Sussex Police Warns Of Danger Of Courier Fraud
Sussex Police warns of the dangers of courier fraud as it supports Operation Radium, a nationwide campaign to target fraudulent criminality and build up information on organised crime groups behind the scams.
In 2019 Sussex police received 550 reports of courier/impersonator fraud targeting vulnerable victims.
Out of those reports, 67% of victims lived alone and 78% were aged 75 and over. The recorded total loss to these victims is £1,057,136 with an average of £8000 being lost in each case where there was a loss. An 83-year-old man from Pease Pottage, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he came close to being a victim of courier fraud in November 2019 when a conman called his home phone pretending to be from Essex Police.
He was told by the fraudster on the phone that there had been improper activity in his bank account that they suspected was part of a money laundering scheme.
The victim was asked to withdraw £5,000 to see if the bank notes were fraudulent. He was asked to read the bank note numbers and was told that they were a cause for concern. He was then told the money was to be taken to Essex Police station and that an officer would come and collect it.
A young man, not dressed in a police uniform, then arrived at the front door asking for money, at which point the victim refused and shut the door.
The victim said: “The conman on the phone was very well-spoken and convincing – but that, of course, is his job.
“All the way through this process I was adamant I wasn’t going to give him any money, but it sounded convincing and I wanted to help so I went along with it.
“He had done his homework and I was surprised I didn’t spot something earlier in the conversation. He kept both of my phone lines occupied through the process, he gave me an insurance number and even a crime reference number.
“I did feel a bit shaky thinking that it was a close call. I felt annoyed I’d been talking to this so-called DC Wheeler from the police who even gave me a false badge number.
“I feel sorry for older folk, and there’s not much older than me, but I worry that older people may easily hand over the money.
“Sending someone not dressed in a police uniform was the weakest link in their game. I worry that it could easily have gone differently.
“The PCSO was very helpful, he drove me to the bank to return the money and left me feeling safe. He gave me a ‘The Little Book of Scams’ guide and offered lots of advice and told me things I should do to protect myself. He actually did phone just a month after it happened to make sure I’d done them all.”
What is courier fraud?
Criminals typically carry out courier fraud by cold calling the victim, purporting to be a police officer or bank official to gain their trust. The fraudsters will then claim there’s an issue with the victim’s bank account or request their assistance with an ongoing bank or police investigation.
The ultimate aim of this call is to trick them into handing over money or their bank details.
Common techniques include telling the victim to withdraw large sums of cash or go and buy high value items. Sometimes they instruct the victim to leave their bank cards in an envelope somewhere safe. In all cases, a ‘courier’ will then come and pick up the cash, expensive item or envelope, on behalf of the police or bank. They will often come to the victim’s home address.
What you need to know
To avoid becoming a courier fraud victim, always remember…
Your bank or the police will NEVER:
– call and ask you for your full PIN or full banking password
– ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them
– ask you to transfer money out of your account
PC Bernadette Lawrie, BEM, Financial Abuse Safeguarding Officer for Surrey and Sussex Police says: “Behind all of the clever tricks and ever-changing narratives, there are a few basic recurring elements that are common across many frauds, including courier fraud.
“It pays to stop and think anytime you receive a request for personal or financial information.
Remember, if you feel uncomfortable or unsure about what you’re being asked to do, never hesitate to contact your bank or financial service provider directly, using a number you trust, such as the one listed on your bank statements or on the back of your card.
“Alternatively, check your actions with a trusted friend or family member and get their advice on whether you should go through with any action relating to your finances.”
What is Sussex Police doing to tackle courier fraud?
Local officers across the county respond to every report of courier fraud and provide support, including advice and assistance on prevention measures, as part of Operation Signature, the force’s ongoing campaign to identify and support vulnerable victims of fraud.
Support that officers can give includes;
– helping them to change their phone number to an ex-directory number
– contacting family to suggest power of attorney
– mail re-direction
– offering them advice on call blocking devices
– referring them to other support services
Op Signature is also supported by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, who has funded two fraud Victim Support Case Workers over the past four years to provide further help for medium and high risk victims and prevent them from being retargeted. Her Sussex Elder’s Commission members spoke to thousands of older residents to highlight the threat of telephone and cyber-enabled fraud, and they helped persuade many people to take extra precautions, including installing call blockers which she funds.
Law enforcement agencies are working with banks to fight back against this type of fraud through a rapid-response scheme called the ‘Banking Protocol’.
This industry-wide UK Finance initiative first launched in Sussex two years ago, trains bank branch staff on how to spot when someone is about to fall victim to a scam and what they can do to prevent them from withdrawing cash to give to a fraudster. The staff can request an immediate police response to the branch to investigate the suspected fraud and catch those responsible.
The ‘Banking Protocol’ is now operational across the UK and has already prevented customers nationally from losing £38 million to criminals. It also led to 231 arrests in 2018.
In Sussex it has so far prevented £5 million being lost and has led to 49 arrests.
For further advice and information on preventing this type of fraud, see the Sussex Police website here.
For further advice on fraud prevention, and information on Operation Signature, the work done by Sussex Police to prevent fraud and support victims, also see the force website here.