A CALLOUS fraudster who conned an elderly woman out of £900 has been jailed for more than two years.

Albino Chaves duped a total of 12 victims into handing over their bank cards before withdrawing more than £11,000 in cash.

The 24-year-old acted as part of a group across Essex using the coronavirus pandemic as a cover.

Among the crimes, Chaves targeted an elderly lady in Wickford, and stole £900 in cash.

On March 6 this year, the victim received a call from a man claiming to be from her bank.

He said he had her new debit card and would be able to get it to her by that afternoon.

Although she believed the call to be “odd”, she allowed it to continue.

As the victim was still talking on the phone, she answered the door to Chaves and placed her bank card on a table while she continued speaking.

The man on the phone then asked the victim to pass the phone to Chaves, who said: “Yes. Yes sir,” before handing the phone back to the woman.

The caller then told her he would need to send her a new PIN with her new card.

But when she said she would like to keep her old one, the caller asked what it was so he could make it the same.

After Chaves left, the victim noticed her card was no longer on the table.

Later, the victim received a genuine call from her bank warning her that three cash withdrawals had been made from her account, totalling £900.

In a victim impact statement to the court, the victim said: “At the time when I found out that money had been taken from my account, I was very shocked and very angry that it had happened.

“My thoughts then turned to disappointment in him as a person that he had done this and I was thinking ‘how does he do this to me, because I haven’t done anything to him.’

“This crime has made me much less trusting of people than I was and that upsets me, because this isn’t me. For a while this incident would pop into my mind and I would always feel disbelief that it had happened to me.”

Throughout the spree, the fraudsters selected vulnerable victims, several aged in their 90s and one suffering with dementia.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard there was a “depressing familiarity” to the nature of the fraud carried out by Chaves and his fellow scammers.

The fraudsters often quoted the coronavirus pandemic, telling victims that new bank cards would be delivered by hand due to “postal difficulties.”

One 92-year-old, from Colchester, who had lived alone for 40 years, received a phone call from a man purporting to be the manager of Barclays.

He said that, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the bank was “going round to swap bank cards with their customers.”

Chaves then arrived at her front door while the scammer was still on the line.

He was holding a white envelope in his hand and explained it contained her new bank card.

When the victim ventured into her living room to retrieve her old card, Chaves followed her and snatched the card from her hand before fleeing.

When she attempted to call 999, the fraudulent caller was still on the line and pretended to be a call handler.

She was persuaded to give her pin number on the basis this would be needed to cancel her card.

By the time she was able to reach someone at the genuine bank, the scammers had withdrawn £2,000.

In one statement, an elderly victim from Frinton said: “When he snatched the card from me, I tried to run after him, but saw all the other men in the car. I am just concerned they will come back one day and attack me.”

Chaves, of Bentry Road, Dagenham, admitted 12 charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, all carried out between February and April.

Three of the offences were committed after Chaves’ initial arrest, while he was on police bail. He was jailed for two years and four months.

Christopher Martin, mitigating, said Chaves had never been in trouble with the law before and had acted as a “foot soldier” to a more sophisticated operation.