Forget the fake sheikh, how about being fleeced by a priest?

Published 05 August 2014  |  
AP

Italy is facing a new and unusual crime wave – thieves dressing up as nuns and priests to extract money from unsuspecting pensioners.

According to a recent document released by Italy's interior ministry, crooks have been masquerading as religious figures and offering to bless people's homes – for a fee, of course.

The Telegraph reports that these blessings are "common practice" within the Catholic Church in Italy, and older people are thus being duped into giving substantial sums of money to criminals.

In total, 13,537 people over the age of 65 were taken in by similar schemes in 2013, with other elderly people being cheated into thinking they were handing money over to their own grandchildren, or being told to leave their homes by fake firemen who then raid the empty building.

In some cases, "widows have had their bags stolen while visiting the grave of a loved one and later received a call inviting them to retrieve it. As soon as a victim leaves home, it is robbed," the Telegraph reports.

Italy is thus launching a "Safe at any age" campaign in the hopes of raising awareness about security among the elderly population.

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