More than £28.7 million was lost to courier fraud in the last year as scammers targeted pensioners, police have said.

Victims lost an average of £20,032 to the scams, where fraudsters pose as police officers or bank officials and trick householders into handing over money, valuables or bank cards to a courier.

City of London Police said on Tuesday that people in their 80s were the most likely to be targeted and accounted for 43% of all victims, according to data from Action Fraud.

Targets are told there is an issue with their account or a business is operating fraudulently, and their help is required as part of an investigation.

A total of £28,686,091 was lost to courier fraud between April 2023 and March 2024 – down slightly from the previous year.

One victim was scammed of £56,000 this month, police said.

The force said five arrests had been made in May following a combined police effort across England and Wales, which received more than 100 referrals in two weeks from 26 forces.

Some 63% of victims were female and 37% were male, with some 85% of victims aged between 60 and 90. The oldest victim was 94.

Detective Sergeant Victoria O’Keefe, from City of London Police, said: “This is a particularly nasty crime type often resulting in significant psychological harm and financial loss to victims, many of whom are living alone and suffering age-related illness.

“Led by the City of London Police, this operation was a joint effort by forces across England and Wales to intensify activity and jointly crack down on fraudsters who prey upon elderly people by cold calling landlines and posing as police officers and bank officials.

ATM closures figures
Official advice is that police or banks will never ask for a full password or PIN or ask you to transfer money out of your account (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“Over a two-week period, we worked with colleagues in the Metropolitan Police and teams across England and Wales to proactively arrest offenders and safeguard vulnerable victims.

“Many elderly people rely on their landline phone to stay connected to the outside world and, for peace of mind, we would recommend protecting loved ones from fraudulent calls by getting a call-blocking device fitted.

“If you hear that your friend or loved one is being contacted out of the blue by the police or the bank and asked to withdraw money, hand over bank cards or make purchases, report it to the police immediately.”

The force added it had offered victims devices which block unwanted scam and nuisance calls.

Official advice is that police or banks will never ask for a full password or PIN; never ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them or ask you to transfer money out of your account.

Reports of fraud should also be made to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040. In Scotland, reports of fraud can be made to Police Scotland on 101.