A WOMAN who has spent years helping others has fallen victim to a scam directed at a charity.

Sally Ellison, chief officer at Worcester Volunteer Centre, was conned out of nearly £3,000 after a man phoned her claiming bailiffs were on their way to the Tything centre to pursue an unpaid debt.

In a bid to protect volunteers, Mrs Ellison paid £2,788 from a personal account but subsequently discovered there was no debt.

Now, she is speaking out to warn others to be on their guard against telephone fraudsters.

Mrs Ellison said: "A man phoned up to say he was a bailiff and they were 40 minutes away.

"They were coming to issue a County Court Judgment against the Volunteer Centre for an invoice which we knew nothing about for £4,788.

"He said they had all the paperwork and he worked for Total Credit Solutions."

The man then told her he had negotiated with the company that was owed the money and the debt would be reduced if it was paid immediately.

She said: "He said we could pay £2,788 but if we didn't pay in ten minutes the bailiffs will come to the door.

"It was really quite threatening.

"I paid £2,788 out of my personal account because I didn't want it to happen to the charity.

"I shouldn't have but I felt threatened and I felt the organisation was being threatened."

Mrs Ellison was convinced the caller was genuine after the man gave her a defunct password which had once been used by the charity.

After paying the money, Mrs Ellison tried to ring the man back but was told he was unavailable.

She realised she had been conned after a check showed there was no County Court Judgment.

Mrs Ellison said: "I wanted him to go away and I was frightened of what would happen.

"He used the password to trap me because I then thought it was genuine.

"I couldn't believe anyone would try and con a volunteer centre."

As well as leading the volunteer centre, Mrs Ellison has spent more than two decades developing services for older and disabled people in Worcester.

Among them is the Worcester Wheels community transport scheme, for which she was awarded an MBE in 2001, a shopping and gardening service and a be-friending service.

She reported the con to West Mercia Police, Action Fraud, a national fraud reporting centre, and her bank.

Detective Sergeant Ruth Conway, of the Economic Crime Unit at the West Mercia force, said: “These kinds of fraud are prevalent and it is a variation on similar scams where someone cold calls you and attempts to extract your bank details from you with a convincing tale.

“However, threatening the imminent arrival of bailiffs on one’s doorstep puts added pressure on the victim to pay immediately.

“We all need to take extreme caution about giving personal details to anyone who contacts us unsolicited, no matter where they say they are calling from, including the police.

“If a payment is demanded in this manner, for a debt which you have no knowledge, then we advise you call the police immediately.”

A police spokesman said Ms Ellison would be visited by a West Mercia officer at the earliest opportunity.