A haul of high-spec electronic goods - valued at almost £100,000 - has been recovered from the home of a Fleetwood pensioner who was innocently caught up in an international scam.
Around 40 items, including a £1,200 drone, iPads, iPhones, Playstations, X-boxes and a hi-tech camera, were found still in their boxes after Fleetwood-based officers received a tip-off.
Police were astounded at the scale of the hoard, which they believe would have eventually been sent on to the criminals who had fraudulently ordered them.
They believe the scam originated in Nigeria, from where the criminals used fake identities to order the goods from the Internet.
Police became involved when the first known victim, a man in Romania, tried to sell a drone on a Romanian sellers’ site, similar to ebay, but then encountered a problem with getting his money, telling local police the payment was “fake”.
It turned out the forwarding address for the drone was a residential house in Fleetwood.
When Fleetwood police went to the address they found an Aladdin’s cave of smart electronic hardware.
Despite the suspicious scene which greeted them, officers quickly realised the householder had been duped by a “friend” he had made on Facebook.
PC Scott McClaren, of Fleetwood Police, said: “This is a highly unusual case and I have to say I have never come across anything like this before.
“But the simple message is this - be careful who you befriend on Facebook,
“This gentleman in Fleetwood had become friendly with a person on social media and came to trust them over time, but had no idea who this person really was, and there is the danger.”
Alarm bells should ring, he said, if a Facebook acquaintance suddenly asked for a favour via a bank account or if anything could be stored at the other person’s home.
In this case, it became clear that a sophisticated scam operator had managed to take advantage of a vulnerable pensioner, despite the odd situation of items being sent to his house over a period of five weeks.
PC McClaren added: “We are certain the whole operation was based in Nigeria.
“It became clear that these goods had been sent from people across Europe - Poland, Germany, Romania and other countries.
“We are not yet sure how the fraudulent payments were made, but we what we do know is that it was a scam involving some top range goods.
“We would also warn people to be careful when they try and buy items over the Internet.”
Officers involved in the operation, from Fleetwood’s Neighbourhood Policing team and the Immediate Response Team, are now attempting to return the goods to their original owners.
Police have been following up leads but admit the perpetrators may not be caught