CONMEN tricked an elderly woman into handing over her debit card and PIN then went on a £1,000 spending spree.
The 81-year-old is the latest victim of "courier fraud" in which elderly or vulnerable people across the country have been tricked by someone pretending to be from their bank.
The woman, who has asked not to be named, received a call from a man claiming to be from Natwest at midday last Monday.
He asked for her pin number to supposedly verify her identity before telling her she needed to be issued with a new card to protect her from fraud.
The man said a courier would come to her home in Croydon to collect her card and a bank statement.
His accomplice arrived at the house an hour later. His victim handed over her belongings and was told her new card would be with her by 4pm.
Over the next three hours her debit card was used to spend £300 at Argos and £600 in Sainsbury's, both in Purley Way, Croydon.
A sum of £250 was then withdrawn from a cash machine before a fourth attempt to use the card was blocked by the bank who had been alerted by the suspicious transactions.
The woman, who is recovering from cancer, said the incident had left her "in bits".
"I can't bring myself to leave the house or answer the door," she explained.
"It's made me a nervous wreck. I want to cry now. I've always thought of myself as an independent person, but since this has happened my daughter has had to do everything for me
"I really thought I was recovering from the chemotherapy but this has really set me back. I didn't realise people could trick you over the phone and then come to your house."
The man on the phone, who called himself Paul, had sounded "so convincing" as he tricked the woman into identifying her bank and handing over her PIN.
He rang three or four times after the first phone call and was on the line when the courier, called John, arrived. He even asked her to pass "John" the handset so he could verify who he was.
"I only twigged something was wrong when, ten minutes after he left, I got a phone call from Paul saying he had my card," said the woman.
"He then told me not to phone anyone and that the new one would be delivered by 4pm."
The fraud team have since told the woman that the full amount has been returned to her account.
The police took a report the following day. They said men fitting the same description had recently conned a 91-year-old woman in Limpsfield Road, Sanderstead, using a similar method.
"I'm not normally one to use this sort of language, but I pray to God they catch the bastards," this week's victim said.
Police: 'The bank will never send someone to collect your card. The best thing to do is hang up'
THE police officer investigating the case has given advice to those at risk of falling victim to "courier scams".
The Met were unable to confirm exact figures but said there had been several similar incidents in Croydon in recent weeks.
Detective Sergeant Kenny Windsor said: "Courier fraudsters have been targeting victims all over the country and it is important that people tell their friends and family - particularly elderly relatives - that they should never give their bank card to anyone and that they should never reveal their PIN number - no matter who the person claims to be.
"The advice is simple - your bank, police or any other authority will never send somebody to collect your bank card, so if you receive a call like this - however convincing - the best thing to do is to hang up.
"If you are worried about your card at all, then cut it up into small pieces and request a new one be dispatched - it does not need to be collected. Similarly your bank will never ask for your PIN number."
The suspect that collected Ms Lewis's card is described as a black man with short black hair. He was wearing a high-visibility jacket. No arrests have been made.
Information and advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of courier and other types of fraud can be found on the Action Fraud website, www.actionfraud.police.uk.