POLICE and local banks stopped almost £1million getting into the hands of fraudsters targeting elderly people in Dorset.

The banking protocol scheme sees bank staff trained to spot when someone is about to fall victim to a scam and aims to prevent them from withdrawing cash or transferring money to a fraudster.

Police are then alerted and officers in Dorset have revealed they received 168 alerts in the year to August 2019.

The average age of those targeted was 72.

Scams involving rogue traders were stopped in their tracks as were phone calls requesting the intended victim to go to a bank and transfer or withdraw cash.

Officers revealed there were also so-called romance scams where contact is made, typically via an online dating site, and trust is built up before the offender elicits sums of cash from the victim.

A total of 37 transactions were found to be genuine but 131 required further investigation.

As a result total losses of £979,912 were prevented. In August 2019 alone there were 17 alerts relating to 11 suspected scams with £51,000 prevented from being handed over.

Inspector Phil Swanton, of Dorset Police, said: “We recognise the impact these offences can have on victims and it is encouraging that through this scheme we have been able to prevent a significant amount of money being handed over to fraudsters.

“We continue to work to prevent vulnerable people from becoming victims of fraud and urge anyone who believes they have been targeted by a scam or has concerns for a relative to contact police.

“I would remind members of the public that banks will never send someone to collect your bank cards from your address, ask you to go to the bank and withdraw cash or ask for your PIN over the phone. They will also never call and ask you to transfer money from one account to another.

“If someone calls claiming to be from your bank and you have doubts over their validity, we advise that you ask for their name, hang up and then call your bank directly.”

For more crime prevention advice go to dorset.police.uk/help-advice-crime-prevention/scams-fraud-cyber/