Detectives are investigating an impersonation scam in which £20,000 has been lost in the last five months.
Detective Chief Inspector Ian Wilson from the PSNI’s Economic Crime Unit says, since late November of last year, there have been 29 reports of this nature made to police.
Most of the people targeted have been in Belfast and are aged in their seventies and eighties.
Of the 29 reports made to police, three have resulted in a total loss of £20,000.
Detective Chief Inspector Ian Wilson said from enquiries so far, police believe these reports may be linked.
“All the reports made to us describe a male with a Northern Irish accent claiming to be a police officer, or working for what was described as ‘The Department of Work and Pensions’ or that they were bank officials,” said Detective Chief Inspector Wilson.
“Some have been asked if they keep cash in their homes and, if so, how much and if they live alone. Some callers were threatened with arrest of themselves or their loved ones if they didn’t give the scammer money and were told a courier would come to their home to collect it.
“While a number of people realised this was a scam and no money was lost, unfortunately, some others believed it was genuine.
“Consequently, a significant amount of money has been lost, and that is really distressing for those impacted. They believed this caller to be genuine and due to the fear he instilled in them with threats of arrest to themselves or family members, they did what they thought was the right thing. It is despicable and extremely cruel and those impacted will need time and support to recover.”
Detectives are following a number of lines of enquiry, and officers are continuing to support victims, providing crime prevention advice.
Detective Chief Inspector Wilson said police want to hear from anyone who has been targeted in this scam, but hasn’t yet reported it, adding: “This means we can build a picture of offending and identify a pattern, or patterns, which could prove crucial in apprehending the criminal or criminals behind this sickening scam. It’s never too late to report this type of incident to police, to your bank or building society or Action Fraud.”
Detective Chief Inspector Wilson says being scam aware gives people “the power to stop scammers stealing your money and personal information”.
“Police officers or civil servants will never call you out of the blue and ask you to withdraw or transfer money, or if you keep money in the house and live alone,” he explained.
“If you receive a call like this out of the blue, it’s a scam and you must terminate the call immediately. Fraudsters can be extremely convincing and use a variety of scenarios to make their victims believe they are genuine, which is why being aware of this type of crime is crucial. It’s also important if you have older relatives, to have a conversation about this type of crime and reassure them help is available. Having a conversation and raising awareness about how to stop the scammers could make all the difference.”
Five rules to stop a scam
If you receive a call out of the blue or believe it to be suspicious, hang up the call immediately and never call the number back; always delete texts requesting personal information or bank account details; never click on links in text messages, or respond to unsolicited texts; never ever transfer money at the request of someone you do not know.
Action Fraud can be contacted via their website www.actionfraud.police.uk or by phoning 0300 123 2040, or call police on the non-emergency number 101. For further advice and information visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni or the ScamwiseNI Facebook page @scamwiseni