Updated:
August 19, 2014
Three arrests in London over £1m fraud which affected Burnham area

Three men have been arrested in London as part of an investigation into a £1m fraud scam, which has seen elderly people in the Burnham-On-Sea area targeted.

Search warrants were executed at three properties in Tower Hamlets in East London on Monday where three 18-year-olds were detained on suspicion of fraud.

More than 300 mainly elderly people have been tricked out of money across the south west, police said. Many of those were fooled into sending money to fraudsters pretending to be officers investigating crimes, as reported by Burnham-On-Sea.com here.

The police said "elaborate and convincing reasons" are used to encourage the victim to withdraw large sums of cash which are then sent to London by taxi or courier, or transferred electronically to a fraudulent bank account.

The fraudster claims the money is potential evidence for an investigation and is needed for forensic examination. One victim handed over £40,000.

A three-month investigation has been led by Zephyr, the Police's south-west regional organised crime unit.

Det Ch Insp Will White said: "Today's arrests should provide some reassurance that we are working with colleagues in forces in the South West to tackle this despicable form of crime which preys in the main on the elderly and vulnerable."

Nine out of every 10 people contacted have been aged over 60, police said. "Broadly the same approach has been used by a number of fraudsters across the South West and in other parts of the country. The scam started in the south east of England but has spread much wider," said Mr White.

"The police and the banks will never ask you for banking details or Pin numbers on the phone. Similarly, they would never send a so-called 'courier' to collect bank cards or money."

He added: "The more we talk about this scam and the more people who are made aware of it, the less likely that they are to become victims. We need people to spread the word. If you have elderly and vulnerable relatives, neighbours, colleagues and friends warn them to be vigilant and on their guard for telephone calls of this kind."

"We are particularly appealing to three broad groups of people to help us prevent these crimes: Children, grandchildren, relatives and friends of the elderly and vulnerable - please share this advice and if concerned, ask questions; We want taxi company owners and drivers to be vigilant; and, thirdly, we want staff at banks and other financial institutions to be suspicious if elderly customers uncharacteristically draw large amounts of cash."

DCI White added: "The police and the banks will never ask you for banking details or PIN numbers on the phone. Similarly, they would never send a so-called ‘courier’ to collect bank cards or money."

"In previous incidents the victims did the right thing when they became suspicious of callers. They hung up the phone and called the police. They waited until they could hear a dialling tone or used a different phone to call us, ensuring that the scammers weren’t still connected to the line."


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