Dorset Police has joined with regional forces in a campaign to warn people of the increasing threat of ‘courier fraud’.

Zephyr – the regional organised crime unit – is today starting a high profile publicity campaign about the scam.

The south west region has been targeted by fraudsters, who are preying particularly on vulnerable elderly people, some of whom have been duped out of thousands of pounds during the past two months.

There have been 68 reported cases in Dorset alone. Police now believe that the amount of cash obtained in this way could top half a million pounds.

In one case, previously highlighted in the Dorset Echo, a pensioner in his 80s received a telephone call from a man claiming to be a police officer with the Metropolitan Police.

The conman told him that money had been drawn out of his account and replaced by counterfeit cash. The victim, from Chapelhay in Weymouth, was advised to call 999 to verify the caller’s details which he did – however it is believed he was still speaking to the fraudsters.

He was then persuaded to hand over £26,000 in cash which he gave to a courier who attended his home address.

The fraudsters appear to be using the same approach across the region.

They first contact potential victims – who are normally elderly – by telephone. Victims are encouraged by the fraudster, using an elaborate and convincing reason, to withdraw large sums of cash, which they are asked to send to London by taxi or via a courier, who will collect the money from their home.

The offenders often pose as police officers, claiming the money is potential evidence for an investigation and is needed so that it can be forensically examined.

Detective Sergeant Andrew Kennard from the Economic Crime Unit offers this advice: “We all know someone who could fall victim to this sort of fraud, so it is vital that we work together as a community to make sure the message gets out to everyone – don’t give your personal details or PIN to anyone, and make sure you always verify the identity of a caller before speaking to them.”