Northamptonshire Police issue timely reminder on courier fraud as part of national Scam Awareness Week
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Officers at Northamptonshire Police have re-issued advice to residents across the county in a bid to prevent courier fraud to coincide with this year’s national Scam Awareness Week.
Typically, courier fraudsters claim to be a police officer or a member of staff from a victim’s bank and often pressure people into making quick financial decisions to transfer cash, make expensive purchases or allow access to their accounts, to assist with fictitious investigations.
Over the past 12 months in Northamptonshire, about 4,500 people reported being victims of scams, including courier fraud, with losses totalling more than £20 million. However, this is believed to be just the tip of the iceberg with many instances not being reported to police.
This has prompted the Force’s Economic Crime Unit to get behind a new City of London Police campaign to raise awareness of scams, in particularly the tactics which are more commonly being used by courier fraudsters.
Data released by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) last year (2022) highlighted four of the most common forms of courier fraud:
• Bank card expiry: Fraudsters claim to be from the victim’s bank and say their card is no longer valid. They ask for the pin number and then send a “courier” to collect the card before using it for fraudulent purposes.
• Purchasing high end items: The suspects pretend to be police officers and ask the victim to help with an undercover operation by purchasing expensive items like watches, jewellery, and gold. Once the item is bought, the victim will hand over the item to the criminal.
• Counterfeit cash/bank investigation: A person claiming to be a police or banking official informs the victim that they need to help with a banking corruption investigation. The victim is told to withdraw a large amount of money and the cash is picked up later by a courier to “check for fingerprints or to identify counterfeit bank notes”.
• Computer takeover: The fraudster telephones the victim, pretending to be from their internet service provider, saying that they have had an issue with their internet connectivity, and they are due compensation. The victim is persuaded to download a remote access application, giving the suspects access to their home computers. The fraudster persuades the victims into thinking that they have been paid too much compensation and the victims then withdraw cash to pay the money back, which is later collected by a courier.
Sergeant Mike Rogers, of the Force’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “Fraudsters are callous and exceptionally clever individuals who prey on some of the most vulnerable and trustworthy members of our community. Courier fraud is no exception.
“They know how to manipulate their victims by making them feel panicked and rushed into actions they will later regret. However, by sharing the tactics used and the warning signs to look out for, we can hopefully stop others from losing their life savings.
“Under no circumstances would the police or banks ask you to withdraw money from your account, or transfer funds into another account for fraud reasons, nor would they ever ask you to become part of an undercover investigation.
“Our advice to anyone who is asked to provide personal or financial information, is to take a few moments to reflect on the situation and stay calm. Never assume a phone call is genuine, even if the caller knows basic details about you, such as your name and address.
“Criminals can make any telephone number appear on your phone handset, so even if the number shown seems authentic, never trust this. So, if you receive a phone call of this type, have the confidence to end it.
“A genuine organisation will never mind you taking the time to think things over or to contact them back on a number you have verified, for example from your bank statement or payment card. If the caller is claiming to be a police officer, contact the relevant force on 101 and they will be able to verify if a caller is a genuine officer or member of staff.
“As fraudsters can keep telephone lines open for a while, the best advice is to use a separate line to make any subsequent phone calls. If you are using the same phone, wait at least five minutes after replacing the handset and call someone you know first to make sure the line is free.
“Please also talk to family and friends about this kind of crime. Just having that conversation, especially if your loved one is not particularly tech savvy, could be the difference on whether someone becomes a victim, and we would urge everyone who is involved in a caring or supportive role to share our preventative message.”
Signs of courier fraud are:
• Courier fraud usually starts with an unsolicited telephone call to the victim
• Typically, the suspect will pose as a bank official, police officer or a computer or utility engineer
• Courier fraudsters will usually request the victim purchases high value items such as Rolex watches and gold bullion, withdraws cash or provides a bank card for collection by a courier
• Fraudsters will instruct victims not to tell any family or friends about what they are doing
• When carrying out courier fraud, criminals will request the victim hangs up the phone to ring their bank for confirmation while keeping the line open. The suspect then purports to be bank official and provides false confirmation
• Fraudsters will also plan for a courier meet the victim to collect the item they have purchased
If you think you have been a victim of fraud you should report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
It’s also important to report all fraud-related incidents to Action Fraud to help build a national picture and help prevent others falling victim to scams.