DORSET Police have received a further nineteen reports of attempted courier fraud in Weymouth in the last week alone.
In each case a man called the informants stating he was from a police station and advising they had a man in custody who has taken money from their bank account.
Fortunately the victims suspected the attempted scam and called the police. No money has been stolen and action fraud has been notified.
Dorset Police announced they were joining a regional campaign by Zephyr, the regional organised crime unit, to tackle the threat of courier fraud at the beginning of June.
The south west region has been targeted shameless fraudsters who are preying particularly on vulnerable elderly people, some of whom have been duped for thousands of pounds during the past few months.
Dorset Police would like to remind all residents to be wary of this type of fraud, specifically in the western area of the county.
In June, the number of people who have been targeted in the region which covers Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall and Avon and Somerset police forces had already topped 211, with 68 reports in Dorset alone. Police now believe that the amount of cash obtained in this way could top half a million pounds.
The fraudsters appear to be using the same approach across the region. They first contact potential victims – who are normally elderly - by telephone. Victims are encouraged by the fraudster, using an elaborate and convincing reason, to withdraw large sums of cash, which they are asked to send to London by taxi or via a courier, who will collect the money from their home.
The offenders often pose as police officers, claiming the money is potential evidence for an investigation and is needed so that it can be forensically examined.
In one example, a pensioner in his eighties was at his home address in the Chapelhay area of Weymouth, when he received a telephone call from a man claiming to be a police officer with the Metropolitan Police. The conman told him that money had been drawn out of his account and replaced by counterfeit cash. The victim was advised to call 999 to verify the caller’s details which he did – however it is believed he was still speaking to the fraudsters. He was then persuaded to hand over £26,000 in cash which he gave to a courier who attended his home address.
Detective Sergeant Andrew Kennard from the Economic Crime Unit offers this advice: “We all know someone who could fall victim to this sort of fraud, so it is vital that we work together as a community to make sure the message gets out to everyone – don’t give your personal details or PIN number to anyone, and make sure you always verify the identity of a caller before speaking to them.
“If we all help to spread the word and look out for our family, friends and neighbours, this kind of fraud can be prevented.”
Another scam involves someone claiming to be a police officer based in London, who informs the potential victim that people have been arrested in the capital and they had in their possession bank cards which contained details of the victim.
The victim is asked to call the police to verify the matter.
However, the fraudster does not replace his phone; the unsuspecting victim is still speaking to the fraudster. They are encouraged to provide private banking details and may also be asked to withdraw cash.
DCI Will White, of the regional organised crime unit – Zephyr, added: “The police and the banks will never ask you for banking details or PIN numbers on the phone. Similarly, they would never send a so-called ‘courier’ to collect bank cards or money.
“In recent incidents the victims did the right thing when they became suspicious of callers. They hung up the phone and called the police. They waited until they could hear a dial tone or used a different phone to call us, ensuring that the scammers weren’t still connected to the line.
“The more we talk about this scam and the more people who are made aware of it, the less likely that they are to become victims. We need people to spread the word. You have elderly and vulnerable relatives, neighbours, colleagues or friends warn them to be vigilant and on their guard for telephone calls of this kind.
“We are also appealing to taxi owners to be vigilant, especially if asked to courier small packages to London for elderly people.”
Today will see the beginning of a roll-out of a series of posters and leaflets warning people to be aware of courier fraud. It also reaffirms the message that banks and the police will not ask for your PIN number over the phone and will not send a courier to collect cash.
If you think you have been a victim of fraud or you are suspicious of a caller, report it to Dorset Police on 101 or contact the dedicated Action Fraud team on 0300 123 2040.