Residents are being urged to stay alert following cases of courier fraud being reported in Sussex.

The warning comes as a new national social media campaign is launched by Action Fraud with victims nationwide reporting a total loss of over £10 million so far this year. See the Action Fraud website.

Courier or impersonator fraud is when a fraudster calls the victim pretending to be from the police or a bank and asks for money under false pretences of many kinds. They will arrange for someone to pick up the money from the victim’s home, leaving the victim out of pocket. Many recent cases have involved the suspect taking the victim’s bank card and withdrawing money from their account.

This year so far, Sussex Police have seen 392 reports of this type of fraud against vulnerable victims, witnh a total loss of £1.54 million – an average of more than £12.000 per victim.

57% of the victims lived alone and 78% of victims were aged 60 or over.

The majority of victims used bank transfer, had their bank cards collected and handed over cash sums to the fraudsters.

198 reports came from West Sussex, 127 from East Sussex and 67 reports from Brighton and Hove.

On 8 September a Hove resident in her nineties was rung by someone claiming to be from her bank, requiring her to give her bank card to a courier as there had been fraudulent activity on her account. She gave the card to a woman who called at the address soon afterwards and later found that £4000 had been taken from the account.

On 19 August a Horsham couple were rung by someone claiming to be from their bank, who spent some hours convincing them that they mist give up their debit and credit cards for a similar reason. They duly handed them to a woman who called at the door. Fortunately their son happened to visit soon afterwards, quickly realised it was a scam and got the cards cancelled. However it transpires that in the meantime the card had been used four times in barely ten minutes, withdrawing £2000.

PC Bernadette Lawrie, Financial Abuse Safeguarding Officer for Surrey and Sussex Police, said: “Criminals continue to exploit people through this appalling method and we are urging the public to be cautious of unexpected phone calls from people asking for personal information.

“If you have an older family member, we urge you to talk them through these tips for keeping safe from these courier fraud.

“But many residents are successful in spotting this sort of approach and do not part with anything. So far this year we have 265 reports across Sussex in which the attempts have failed thanks to alert residents.

To protect yourself from courier fraud, we advise you follow the below steps:

– Act with care if you get an unsolicited call
– The police or your bank will never ask you to withdraw money or hand over your bank cards
– Never transfer funds into a new account on the instruction of an unexpected caller, even if they tell you that the account is in your name
– Always check your phone line has properly disconnected before making another call. Wait five minutes after the suspicious call before making another
– Never share your PIN number or enter your PIN into a telephone
– Never withdraw money and hand it to a courier or anyone who comes to your door
– Never give your bank cards to a courier or anyone who comes to your door.

Please pass this advice onto your loved ones, particularly those who are elderly or vulnerable.

If you believe you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud, you can report information online or by calling 101, but always call 999 in an emergency.

For more information and advice about fraud, please visit our special Operation Signature website for advice.