
- If the caller leaves and you are still unsure about their credibility, write down the details of the person and the registration number and type and colour of vehicle if you know it and contact us on 101
- For extra security and peace of mind, fit a viewer or spy hole and a strong chain to your door
Anyone with information about these incidents can call detectives in St Helens CID on 0151 777 6013 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
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