POLICE have urged elderly and vulnerable residents to make sure their phone lines are protected - after one Barnsley man was taken for £6,000 by a fraudster claiming to be a police officer.

The elderly victim was the target of courier fraud - a scam in which offenders phone someone and convince them that they need their help to gather evidence in a fraud case.

The offender poses as a bank official or police officer and gains the victim’s trust before asking them to hand over false ‘evidence’ - often cash, or other high-value goods - to a courier, who’s sent to their home.

Fraud protection officer Andy Foster told the Chronicle that police were monitoring a spike in such reports in Barnsley, where there were three people targeted last week.

In one incident, an elderly man from Barnsley lost £6,000 after a criminal posing as ‘DS Brown from the Paddington fraud squad’ coerced him into withdrawing the cash from his bank account.

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The perpetrator - who stayed on the line, telling the man what to say to bank staff - claimed the notes were counterfeit, and a man posing as an officer turned up later to collect them.

The scammers also tried to get the man to buy two Rolex watches with a total value of £25,000, but staff at the watch shop he’d travelled to were suspicious enough to raise the alarm.

“Courier fraud is an ongoing issue nationally and in our area,” Andy told the Chronicle.

“I despise these people.

“They have no souls.

“We have seen similar names - it can often be Wiggins, Wicks, Ronson or Spencer, and they’ll usually say they’re from London or Scotland Yard or the Metropolitan Police.”

Telephone scams have been rife during the lockdown, with fraudsters taking advantage of the fact that many are isolated in their homes - especially elderly people.

“Barnsley has its fair share of elderly people,” said Andy.

“While you’re not necessarily vulnerable if you’re elderly, it’s something that can increase you’re vulnerability, as can loneliness and isolation.

“Older people tend to trust the police, and their immediate reaction is to think - ‘I need to help these people’.

“Once the offenders have set their hooks in, and gained the trust of the victim, they may keep trying to get more money out of them with further phone calls.

“The impact on the victim is huge - it’s not just about losing money, it’s the after-effects.

“Police often aren’t aware, and even the victims’ families aren’t aware, because of the guilt of being a victim.”

Tuesday last week saw six reports of courier fraud, according to a police spokesperson, with several victims in the Barnsley borough.

Andy said police recommended two options - a smartphone app called Truecaller, which scans a constantly-growing database of numbers and has blocking options for callers, or a BT phone which comes with software installed.

There is also a similarly-named physical blocker called Truecall, which can be connected to a phone line to screen calls so that callers must identify themselves.

“It’s quite easy to prevent these types of fraud by protecting your landline with a call blocker,” added Andy.

“I urge people to protect their loved ones and get these call-blocking services.

“In these types of offences, the telephone is the enabler.”

Reports of courier fraud should be made to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at www.actionfraud.police.uk.

If somebody is present at your address to collect money, bank cards or other items, call 999 and quote Operation Radium Mike.