AN ORGANISED crime gang is believed to be targeting people in Stroud with telephone based fraud.

Police are urging people to spread the warning far and wide.

In the past three weeks, police have received 14 reports of Stroud residents being targeted by fraudsters with three of the incidents seeing the victim hand over thousands of pounds.

Courier fraud starts with a fraudster calling a victim, claiming to be a police officer or bank official.

They say they need assistance with a police or bank investigation, aiming to trick the victim into disclosing their bank card and PIN details.

Sometimes the fraudsters tell victims to withdraw cash and purchase euros or expensive jewellery before going to their address to collect it.

On the evening of 29 January, it was reported that a victim had been contacted by a man claiming to be a police officer from Charing Cross Station and that they had arrested someone in a shop who was trying to buy a TV with his bank card.

He was told the staff at his local bank were corrupt and to withdraw thousands of pounds in cash. He was then falsely told by the fraudster that the notes were counterfeit, and a female courier came to collect the money.

This con continued throughout the week where the victim was inundated with calls and subsequently withdrew thousands more which was handed over to the same woman.

A number of the incidents saw men wearing high visibility jackets or fake DPD outfits collect the money.

Gloucestershire Constabulary is aware that other residents have also been contacted with a similar fake story and police are urging people to share the warning.

Fraud Detective Inspector Neil Drakeley said: "These fraudsters are sadly extremely professional, believable, and know all the right things to say to trick people into believing them.”

"It's not just elderly or vulnerable people they can target, but simply anyone they manage to speak to on the phone and get them hooked into the conversation by saying they are police officers investigating a crime.”

"They often remain on the phone to the person for hours, convincing them that their local bank staff are corrupt and to withdraw cash to check whether it's counterfeit. They then send a courier to come and collect this money.”

"In no circumstances would police call you to say they are investigating a fraud or another crime and that they need you to withdraw cash to help the case.”

"Please don't be embarrassed to report this type of crime to us; we have dedicated fraud investigators who can help you. These are organised crime gangs who hit in waves and we've seen people fall victim to this all across the county.”

"These horrible crimes don't only scam people out of thousands of pounds, but can also have a life changing impact by leaving someone feeling anxious, vulnerable and humiliated.”

"The message needs to be shared far and wide and we need your help - please tell your friends, relatives and neighbours about this callous crime and the signs to spot to stop you, or anyone else, from falling victim."

• Neither police nor bank officials will ever ask you to withdraw money from your account, purchase anything or hand over your personal details or passwords.

• If you believe you are being targeted by a scammer hang up the phone and use a different phone line, such as a neighbour's phone, to call Action Fraud or the police, as scammers have a way to stay on the line and will pretend to be the police when you call back.

• If you don’t have access to a different phone line, wait for a period of time and try calling a family member or friend first to make sure the scammer is no longer on the line.

• Just because someone knows basic details about you like your address or date of birth, it doesn’t mean they are genuine bank or police employees.

• Always question suspicious phone calls and report them to Action Fraud or the police.

If you think you or someone you know has been defrauded, you can report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040 or police on 101.