THE reported number of cases of fraud in the year to June 2019 has risen 15 per cent from the previous year to 3.9 million, according to the crime survey for England and Wales.

Money stolen by criminals through bank transfers, door-to-door sales and telephone calls is an ever-increasing problem throughout the UK, and something which the elderly and vulnerable often fall victim too.

Northumbria Police are backing a national campaign to raise awareness of the complex cons.

The force are asking all families to help their loved ones learn about the dangers of a scam, which has already seen vulnerable pensioners in the region swindled out of more than £100,000.

Known as courier fraud, last winter callous conmen cold-called a total of 1,630 phone numbers across the North-East, claiming to be officers from the Metropolitan Police. So sophisticated was the scam, the fraudsters pocketed a total of £120,000 in a two-week period.

As part of the large-scale scam, the vulnerable and the elderly are targeted by the scammers who claim to be from the police. Their victims are tricked into believing they have already fallen victim to a scam and are coerced into sending money, bank cards and other valuable details to the fraudsters via a courier. By the time they realise they realise they have been duped it is often too late for them to get their money back.

However Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley Anthony Stansfeld, who speaks for the Association of PCCs on fraud, said victims were being ‘failed’ by the police.

“Fraud is not being investigated. I doubt if one per cent of fraud is ever brought to a conclusion in the courts,” he said. “It is very difficult for the police to investigate. Very often police will say it’s a civil matter or pass it to Action Fraud – and so things simply do not get investigated.”

Mr Stansfeld said police were not being given enough resources to properly tackle the problem and suggested money from fines issued by the Financial Conduct Authority, sometimes hundreds of millions of pounds each year, should be spent doing just that.

“That money goes to the Treasury. It should not. At least half of it should be ring-fenced for fighting fraud and if we couldn’t bring down fraud by about 10 per cent I would be amazed.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, added: “The Government needs to properly fund police forces to tackle fraud and ensure all cases are fully investigated.”

However the Home Office said the government was committed to “cracking down on scammers and fraudsters” and has just launched a review into the issue.

Detective Sergeant Paddy O’Keefe from the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) is the regional development officer for fraud and called courier fraud one of the cruellest types of scam.

He said: “Across the country, thousands of vulnerable and elderly people are being targeted by these greedy, callous criminals who are trying to get rich quick.

“This one of the cruellest types of scam as it abuses the trust people have in the police and robs them of their self-confidence. This may seem an elaborate fraud, but these criminals are constantly evolving and adding levels of sophistication to this criminality.”

Around 1,300 people fall victim to courier fraud each year with the average victim aged between 75 and 89.