FRAUDSTERS sell so-called 'suckers' lists' of the vulnerable and elderly on the dark web, an expert has warned.

Professor Keith Brown, a Bournemouth University academic, says criminals collect "profiles" of residents living in areas where residents may be older and more affluent, such as Christchurch and Purbeck.

These are then traded and sold online.

He spoke out after an elderly woman from Purbeck lost £38,000 to a conman who told her he was calling from NatWest's fraud team.

The scammer was able to verify some of the victim's bank details, which led her to believe him. As a result, she gave him her PIN number.

Prof Brown said such scams can be "devastating", but are not uncommon as criminals will go to great lengths to find information on their victims.

"People often underestimate this," he said.

"Criminals can make a large amount of money, and they're using sophisticated means to find information about people.

"They'll look online for information and they'll go through rubbish. They'll be mining and collecting information.

"This isn't random. It's targeted.

"Criminals will collect data in what they refer to as 'suckers' lists' - although I'd always refer to them as victims' lists - and those will be sold on the dark web."

Lists feature a wealth of data about an individual.

"You can buy lists of elderly people in the Purbeck area, for example," Prof Brown said.

"There'll be a profile of everything the criminal can find out - names, ages, addresses and more.

"These lists are being traded online."

Prof Brown said the cost of a fraud, particularly against the elderly, has an impact on the whole community.

"If elderly people are defrauded of their life savings, society may have to pick up the bill for their future care," he said.

"It should be imperative for society to try and shop this. There's a direct cost to us all if older people are scammed.

"As well as that, victims often end up in care early as they've lost their confidence."

A spokesperson from NatWest said he was unable to provide further information on how fraudster who targeted the Purbeck woman was able to take so much money from her account.

However, he said all NatWest staff undergo training on how to identify and support more vulnerable customers.

"We take our responsibilities to preventing scams very seriously - 20,000 staff have completed the National Trading Standards Friends Against Scams training," he said.