POLICE have warned elderly Whitby residents to beware of a Ukash scam that has claimed a number of victims in the area.
Fraudsters have been contacting vulnerable individuals and convincing them that they are eligible for a rebate, usually of around £4,000, but first they need to deposit a sum of money as a security deposit.
Scarborough police officer Tracey Brewster has been heading the investigation and said: “Elderly people have been targeted in Scarborough, but it’s likely that it’s also occurred in Whitby and just hasn’t been reported yet.
“A company calling themselves the Ministry of Justice are contacting elderly people, saying they are due a refund.
“The Ministry of Justice is a legitimate company and the number comes up as an 0208 London code, because the scammers have purchased it.”
To be eligible for the refund, the fraudsters instruct the victim to deposit £400 into a PayPoint, which issues them with a Ukash voucher.
This includes a 19-digit reference number, which the scammers ask for as proof of payment, and the victims are assured they will receive their money back in full.
PC Brewster added: “You’re giving them the voucher code, which allows them access to your money straight away, and of course once you give them the money you can’t get it back.
“You’re also required to pay the money into a PayPoint with cash, so it can’t be traced.
“Then they ask for another £400 administration charge, but say you can claim it back.
“It happens very quickly over a couple of days and it soon adds up.”
The investigation coincides with National Fraud Identity week, which has run from 17-23 October, and PC Brewster has advice for anyone who thinks they may have been involved with this scam: “If you think you’re a victim, don’t discuss bank details on the phone.
“If you’re unsure, ask the company to put it in writing and discuss it with a younger member of the family who isn’t as vulnerable.
“We’re also asking for the shops who’re dealing with PayPoints to check why they’re paying so much in – an elderly person paying £4,00 a day into a PayPoint needs to be questioned.”
If you think you may have been a victim of this scam, or know somebody who you believe to have been affected, contact PC Tracey Brewster or PC Michelle Neighbour at Scarborough Police on 0845 6060247.
A Whitby woman was also arrested last week by police investigating a number of other fraud offences in the area.
The woman is currently on police bail and detective constable Mark Hattersley, of Whitby CID, said: “We are investigating a number of incidents where persons have deliberately targeted the vulnerable and elderly by initially befriending them and gaining their trust, before deceiving the victims and obtaining significant amounts of cash, often the victim’s savings.
“I would urge that any other victims who have been deceived in this way come forward and report the matter to Whitby Police by calling 0845 6060247.”