FIVE men have been arrested following a phone scam affecting victims in the Cleveland area.

The five men, aged between 22 and 44, were arrested in the London area after allegedly purporting to be police officers over the phone and attempting to entice victims to withdraw large sums of cash as they were “under threat.”

More than 60 people had been contacted in November 2020, with 12 falling victim to the scam.

The majority of reported victims were in Cleveland, with some in North Yorkshire.

Cleveland Police said one woman had withdrawn £4,000 to give to the men, though did not hand it over.

The arrests were made following an investigation by Cleveland Police and the North East Regional Specialist Operations Unit (NERSOU).

Detective Inspector Jim Forster from Cleveland’s Economic Crime Unit and Cyber Crime Team said: “The arrests are a great example of NERSOU and Cleveland officers working together to tackle individuals suspected of targeting people for money.

“Thankfully, no money was handed over in November last year but this is often not the case. It is easy to fall victim to potential scams over the phone, and particularly if people are reportedly impersonating to be a police officer.

“We want to take this opportunity to make it clear that officers or banks would never ask you to withdraw or transfer cash or give money to a courier to pick up.

“If you receive an unexpected call where someone asks for your bank details or asks you to withdraw cash, then put the phone down. Tell a trusted family member or friend and report the incident to police.

“Impersonating a police officer is a crime and so is attempting to scam people out of money and I would like to thank the officers involved in this investigation for their hard work so far.”

Cleveland Police continues to work with police forces and financial institutions nationally, as well as the National Crime Agency and NERSOU.