THE PERILS facing vulnerable residents from heartless fraudsters was highlighted by police looking to stop people getting conned out of their life savings.
NatWest bank staff in Chichester were joined by PC Dave Phillips in giving a talk to customers on Tuesday evening about the devious methods used by scammers to trick people into giving them money.
PC Phillips recounted incidents such as an 84-year-old tricked into believing she was helping the police in an investigation, who bought a £19,000 diamond ring.
She then gave the criminals the ring, believing she was helping a police investigation.
Bank customers listened to many other examples of people being rung and tricked into giving their PIN numbers to what they believed was the Metropolitan Police, then handing their bank card to a courier they thought was sent by the Met to collect them.
“Those are real-life stories, they’re not made up and they happened locally,” said PC Phillips.
“Some people in Chichester have done that.
“These people come round within minutes of that phone going down.
“That’s a blooming good courier, isn’t it?
“They’ve come round and taken those cards.”
In this instance, there was a success story for police as the fake courier came into Chichester to withdraw money and was caught on CCTV.
NatWest’s Chichester manager Mark Shuttleworth said he realised the scale of the scams after seeing a headline in the Observer after Sussex Police released scam data last year.
He said it was ‘very upsetting’ when staff found out their customers had been targeted.
“It does affect us as well,” he told assembled customers.
“We think we’ve done everything to prevent it and afterwards when we discover it’s happened.”
He added: “They’ve looked after you all these years and then suddenly your money’s gone, you’re an emotional wreck, your whole world’s dropped out and all your savings are gone.”
Last year, the Met seized a freight of bulk mail containing a list of names and addresses of potential scam victims in Sussex.
Typically, they are told they have won a cash pot and just have to pay a certain amount to release the funds.
Out of this mail list, more than 1,537 addresses were in Sussex.
Police spoke with 900 people at these addresses, discovering 386 victims, mainly aged between 80 and 90. Their total loss was more than £2m.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said PC Phillips.