A gang of fraudsters exposed by MailOnline after they fleeced thousands of elderly British tourists in Tenerife credit card scams, has been smashed by police.
We unmasked the ruthless tactics of smooth-talking conmen who used aggressive sales tactics to target vulnerable pensioners by cloning their cards or stealing their bank details once they got them inside souvenir shops with fake claims of cut-price iPad and laptops during an investigation in April.
The ruses we uncovered with the help of a former Lancashire Police detective showed how the unscrupulous scammers would also steal PIN numbers or go on to charge a higher fee than agreed using bogus bank debit forms.
Widow Bridget Manning, one of the scores of British victims, was offered a ‘top of the range’ tablet for £150 but found her two bank accounts had been emptied of £2,128 after she returned home to Warwickshire.
Today it emerged 21 suspects had been arrested in a huge operation involving more than 100 police and customs officers in the south of Tenerife.
MailOnline witnessed gangs of suspected fraudsters targeting older Britons while ignoring younger tourists. Pictured is a suspected scammer (right) approaching a couple in Tenerife
MailOnline found Scammers use high-pressure tactics in Tenerife to fleece thousands of elderly British holidaymakers in credit card scams. Pictured is one of the suspected conmen
More than £1million in cash has been seized during raids on homes, shops and offices in the tourist hotspots of Arona and neighbouring Adeje along with jewellery and nearly a dozen high-end vehicles like Mercedes and Porsches thought to have been bought with the gang’s ill-gotten gains.
Local reports say 42 properties have been seized and more than 300 bank accounts frozen as part of the operation which involved an elite police unit specialising in fighting organised crime as well as money laundering experts.
Bridget Manning was told that for just £150 she could get her hands on a ‘top-of-the-range’ tablet computer. Instead she was fleeced for £2,128
Detectives have yet to make any official comment on their operation, codenamed Operation Delhi.
But it is understood a local investigating judge placed in charge of an ongoing criminal probe into the gang’s illicit activities has sent the five alleged ringleaders to prison.
Mail Online understands the suspects held include a former Spanish police officer alleged to have acted as a chauffeur tasked with following tourists targeted as part of the scam as they finished their holiday to the airport to make sure the risk of them reporting the fraud while still in situ was minimised.
We revealed in our expose how pensioners were often targeted on the last day of their holiday and typically only found out they had been conned weeks later when they checked their bank or credit card statements.
Police chiefs are expected to appeal for other victims to come forward when they go public with their operation.
Many are British because the souvenir shop owners, described locally as Indian nationals said to have been brought to book with the help of outraged members of the expat Hindu community, felt more comfortable speaking in English.
The suspected ringleaders allegedly controlled the money laundering side of the criminal operation, with sellers who cloned cards or stole bank details through data phones they moved between shops occupying a second tier and ‘third-tier’ touts taking on the responsibility of reeling in elderly victims and making sure they left Tenerife without reporting them to police.
Retired police superintendent Ged Varley, 76, volunteered to pose as a potential victim earlier this year so Mail Online could secretly film suspected conmen putting him under ‘intense pressure’ to hand over his credit card details.
Retired police superintendent Ged Varley, 76, volunteered to pose as a potential victim so MailOnline could carry out its investigation into the scam
The former Lancashire Police detective from Rochdale was approached as he and his wife Sue, 79, rode their mobility scooter on Tenerife’s Playa de las Americas
The retired police officer posed as a potential victim so MailOnline could secretly film suspected conmen putting him under ‘intense pressure’ to hand over his credit card details.
Ged said the suspected conmen were relentless. Speaking of them, he added: ‘They might as well have sat me down and put a spotlight in my face. It was an onslaught. They were so determined.’ He is pictured, centre, with his wife, left, while being secretly filmed talking to one of the suspected scammers, right
The former Lancashire Police detective from Rochdale was approached as he and his wife Sue, 79, rode their mobility scooter on Tenerife’s Playa de las Americas which is part of the municipality of Arona.
He told how he was put under ‘intense pressure’ to hand over his credit card details after being enticed into one of the gang’s shops and offered a tablet and a keyboard for EUROS 30.
Mr Varley managed to leave after a ‘hard-sell’ lasting more than an hour during which he deliberately tapped in the wrong PIN code on their credit card machine three times because he knew they were trying to scam him.
He said at the time as he urged officials in Tenerife to investigate: ‘It’s a terrible way to rob people.
Retired travel agent and former church pastor Allan Smith (pictured), 80, lost nearly £4,000 in January after being lured into a shop with the offer of a cheap tablet
‘Elderly people who may not be that savvy about things like online fraud and how it works.
”I can’t believe that the Tenerife officials have allowed this to carry on. It’s just ridiculous and cruel on people who have spent their entire lives working for a living and just want to enjoy a bit of sunshine, their savings and retirement.’
Victims Mail Online spoke to included retired travel agent and former church pastor Allan Smith, 80, who lost nearly £4,000 in January after being lured into a shop with the offer of a cheap tablet.
He was left ‘bewildered and confused’ after nearly two hours of sales talk and he was only allowed to leave after they persuaded him to sign a piece of paper.
The document turned out to be a banker’s draft to give the shop £2,700 and they also scammed his debit card for a further £1,200.
Mr Smith was even persuaded to withdraw 400 Euros from an ATM with one of the men standing over his shoulder.
Retired health and safety executive Alan Bywater, 77, from Smethwick, West Midlands, lost POUNDS 3,640 after agreeing to buy a tablet for EUROS 115 and being conned into signing a direct debit note.
He said at the time: ‘They say there’s no fool like an old fool and this is the case here. ‘I was completely taken in after they kept me in the shop for two hours. By the time I got out I didn’t know if I was coming or going.
‘They kept asking for my credit card time after time. They offered me tea or a drink and were very polite. But they were buttering me up.
‘I agreed to buy a different tablet off the shelf which they said was HD and I could plug into my TV at home.
Pensioners are often targeted on the last day of their holiday and typically only find out they have been conned weeks later when they check their bank or credit card statements. Pictured is a view of Playa de Las Americas on the Island of Tenerife which is a hotspot for the con
The con typically works by offering Britons who are on the last day of their holiday a great deal on a laptop, iPad, phone or a similar device. But when it comes to payment via debit or credit card, the store owners distract the buyers while they either clone their card or charge a far higher fee than agreed. Pictured is The Travellers Rest in Playa de Las Americas
‘It was only when I was on the flight home that somebody said I should check that I hadn’t been scammed. When I got home, I realised the terrible thing they had done.
‘I do feel very stupid. I have been completely taken in. I just never saw it coming. They seemed so nice.
‘I would hate for anybody who is my age to have to suffer something like this. It could end up killing them.’
Another British victim Sue Pistrowski lost £2,500 after spotting an advert for a tablet inside a clothes shop in Costa Adeje.
She thought she was paying EUROS 100 for the device which would supposedly enable her and her husband to watch all sports free and cancel their Sky satellite TV package.
Mrs Pistrowski, 66, who works in the accounts department of a caravan sales company near Stratford upon Avon, was compensated under Britain’s credit card act, but her claim was nearly derailed by the shop providing faked paperwork stating she had bought an Apple iPad, iPhone and a video game station.
She believes the fraudsters tried to copy her husband’s signature as proof of them receiving goods after they took a copy of his passport.
Pictured: an electronic tablet and keyboard case that was sold to Ged Varley and his wife Sue former superintendent Ged Varley and his wife Sue came under pressure to buy a electronic tablet at Playa de Las Americas on the Island of Tenerife and hand over credit card details
A street seller and police car pictured at Playa de Las Americas on the Island of Tenerife as MailOnline investigates credit card fraud on the Spanish island of Tenerife
Thousands of British tourist visit Tenerife each year, with many taking time during their holiday to explore the island’s array of shop (pictured)
Eleven shops alleged to have been used for the scam have been shut down as part of the operation according to island newspaper El Dia.
The ongoing judicial investigation is being led by a female judge based at a court in Arona.
One well-placed source said: ‘It is likely to be a while before any of the suspects are formally charged because of the complexity of the investigation.
‘Almost all the victims live outside of Spain and the criminal probe involves a number of rogatory commissions.’