Tricking vulnerable and elderly people into separating with their cash is on the rise, so here’s what you need to know to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from career con-artists.
What is courier fraud?
Vulnerable, often elderly, victims are called by fraudsters pretending to be from their bank or from the police.
During the call, the victim is typically told that the ‘bank/police’ representative is investigating fraudulent activity, and is advised to call another number. Between confirming personal details with the victim and giving them a seemingly legitimate number to call, the scam becomes very convincing.
The victim then hangs up to call the number they’ve been given, but in many cases the line has not been disconnected and the victim merely speaks to a different member of the gang posing as a fraud investigator.
The ‘fraud investigator’ then explains that they need the victim’s help with their ‘investigation’. Common scenarios that are used include:
- The local bank branch staff are removing money from private accounts
- A local jeweller is conducting fraudulent business
- The local currency exchange is behaving irregularly
The victim is then asked to collect ‘evidence’ or help to uncover the ‘fraud’ by:
- Taking money out of the bank
- Buying expensive jewellery
- Getting foreign currency
The trusting victim is given a password or ‘safe code’ to exchange with a courier or ‘police official’ so that both parties can identify each other as genuine. Reassured, the victim then hands over the cash or goods and the fraudster disappears with a promise to refund the money or reimburse the cost of the goods, which never arrive.
The BBC have recently highlighted cases where victims have lost up to £37, 000, with some successful outcomes of arrest and a full bank refund. However, this is not always the case, and many individuals are left out of pocket.
What you can do:
Ruthlessly sophisticated, gangs of fraudsters are becoming increasingly convincing. But there are steps you can take to avoid being caught out:
- Your bank or the police will not cold call you to confirm your personal details, ask you to withdraw money, or send someone to collect money or bank cards.
- If you’re feeling unsure about the call, hang up. Call your local police on 101 or contact Action Fraud for advice.
- The Take Five campaign asks, before you make any further calls, to make sure the line is completely disconnected by waiting for at least five minutes.
- If the person on the other end of the phone is trying to rush you to make a decision, this should ring alarm bells and you should end the call.
- If you suspect foul play, don’t hesitate to hang up, even at the risk of appearing rude.
- You may be asked to not tell anyone else about the call, but if you’re in doubt make sure you speak to someone you trust.
Whilst you may be vigilant to scams, there may be others in your family or social network who may not be aware of the lengths some fraudsters will go to, to get their hands on money that belongs to someone else.
If you have any queries on scams as a result of this blog, please visit the Action Fraud website or if you would like some advice on fraud, you can also get in touch with a member of the LWA team who will be happy to help and provide some support. Call us on 0161 905 1801 in Manchester or 01925 830 830 for our Warrington team.