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Bank telephone scam targets wealthy Westminster pensioners
Older people are being targeted by a complex telephone scam where callers are duped into handing over their life savings.
Fraudsters posing as banks or the Serious Fraud Office trick people into parting with credit and debit cards, bank details and handing over cash - in some cases in excess of £65,000.
Detectives at Westminster Police say the swindlers are operating across London but are targeting wealthy pensioners in Westminster in particular.
The victim receives a call, often late at night, warning that their bank account has been defrauded and they should cancel their account. They are persuaded to hand over cards and cash to a courier who will deliver it to a 'safe house'.
Victims are directed to an automated message, similar to many banks, asking them to tap in their date of birth, account number, sort code and, unusually, their PIN. To verify their credibility, callers are asked to dial 999 and ask for the them - but the scammer does not hang up and the call goes straight to them.
Detective Inspector Andy Fleming, at Westminster's Economic and Complex Crime Unit, said it was working with big banks including Natwest, Barclays and Lloyds and local authorities to make vulnerable people aware of the scam, which first cropped up in June last year.
He said: "Their techniques are so simple. They are pretending to be someone you can trust and taking advantage of elderly people's inclination to trust authority and who are more willing to overlook discrepancies. And they put fear into them by saying if you don't do this you'll lose your life savings."
Mr Fleming said that banks will never ask you for your PIN in person or over the phone. People who think they are being targeted should call the police from another phone which has not been compromised.
Two operations have been set up to target the culprits and arrests are being made.
One victim, a pensioner from Bayswater who asked to remain anonymous, was tricked out of thousands of pounds of her mother's inheritance on Christmas Eve.
She said: "It was so sophisticated. They were so persuasive, normally I'm very sceptical about these sorts of things but he sounded like a policeman. He told me to call 999 but I didn't because he kept the line open. I now know, it's a well-known scam.
"Don't give anybody anything and think about it. I must've been mad, I think that now but when they ring in the middle of the night it's a bit different. And it was Christmas, he caught me out.
She added: "They panicked me. I went to my bank but they said it was my responsibility and I can't get the money back. I was crushed and shocked. I also came across two personal friends who were reluctant to admit it happened to them too."
Anyone who thinks they may have been targeted or who has information on the scam can call police on 101.
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