South Wales Police is reminding people that government officials, law enforcement agencies and banks will never contact them out of the blue and demand payment, the withdrawal or transfer of money, the purchase of iTunes or other gift cards, or threaten arrest over unpaid fines or tax.

Police have received a large number of reports in recent days of fraudsters impersonating police officers, HMRC officials and businesses, and are warning people to remain vigilant.

Cold-hearted fraudsters are contacting people in an attempt to exploit them into handing over cash, transferring bank funds or providing them with gift voucher codes.

In the last week, areas including Cardiff, Barry, Bridgend and Pontypridd have been particularly affected – although investigators are warning everyone, wherever they live, to be vigilant.

The scams may take a variety of forms, but one that has been particularly prevalent in recent days is a phone call purportedly from HMRC in which the victim is told they will be arrested for unpaid taxes unless they transfer money to a given account, or purchase gift vouchers which they claim can double as “Government vouchers”.

In other cases, fraudsters claiming to be police officers are contacting people and claiming the victim’s bank is being investigated for money laundering. The victim is asked to withdraw supposedly counterfeit cash, and a bogus police courier then arranges to collect the notes and promises a refund – which never arrives.

Some examples reported to South Wales Police in the last seven days include:

A man, 43, from Swansea, was told he owed almost £1,000 to HMRC and that police officers in London had a warrant for his arrest.

An 82-year-old man from Swansea was told he owed £4,000 to HMRC in unpaid taxes dating back almost a decade.

A man in his 70s from Margam was left a voicemail purportedly from HMRC, telling him a lawsuit had been filed against him.

Assistant Chief Constable Jon Drake said: “Over the past few weeks there have been a number of cases where fraudsters have contacted often elderly people across South Wales.

“These calls are distressing to those who are targeted, whether they lose money or not, and we are working with partners across the UK to stamp this out and bring these despicable offenders to justice.

“We'd urge everyone to remember that the police, banks or HMRC would never contact you and ask for money in these circumstances – these are scams.

“These fraudsters are manipulative, calculating and operate extremely professionally, and it is understandable that victims may believe these calls to be genuine.

“However, we'd urge everyone to remember the above advice – and to report instances where these attempts have failed, too, as this will help the investigation into those perpetrating these scams.

“Please also pass this message on to parents, grandparents, other loved ones, friends and neighbours, so we can raise awareness of these appalling offences and the cruel people carrying them out."