A PENARTH pensioner has issued a warning to other vulnerable people after crooks stole £4,600 of her savings.

Penarth resident Margaret Andrews, 84, was targeted by fraudsters impersonating police officers, and handed her life-savings to Kye Harwood.

“I was contacted by a man claiming to be from the fraud squad in Hammersmith, London,” Miss Andrews said. “He gave me a badge number which I verified with the police. He told me someone was using my card, that they were investigating, but that it was a secret - he said, ‘if you tell anyone we’ll put you in prison’.”

Miss Andrews and two other elderly people in Penarth and Cardiff were swindled out of more than £22,000.

The victims were told to withdraw their savings and hand it over to 19-year-old Harwood, from London, for “safe-keeping”.

“The voice on the phone asked me how much I had in life savings, and said ‘what I want you to do is go to the bank - we’ll issue with a new card later. Go to the bank and withdraw your savings, and say it’s for a new car’.”

Miss Andrews soon told carer Paula Harris. “Paula asked me: ‘how gullible can I be?’,” said Miss Andrews.

“We told the police a courier in a police uniform came in a taxi and took the money from me. Amazingly, while the police were in my house they caught the guy elsewhere with a large amount of cash. We thought thank god - but it was someone else’s money. So I lost everything.”

Harwood later pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud by false representation, and was sentenced in July at Cardiff Crown Court to 24 months in a youth offenders’ institution.

“It’s nothing. It’s a terrible sentence,” said Miss Andrews.

Carer Paula Harris said: “Margaret doesn’t go in the bank often - she’s worked hard all her life for those savings. It was a buffer, if anything was to happen.”

Miss Andrews said: “All I’d say to people in the same situation, wondering if they should trust these people calling up is: don’t. The police won’t ask you to draw money out. Take care of yourself and others. Just don’t be vulnerable.”

Detective Constable Amy Evans, officer in the case, said: “This is a sophisticated scam which is being used nationally. The fraudsters often tell their victims lies to relay to bank staff - such as they are going to buy a car or are going on holiday.

“Officers have been working with local banks and the local authority to raise awareness and to report any suspicious activity to police. The message is clear – the police will never contact you in this manner – we will never ask for money.

“I would urge those who care for or know of senior citizens in the wider community who don’t have such support to make them aware of this scam.”

To report any suspicious calls you can contact South Wales Police on 101 or Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.