POLICE warned residents, especially the elderly, to stay alert following a sharp increase in courier frauds in South Oxfordshire.

Victims across the area have been conned out of thousands of pounds with the force responding to more than 80 incidents in seven months.

After a spate of scams across South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse, PCSO Susannah Morley detailed what the tell-tale signs were so that people can protect themselves.

What is courier fraud? All the information you need in the scam + a printable poster for your neighbours 

The popular con sees a gang member, known as the ‘victim communicator’, make a phone call to a resident posing as a police officer or bank worker.

The crook then persuades their target to cooperate with a made-up operation supposedly designed to gather evidence or identify criminals.

Read more about the scam here. 

Typically, the scam takes place over a number of telephone calls in which the person is persuaded to withdraw cash and hand it to a fake courier via an arranged appointment.

PCSO Morley urged residents should look out for 'calls where someone claims to be from your bank or the police'.

She went on: "They may say that a fraudulent payment has been spotted on your card, or that someone has been arrested using your details and cards.

"They may then ask you to ring back using the phone number on the back of your card – this is to make you believe that the call is genuine.

"But the fraudster keeps the line open at their end, so you are actually connected straight back to them or an accomplice.

Herald Series:

"They will ask for your PIN, or sometimes ask you to key it into your phone’s handset.

"The scammer then sends a courier or taxi to pick up your card from your home."

Read more: innocent taxi drivers helping con-artists pull of scams

In more recent cases in Oxfordshire, victims have been targeted by fraudsters claiming to be officers from Thames Valley Police in order to lure people into their trust.

One Drayton resident discovered last month that she had been conned out of thousands of pounds after calling 101 to check a scammer's elaborate plan was still going ahead.

The woman, who did not want to be named, received a call out of the blue from a ‘sergeant’ claiming to be from the force.

When questioned, he gave his ‘badge number’ and proceeded to make up an elaborate lie to trick the victim into handing over her life savings.

ALSO READ: How to make a small fortune from Pokemon cards

He claimed that police officers had arrested a woman in Bicester who had been caught trying to use her ‘cloned card’ to buy something for £700.

The con artist then convinced her to participate in an elaborate scheme to ‘help’ the police, which involved the woman withdrawing £2,900 and giving it to a fake officer.

With many similar cons taking place across the county PCSO Morley pointed out that a bank will never send a courier to people’s homes to collect their bank cards.

She also added that police officers will never ask for residents’ PINs or call them to tell them they are a victim of a fraud.

The officer urged anyone who received such a call to end it immediately.

Contact Action Fraud online or call 0300 123 2040 or call the police on 101 for more information on the scam.