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12 March 2014, 00:00 | Updated: 12 March 2014, 05:32
Police have issued an urgent warning to residents in the Uttlesford area to be on guard against telephone fraudsters after an elderly woman was tricked out of £5,000.
The woman, who is in her 70s, was called at her Saffron Walden home on Monday, March 10 by a man claiming to be a Metropolitan Police officer.
He told the victim that her bank account had been infiltrated by thieves and that he needed her to withdraw cash so that it could subjected to forensic examination.
A man later attended her home and took the £5,000. The woman reported the incident to police at Saffron Walden on Tuesday morning.
Six other people in Uttlesford, four at Saffron Walden, one at Clavering and one at Stansted Mountfitchet, were contacted within a short space of time on Monday afternoon. Fortunately they realised they were being targeted by tricksters, ended the calls and contacted Essex Police.
Inspector Colin Cox, the Saffron Walden area commander, said: "All seven people were contacted by a man claiming to be a Met Police officer based at Hammersmith.
"Six of the people quickly realised it was part of a long-running scam but the elderly woman was kept on the phone for three hours while the thieves convinced her to draw money from her bank for forensic examination.
"A smartly-dressed man on a scooter attended the victim’s home on Monday evening and took the money.
"This is an absolutely appalling crime by people who are callously preying on the elderly and vulnerable. It is vital that whenever people receive this sort of call they should put the phone down and call us, but on another phone or mobile. Part of the con involves keeping people on the line while they pretend to transfer calls to police officers or bank officials.
"If you have this type of call put the phone down and do not use it again until you get a dialling tone. Then phone the police.
"As a result of the seven calls in such a small area and in a short space of time we are putting out warnings through every local method at our disposal including Neighbourhood Watch and email chains. PCSOs and local officers will be warning people when they are out and about.
"We want to hear from anyone with information about the thieves, especially anyone who saw a stranger on a scooter in the Park Lane area of Saffron Walden at 4.30-5pm on Monday."
More than 600 similar thefts and attempted thefts have been reported in Essex since January 2013, and similar crimes have been reported in the Met Police area and other counties.
More than 90 people in Essex have been tricked out of money and the total stolen is more than £315,000. Six people have been arrested in connection with the investigation.
Extensive publicity campaigns have been carried out across Essex to warn residents of the scam and although success thefts have reduced, elderly and vulnerable people are still falling for the scam.
DS Neil Hudson, who is leading the countywide investigation, said: "It is vital that everyone is always on guard against any telephone callers claiming to be from the police or a bank and asking you to send them money.
"Some of the tricksters call their intended targets several times in an attempt to convince them, that they are genuine callers.
"One trick is to ask people to call back or to call their bank to verify claims that their accounts have been infiltrated. But they stay on the line and when the victim thinks they are starting a fresh call the same tricksters claim to be at a police station or a bank.
"It is important that anyone who is called by these fraudsters lets us know so that we can investigate and establish which different stories are being used by the thieves and to see how they are targeting different areas.”
• Police or bank officials will never ask for your PIN.
• If you think you have been a victim, call police FROM A DIFFERENT NUMBER.
• If you don’t have another phone, use a neighbour’s, or wait five minutes before dialling 101 or 999 (if urgent).