ALMOST half a million pounds was lost to courier fraud scams in Somerset in a year, with pensioners said to be most vulnerable to the scam.

Courier fraud is a crime in which a victim is duped into handing over valuables to a courier, purporting to be acting on behalf of a police officer, bank manager or other official.

Data from Action Fraud said £28.7 million was lost to courier scammers last year - with 43 per cent of victims aged 80 and over.

Avon and Somerset Police said the crime is known to have taken place across the county, including in Taunton, Bridgwater, Langport, and Yeovil.

A police spokesperson said the forces fraud squad had dedicated extra resources to tackling the crime as part of a “national intensification operation.”

Detective Inspector Scott Chadwick, of Avon and Somerset Police’s Organised and Serious Crime Investigation Team, said: “Courier fraud is a cruel crime that often targets vulnerable and elderly people, and can result in psychological harm, as well as financial loss, to the victims. These are people who often rely on their landline phones to stay connected with their loved ones and the outside world. 

“The criminals behind courier fraud rely on people panicking when they receive a call to say that something on their account looks suspicious. We urge people not to act immediately, but to take five minutes out to think and talk to people you know and trust who will help to look at the situation. Question who you could be speaking to on the phone, however authentic they seem, and never be rushed into acting. 

“If you or a loved one or friend is being contacted by the police or the bank and asked to withdraw money, handover bank cards or make purchases, report it to police immediately by calling 999. 

“We’re also calling on taxi drivers and delivery people, who may unwittingly be asked to act as couriers to collect money or goods on behalf of the fraudsters, to be on the alert and report anything they think could be suspicious to us.”