A major initiative aimed at warning elderly Lancashire residents about the dangers of fraud has been launched.

In response to a rise in courier and romance frauds, the police has acquired 30,000 ‘Don’t Fall For A Scam’ booklets from the charity Think Jessica to be distributed across the county.

The pamphlets will be handed to vulnerable elderly members of the community when they are having their prescriptions delivered to their home addresses or are collecting their prescriptions from pharmacies across Lancashire.

Funded by the Lancashire Partnership Against Crime (LANPAC) and the Proceeds of Crime Fund, the booklets, will provide key information and advice on how to avoid scams.

Det Insp Mark Riley, of the police’s economic crime unit, said: “In recent years we’ve seen a marked increase in courier and romance fraud.

“Having spoken with the victims of these crimes, their feedback has shown had they been more aware of how these scams worked, they would not have fallen victim in the first place.

"The booklet is produced in an easy to read format and this allows potential victims to understand the different types of fraud and what the warning signs are.

“We’ve entered into a partnership with Lancashire NHS and there are 360 pharmacies across Lancashire, 51 of which only provide an online facility.

"Lancashire police cadets will distribute the booklets to the 309 of the pharmacies and over 65s will receive the pamphlets when they are given their prescription.

“We hope this will stop the offenders who ruthlessly target vulnerable individuals for financial gain, often defrauding them of tens of thousands of pounds.”

Think Jessica is a registered charity aimed at making people aware of the danger, and financial implications, of scams which target people in their own homes.

Some offences include courier fraud, where people are phoned by someone claiming to be from the police or bank. They may claim money has been removed from the victim’s account, or ‘police’ may need money for evidence.

The victim is asked to withdraw large sums to hand over to a ‘courier’ who attends their address, taking the money. The victim is told they will be reimbursed, but the money is never seen again.

Romance scams involve people being duped into sending money to criminals who go to great lengths to gain their trust and convince them that they are in a genuine relationship. They start asking for cash, leaving some victims penniless.

The issue is a nationwide problem whereby 53 per cent of over 65s have been the victim of a scam and only five per cent of these are reported to the police.

David Smith, OBE, The Chairman of LANPAC said: “We are keen to support the constabulary's work in combating these increasingly sophisticated crimes, often perpetrated by criminals living outside the UK.

“Preventing cyber crime and crimes against the elderly are two of LANPAC's priorities.

“This initiative provides an innovative method of distributing a wealth of practical information for elderly people and their families, in order to stop them becoming victims of ruthless scammers.”