AN ELDERLY couple who were cheated out of their life savings posed as 91 fake people after being brainwashed by a gang of Indian fraudsters.
North Yorkshire Police said they were forced to raid the house of the couple in their mid-80s and threatened to arrest them after the couple used bogus names and addresses at dozens of Western Union outlets in the county.
Previously, over three years the North Yorkshire pair, whose names are being withheld, spent many hours on the phone to the gang before giving away £200,000.
They had been told they would receive a £650,000 bank rebate if they sent the fraudsters administration fees.
After the couple ran out of money, the fraudsters started posing as UK fraud reporting centre Action Fraud.
Det Insp Ian Wills said despite several meetings with the couple, they did not believe officers’ explanations that it was not Action Fraud, but criminals who were spending hours on the phone to them every day.
He said: "She actually looked forward to receiving the phone calls, finding them quite exciting as the fraudsters were making up stories of investigations.”
Det Insp Wills said the couple refused to believe they were victims and officers changed their phone number four times, only for the couple to ring the gang with their new number.
He said: "She believed them rather than the real police - it was a remarkable piece of brainwashing.
“She became almost beholden to them to follow their instructions and do their bidding.”
Police organised a GP and social services to assess the pair's ability to manage their finances, but after being found to be “highly intelligent and extremely fit”, the gang sent the couple £10,000 and instructed them to send that money to India.
Over eight weeks, the couple sent £40,000 to the gang - which had been conned from other British victims - in 91 instalments of up to £500, using different fake names and addresses.
The speed of the couple's actions shocked officers and they warned the couple they would be arrested if they continued money laundering.
Det Insp Wills said: "Whatever happened we had to stop this, we had to put a warning shot across their bow.
“If I didn't know their history, they would have been arrested straight away."
The couple's son said while his parents had acted strangely by waiting for phone calls, cancelling holidays, selling their house and later their car, they had not mentioned financial concerns.
He said: “If there had been an inkling about something going on like this then we would have tried to talk to them, but I don’t know if it would have done any good because they believe in this fraudulent fraud squad more than anybody else.”
Police and the couple’s family believe the gang may still be in contact with the couple.