Police have warned Gravesend residents to be vigilant after an elderly couple were defrauded of thousands of pounds by a man pretending to be a police officer.

A few days after Christmas, the fraudsters persuaded the victims to drive to numerous banks and withdraw large amounts of money under the pretence they were assisting in a covert police operation, then used a courier to pick up the money.

Detectives from the Volume Fraud Team at Kent are now investigating the incident, and are urging other residents to be on guard against these type of scams.

Detective Sergeant Marc Cananur said that in nearly all cases, the fraudsters "can seem highly credible" and that it can be "extremely upsetting and confusing for victims" when they realise they've been targeted.

On Monday, December 30 2019, the victims, a couple in their 70s from the Riverview Park area, received a call from a man claiming to be a police officer who told them officers had noticed fraudulent activity on their credit card.

The fraudulent police officer said police had arrested two people in connection with this, then asked the couple to assist them with their enquiries into the alleged fraud.

The elderly couple were made to believe other couples had also been targeted, and were asked to provide police with their mobile numbers and then drive to numerous banks and cash machines.

Under the pretence that they were assisting with a covert operation, they withdrew thousands of pounds.

The couple were then told someone would visit their house to collect the money the following day.

A man described as Asian, in his early twenties, around 5ft 9ins tall and wearing a plain black tracksuit arrived in a black Citroen car, collected the money and left.

Three days later, the victims were asked to withdraw even more money and confirm when they would be home for it to be collected. No one ever arrived to collect the extra money and when the victims called Kent Police to follow it up, the scam was uncovered.

Detective Sergeant Cananur commented: "Courier fraud is the name given to incidents where fraudsters attempt to deceive victims into withdrawing sums of money with the intention of sending a courier to collect it from them.

"Variations on the scam involve people claiming to be from Trading Standards, a local bank or other organisations such as the police in a position of trust.

"Rest assured that we will never send a courier to your home to collect your bank card, money or other items and will never ask for cash, valuables, or your PIN. Banks won’t do this either and so it is very important that you report anything suspicious to Kent Police straight away."

He added that fraud offences often affect the most vulnerable in our community, but anyone can be a target so "look out for each other and make sure older relatives and neighbours are aware of the dangers."

To report incidents of courier fraud call Kent Police on 101 or Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. You can also report non-urgent crimes online at www.kent.police.uk