Police took the opportunity yesterday to remind the elderly during Older People’s Day of the phone scammers and distraction burglars who often target them specifically.
The fraudsters pretend to be police or bank officials. They tell victims that their bank accounts have been compromised and that they need to confirm a number of security details with them.
They then try and persuade people to part with their PIN numbers before asking them to send their band cards via a courier or taxi, before withdrawing cash.
They may also ask victims to send them large amounts of money under the false claim that it will be examined forensically.
Distraction burglary – where someone gains access to your home under false pretences and distracts you while they or someone else steals – is low in Herts.
But police have also warned the elderly to be weary of this crime – also targeted primarily at the old.
Two men and two women were arrested on Wednesday, September 24 on suspicion of fraud by false representation after a series of phone scams in the fortnight before then.
A woman in her late 70s from Hitchin was called on Monday, September 15. She was convinced to withdraw her life savings, which were later collected by a courier.
Two women in their 90s, one from Letchworth Garden City and the other Hitchin, were targeted on Tuesday, September 23. Both were convinced to part with their bank cards, which were collected by a courier. Cash was later withdrawn from their accounts.
A woman in her late 80s from Hitchin was targeted on the same day. She was persuaded to part with her bank cards, which were collected by a courier and used to withdraw money.
Det Insp Jason Keane, who lead’s the county’s response to phone scams, urged people to speak to older relatives, friends and neighbours to make them aware of the crime.
She said: “By doing this people can prevent others from falling victim to this potentially devastating crime.”
Detective Inspector Ben Wright leads Operation Manhunt, which is a dedicated team of officers who investigate distraction burglaries and other doorstep crime.
He said: “Doorstep crime can be hugely invasive and distressing for the victim and their family.”
He advised people to talk to their older friends and relatives about this crime too.
Being part of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme and a member of the Online Watch Link (OWL) are great ways of helping keep your home and community safe, as well as help police reduce crime.
Anyone can join and thousands of people are already part of watch schemes and they receive up-to-date information about police activity in their area and crime prevention advice.
Hertfordshire Constabulary’s advice on answering an unexpected telephone call:
If you receive a call you’re not expecting, you should be suspicious. The vital things to remember are that your bank and the police would:
– NEVER ask for your bank account details or PIN number over the phone, so do not disclose these to anyone, no matter who they claim to be.
– NEVER ask you to withdraw money and send it to them via a courier, taxi or by any other means.
– NEVER ask you to send your bank cards, or any other personal property, to them via courier, taxi or by any other means.
If you are not happy with a phone call and are suspicious of the conversation you have with the caller then please end the call and contact police via the non-emergency number, 101.
Remember, when reporting a suspicious phone call to police, wait at least five minutes before attempting to make the call or use a mobile or neighbour’s phone to ensure you’re not reconnected to the offender.
Hertfordshire Constabulary’s advice on how to handle an unexpected caller to your home:
Not sure? Don’t open the door! - If you are not expecting anyone and you don’t recognise them, don’t let them into your home. Try to communicate with the caller without opening the door and ask them to return at a time when you have someone you trust with you.
If you are expecting a caller - If a person you are expecting comes at the time you have arranged, ask to see their identification before you let them in.
Never keep large amounts of cash at home. Put your money in an account where it is safe.
Call 999 if you suspect a crime is in progress or you believe someone is acting suspiciously around your neighbour’s property.