Counter-terrorism police investigating a "large scale" alleged fraud linked to extremists travelling to Syria have arrested seven people.
Six men and one woman have been arrested after raids on seven addresses in London and Luton as part of a probe into allegations that vulnerable and elderly victims are 'cold-called' by someone impersonating a police officer and scammed out of money.
The men, all in their 20s and 30s, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering and a 32-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of money laundering.
A 46-year-old woman was also arrested during a property search in north London on suspicion of a separate offence under the Child Abduction Act in relation to a young girl travelling to Turkey whose whereabouts remain unknown.
She has been bailed until June alongside two women, aged 20 and 21, who were previously arrested in relation to this inquiry.
Officers are investigating a large-scale fraud linked to UK extremists travelling to Syria.
The arrests today form part of an ongoing fraud investigation, whereby unsuspecting vulnerable and elderly victims are 'cold called' on their home phone by a suspect impersonating a police officer.
Members of the public are strongly advised, if you receive a call like this about your bank account from someone claiming to be a police officer, hang up the phone, wait at least five minutes to make sure the phone line has cleared, or use another phone line, before ringing the phone number on your bank card.
18,200 people died of the cold last year - a historical low. Energy and elderly campaigners say this figure is far too high.Read the full story ›
A pensioner said he worries about the cost of heating his home because he "never knows which tariff" he will be on, Good Morning Britain has heard.
Owen Ellis, who lives in East London and suffers from respiratory problems, can only afford to heat his home for an hour every day and said his bills were "going up all the time".
The government has made "a very clear commitment" to keep over-65s warm every winter and 12.5 million would be eligible for between £100-£300 to help pay their fuel bills if there born before July 5 1952.
A Government spokesman said:
Around 12.5m older people are due to receive £2.15bn in help from Winter Fuel Payments this year - part of our very clear commitment to keep British pensioners warm this winter.
What's more a total of £700 million has been paid out to vulnerable people in Cold Weather Payments since 2010 in 28 million separate payments - and this year the Warm Home Discount is providing £310m of extra help to those at risk of fuel poverty.
But we know the way to help people - permanently - is to make their homes warmer and cheaper to heat. We are improving the UK's housing to help over 1.3m homes, on top of an investment of over half a billion pounds in energy efficiency.
Almost three-quarters of over-65s living in the UK are worried about the rising cost of energy, according to an age concern charity.
Research from Age UK showed:
- One third of over-65s are worried about how they will heat their home in the first place.
- Some 41% of older people believe the government should do more to ensure UK homes are made more energy efficient.
- Another 36% want energy companies to intervene and insulate old homes.
Around 3.5 million elderly people are worried they will not be able to keep warm this winter, a charity has warned.
Age UK pointed to the 25,000 elderly people who die every year from the cold, which they amounts to 206 deaths a day or one death every seven minutes.
Known as "excess winter deaths" many of these could have been prevented if pensioners were in more modern homes, the charity said.
Countries which regularly experienced harsher winters, like Finland, Germany and France had far fewer excess deaths because they have newer houses. The UK has some of the oldest buildings in the EU, Age UK said.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: "Fuel poverty is a national scandal which has claimed the lives of too many people - both old and young - for far too long and left many more suffering from preventable illness."
Volunteers will have to step in to help neglected elderly people because the state and modern families are unable to cope, a minister has said.
In an age when many older British people are rarely visited by their relatives and live lonely lives "the state can't do it on its own," Norman Lamb, the care and support minister told the Financial Times (£).
He said there was "an overwhelming case" for volunteers to fill the gap left by "the dispersal of the extended family" and called for "a 21st century version of Neighbourhood Watch" to combat isolation.
He insisted he did not see the involvement of volunteers as a cost-cutting option.
ITV News readers have responded to calls for the government to tackle loneliness with internet training, with many welcoming the suggestion but others insisting the net is no substitute for contact with people.
I use it every day but it [doesn't] fill the gap like human company I'm afraid.
Taught my 74 year old grandad how to use skype and he loves being about to speak to his brother and sister and great grandkids
Yes it would [help] but alot of elderly can't even afford heating and food, let alone a new PC and internet
The chronic loneliness some elderly people suffer from can only be relieved by relationships, so if the internet is to help it has "link people to people", Esther Rantzen told Good Morning Britain.
The former TV presenter, who set up a helpline to combat loneliness in the elderly, believed teaching OAPs how to use the internet could help, but warned many felt out of their depth with the technology.
"A lot of the generation that Silver Line works with...are not comfortable with the internet. It frightens them. They think it is a whole new set of skills they have to learn."
The dominance of the internet means it is "vital" everyone has access to the web, the author of a report into loneliness in the elderly has said.
Eddie Copeland, report author for think-tank Policy Exchange, said:
In an increasingly isolated and fast moving world it is vital that everyone in society is able to use the internet and understand its benefits.
From alleviating social isolation, bringing together communities, paying bills and now accessing public services, online can improve lives.
Being able to simply write an email or access a social networking site could provide older people with a way to stay connected to their friends and families, who may live hundreds of miles away.