Four arrested as police clamp down on phone scam that has swept across six counties

Watchdog presenter Anne Robinson
Watchdog presenter Anne Robinson

Four men have been arrested in connection with a phone scam that will feature in prime-time TV show Watchdog next week after spreading across six counties.

Victims are phoned by someone claiming to be a police officer or bank worker investigating fraudulent activity on their bank account. Often the elderly or vulnerable are targeted.

Once they have convinced the victim they are who they say they are, they persuade them to disclose personal information. They then instruct the victim to send them bank cards and money via a courier.

Herts police and crime commissioner David Lloyd said: “It is truly despicable that there are people who deliberately target and abuse some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

A special taskforce of police officers in the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) has been set up to tackle the problem. It includes officers from six counties and London’s Met Police.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning they searched five homes and arrested London men aged 18, 24 and 26 on suspicion of fraud. A fourth London man, aged 23, was arrested on suspicion of theft.

All the men arrested have been bailed until Thursday, July 10. Money and electronic devices were seized from the addresses searched by officers.

ERSOU Det Chief Insp Jon Gilbert said police are committed to making the eastern region a ‘hostile’ place for anyone involved in phone scams and organised crime.

He said: “We will continue to pursue those believed to be involved in this type of crime and make arrests. However, the public should still be aware of the scam operating across the region.

“The elderly and vulnerable do tend to be targeted and so we’d urge people to share the following advice with their relatives, friends and neighbours.

“If you are suspicious about a telephone conversation you should end the call and contact police via the non-emergency number, 101.

“Remember to use a mobile phone or a friend’s phone or wait at least five minutes before calling to ensure you aren’t reconnected to the offender.”

Banks and police would never ask for your bank account details or PIN over the phone, or ask you to send them money, cash cards or other personal property.

For more information on phone scams, click here

The public will be warned of the scam during next Wednesday’s 8pm showing of BBC One consumer show Watchdog after broadcasters filmed six previous arrests relating to the scam.

Officers seized phones, money and high value goods, such as designer clothes and electrical items, during the previous, filmed raids during the early hours of Wednesday, April 23.

The men were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud after search warrants were executed on seven addresses.

The Watchdog team will also broadcast an interview with a scam victim and the police during the show next Wednesday.

Mr Lloyd said: “I place great emphasis on supporting victims and placing them at the centre of the criminal justice system and the ERSOU led task force is working hard to ensure victims are fully supported.

“By featuring on Watchdog, the team’s work can be highlighted and will hopefully raise awareness, encourage victims to come forward and deter would-be offenders.”

ERSOU was established in 2010 to deliver an increased response to tackling the threat of organised crime across the six police forces in the eastern region of the UK. ERSOU provides specialist covert policing.

The unit is made up of combined resources from across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.