A FRAUDSTER who stole thousands of pounds from elderly and vulnerable victims in Barnsley has been jailed.

Mohamed Chowdhury, of Haverhill Grove in Wombwell, targeted elderly people across the borough in a ‘courier fraud’ scam, with victims’ losses totalling thousands of pounds.

He called his victims between March and May last year, claiming to be from their bank or the police, talking to them about a fraud on their accounts.

A number of the victims were persuaded to give up codes for their accounts and then asked to place their bank cards into envelopes and leave them on their doorstep, where a courier would collect them to be used as ‘evidence’.

After being picked up, the cards were then later used at cash machines to withdraw large amounts of money.

There were seven victims who lost more than £7,000 between them.

The 46-year-old father-of-four was linked to the crimes through a BMW X3 which was seen near the address of one of the victims.

Evidence including ATM receipts and bank cards was later found in the vehicle.

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Following a joint investigation, Chowdhury pleaded guilty to 12 counts of fraud by false representation, one count of attempted theft and one count of theft.

He was jailed for 12 months at Derby Crown Court on May 6.

Detective Samantha Erabadda, from South Yorkshire Police’s fraud co-ordination team, said: “Chowdhury is a callous fraudster who was part of a heartless scam targeting vulnerable people in our communities.

“These victims believed they were helping with an ongoing police or bank investigation and it’s truly awful their goodwill was exploited in this way.

“The scam even took advantage of last year’s Covid-19 lockdown, using the pandemic as an excuse for victims to leave their bank cards on their doorsteps rather than the bogus ‘investigation’ taking place face-to-face.

“I’m pleased Chowdhury is now behind bars for his part in this scheme.

“I’m also heartened to know that his BMW vehicle was forfeited - we hope that the proceeds from this will go towards paying back some of the money lost by his victims.”

Andy Foster, protection officer for financial-related matters for South Yorkshire Police, admitted that fraudsters’ activity remained a ‘serious concern’ for officers in Barnsley.

“We’re seeing hundreds of cases on a monthly basis across South Yorkshire it’s no exaggeration to say it’s an epidemic and it’s something forces struggle to prevent due to its nature,” he told the Chronicle.

“We believe many victims opt against reporting costly crime simply because they’re embarrassed and often do not even tell their families.

“I would advise anyone receiving unsolicited calls via their home phone to contact their telephone provider and ask them if they provide a free call-blocking service.”

If you have received a hoax call, report it to Action Fraud on 03001 237040.