Sussex Police has smashed a ruthless gang who preyed on elderly and vulnerable people in their own homes across the South East, defrauding them of more than £250,000.
The victims were carefully selected and targeted on the basis of their vulnerability. Typically they were elderly householders who lived alone. A man would call at the door claiming that there was a problem with their drains that was affecting adjacent properties.
A while later the victim would get a call from someone claiming to be from a drainage company. He would describe the problem as serious and requiring urgent action. Expensive equipment would be needed to do the necessary work and the hire of this equipment required a substantial but returnable deposit.
He would then ask the victim for a large sum of money on the promise that the work would start very shortly. If the victim did not agree immediately, he would be bombarded with calls. The victims were persuaded by a combination of bullying persistence and tales of the hardship caused to their neighbours. So, it was not just their insecurity but also their good nature that was cynically exploited. Once the first payment had been made and the vulnerability of the victim confirmed, the conman would continue to prey on the victim for further payments that would continue until either they refused to pay more or their funds were exhausted. In some cases the victims lost their life savings.
13 people were sentenced at Hove Crown Court, five of them to a total of 22 years imprisonment.
Detective Inspector Mick Richards commented; “This case serves as a twofold reminder. First it sends a message to criminals … that we will always pursue reports of this kind to seek justice for the victims.
“And second, it reminds all residents, especially the elderly or those living alone, and their relatives, not to be taken in or intimidated by cold call approaches like this. Never agree to anything on the spot, and always look into all available information about anyone who contacts you in this way. Seek advice from neighbours, relatives, and the police if necessary.”
Read the full report.