Six arrests in crackdown on fraudsters posing as police officers

·3-min read

Police in Northern Ireland have foiled two separate attempts by fraudsters to con cash from older people.

Six arrests were made in Belfast on Friday after police intercepted scammers in the south and west of the city after money had been taken.

There is an ongoing police operation against the scammers, who impersonate police officers to dupe pensioners into handing over money and valuables for supposed safe keeping.

Detective Superintendent Zoe McKee speaking to media at PSNI headquarters in east Belfast (Rebecca Black/PA)
Detective Superintendent Zoe McKee speaking to media at PSNI headquarters in east Belfast (Rebecca Black/PA)

Detective Superintendent Zoe McKee said the scam has been a priority for the PSNI for more than a year.

“The first of the three arrests were made in the Ormeau Road area of south Belfast late yesterday (Friday) afternoon, shortly after 4pm,” she told media during a press conference at police headquarters on Saturday.

“Police had received a report of a 65-year-old woman who was on her way to a location in the area to hand over £40,000 of cash to individuals she was duped into believing were police officers.

“Following a proactive operation, officers arrested three men, aged 25, 26 and 32 years, on suspicion of fraud by false representation, and they all remain in custody.

“A parallel police operation in the west of the city resulted in a further three arrests in Devonshire Street. A woman aged 30 years old, and two men aged 23 and 28 years, were arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation and they too remain in custody.”

Fraud in Northern ireland
Northern Ireland Older People’s Commissioner Eddie Lynch (right) and Chief Inspector Ian Wilson at a press conference where they warned about a rise in fraudsters posing as police officers targeting older people (PSNI/PA)

Earlier this week, the Police Service of Northern Ireland highlighted its campaign working with Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland, Eddie Lynch, against scammers posing as police officers.

Supt McKee added: “These predatory criminals operate in a clandestine world where they seek to exploit and gain from members from of our older community. Those who have worked hard, saved hard and contributed to society, only to be exploited of money and their personal possessions.

“These fraudsters can be extremely convincing and use a variety of scenarios to make their victims believe they are genuine. Their ability to manipulate can only be described as truly disgusting.

“The impact of this type of crime can have far-reaching effects but we can all do something together to protect and prevent this from happening to our mums, our dads, our grans and our grandads, any information you may have about this type of fraud is really important to us.

“If anyone you know has received a call from someone claiming to be a police officer asking for their money, their bank details or asking them to leave cash outside their home, please tell us.

“Your police service will never ever ring you asking for such details, if this does happen to you or someone you know, call immediately on 101.”

Last week the police said more than 300 older people in Northern Ireland have been targeted this year.

There have been 36 occasions so far where people have handed over money or valuables, with a total of £135,000 in cash and jewellery worth £15,000 lost.

On Tuesday police said they had then made 10 arrests and charged seven people in relation to the scam.

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Chief Constable Simon Byrne welcomed the latest progress, tweeting: “Great team work here leads to a breakthrough helping us protect vulnerable elderly victims.”

SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley slammed those behind the scams targeting older people.

She said there are questions around the clothing used by scammers impersonating police officers, and urged the public to be alert.

“How manipulative and utterly disgusting. Impersonating police officers and targeting elderly people to hand over money. Well done @PoliceServiceNI,” she said.