THEY are beneath contempt.

Those are the words of a Hampshire MP who has spoken out after smooth-talking conmen stole almost £30,000 from a Christian charity that helps vulnerable members of society.

Southampton City Mission (SCM) provides free food and clothing for thousands of struggling families.

As reported in yesterday's Daily Echo, the fraudsters posed as bank officials investigating what they described as unusual activity involving an account in Northern Ireland.

Having already obtained the charity’s bank details they made a 45-minute phone call in which they persuaded staff to part with the information they needed to steal tens of thousands of pounds from its reserves.

Now church leaders across the city are calling for donations to help SCM continue to run its food and clothing banks.

Royston Smith, Tory MP for Southampton Itchen said: "When you set out to defraud a charity that looks after people you are beneath contempt.

"I hope that somehow the people responsible are apprehended, brought to justice and really made an example of. They're absolutely despicable."

Other people have turned to social media to express their shock and disgust at the crime.

Dan Clark said: "These conmen were very devious - I gather their caller ID mirrored the bank's call centre number.

"Some of the staff and volunteers have decades of experience yet were still taken in. It just shows how convincing the conmen were."

Another social media user, Donald2000, added: "I have just sent them £8 from my pension.

"I know it will go nowhere near replacing the money that has been lost but I know from experience they do a good job.

"I'm afraid that Christians are just as likely to be fleeced as anyone else."

Details of the theft were released by Chris Davis, who heads SCM and described the loss of £30,000 as a huge blow to the charity.

He added: “To target food and clothes banks as the charity approaches Christmas - its busiest season - is particularly heartless.

“There’s no immediate threat to the charity but in the longer term we’re going to have to work hard to replace the stolen funds."

Mr Davis said someone had offered to set up a JustGiving page in a bid to help the charity recover from the theft.