HOAX police officers are conning elderly people in Horsham area out of thousands of pounds in a scam.
The victims have handed over £111,524 since the first of the cons kicked off in January.
But more than £1.5 million destined for the crooks has been stopped, either because alert residents refused to hand over details or police intervened.
Now detectives are warning older people in the area to be on their guard.
The bogus officers scare people into believing criminals have got hold of their personal details and urge them to take money from their banks and transfer it or hand it over for safe keeping.
The scam is played out over the telephone, and it is in fact the people who say they are police who are the actual criminals, keeping the line open while next pretending to be bank officials or helpline advisers who then suggest the victim should move their money.
Police say because the fraudsters control the recommended account or send couriers to collect the cash, it is easy for victims to become confused and be duped into parting with their savings.
On Monday 21 elderly people living in Horsham were called on between 9.30am and 6.45pm by someone claiming to be Detective Constable Rodgers or Latchman from Holborn police station. On previous occasions they have stated they were from Hammersmith police station.
One particular reason given by the hoax officers is that a family member has been arrested.
All of the 21 attempted crimes this week were in Horsham, Southwater, Warnham and Rusper.
There have been 253 calls to police about attempted scams, with 17 cases in which people were persuaded to part with money.
Inspector Clare McKnight said: “Even where the criminals have been unsuccessful they cause immense harm to people who by virtue of their age are often particularly vulnerable.
“They become confused and fearful, sometimes even losing the confidence to go out, and so end up housebound..
“This is the less obvious impact of this type of crime, and we would welcome any information that may help us to track down and arrest those responsible.
“In the meantime, people should be on their guard against such calls and never disclose details of bank accounts. If suspicious, they should not use their telephone for at least 10 minutes after hanging up but if possible use a mobile phone or a neighbour’s phone to speak to Sussex Police.
“They should dial 999 if a suspect call has just been received, but alternatively can email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 101 with information, quoting Operation Edisto.”
Among the incidents, acting on one of the bogus officer’s instructions, an 83-year-old woman withdrew £6,400 from her bank but thwarted the would-be thieves by placing it in a friend’s safe.
And an 88-year-old woman was “advised” by a bogus helpline operator to transfer £5,000 from an ISA into another account and to take out £7,000 in Euros. Fortunately, genuine bank officials became suspicious and intervened.
A third woman, who had already lost £14,000 to scammers earlier this year, was contacted in a bid to extract further cash, but put the phone down on the fraudster who had called her.