HEARTLESS fraudsters have incredibly robbed a Newbury church FOUR times.

Up to £3,000 has been taken from its bank account by conmen posing as officers from St. Mary’s in Shaw-cum-Donnington.

An alert bank assistant foiled a fifth attempt before even more money could be taken out.

Using fake names, the fraudsters set up standing orders in the church’s TSB account.

Three standing orders - each between £150 and £300 – were opened in the names of BT, Age UK, and West Berkshire Council.

Two were set up over the telephone, and the fraudster brazenly opened the third by tricking the staff with false details in a branch office.

TSB have reimbursed the church for two fraudulent standing orders, and BT for the third.

Money had been fraudulently withdrawn for several weeks before church officers spotted what was taking place.

TSB have “disappointed” the church by refusing to find out how the frauds got through their security checks.

Revd. Wood said: “We are just a bit annoyed that [the bank] won’t investigate. There are criminals out there who just keep trying.”

Alarmed by the ease and scale of the frauds, the rector, Revd. Marion Wood, has launched a community awareness project, which St. Mary’s is calling ‘Protect the ELVS’ – elderly, lonely and vulnerable – in its parish, and beyond.

Church and public meetings have already begun with scam-spotting experts providing crucial advice, along with offering Age UK brochures listing a wide range of scams, and how to spot them.

A TSB spokeswoman said that every reported fraud case was investigated and that “customers should be vigilant for fraud and scams, and never give away personal passwords.

“We are really sorry for the inconvenience to our customer, and we have compensated them under our Fraud Refund Guarantee, and given advice on how to protect themselves in future.”

Revd Wood added: “Several members of our church have been scammed in a similar way, so we’ve launched a special awareness project.

“We will also circulate leaflets with up-to-date information on the latest scams.

“We are there to ease the stress that comes when people’s lives have been invaded by ruthless criminals.”