PHONE fraudsters have targeted people in Essex with more than 20 people alerting police to their scam in less than 24 hours.

The tricksters mainly targeted residents in the south of the county, with 19 of the calls being made to homes in Canvey, Rayleigh, Rochford and Benfleet.

Other calls were made to addresses in Steeple Bumpstead and Dedham, both near the Suffolk border.

Fortunately, 20 of the intended victims quickly realised they were the targets in a long-running scam but a man at Dedham was tricked into handing over credit and bank cards.

About £2,500 was withdrawn from a local cash machine before the cards were stopped.

The latest spate of calls started on Monday evening, with a call to the victim at Dedham and continued through until Tuesday afternoon.

In all cases the caller claimed to be either a detective from either the Metropolitan Police or Essex Police.

Similar false names were used by the callers but their stories varied from claims that their victims’ bank cards had been cloned to claims that suspects had been arrested in possession of stolen bank cards.

DCI Paul Maleary said: "These criminals are having a significant impact on some of the most vulnerable members of our society and sadly no individual is immune from this type of fraud.

"These thieves keep varying their stories and trying different tricks to encourage people to hand over bank details or large sums of cash.

“We are continuing to liaise with community groups and organisations to spread the word to elderly or other vulnerable people who are usually the targets for these thieves."

He added: "We also urge all relatives and friends of elderly people to make sure that they are extremely wary of any callers claiming to be police officers or bank officials who want bank cards, PIN number or large sums of cash which they claim needs to be forensically examined.

"All their claims are absolute rubbish because the police and banks would never ask for details over the phone then send a courier to collect cards or cash.”