Hampshire County Council Trading Standards Service have noticed an increase in reports of a particularly devious scam called ‘courier fraud’. This is where a resident is cold called on the telephone by a person purporting to be from the Police or other Law Enforcement Agency.
The aim of the call is to persuade the resident to withdraw money from the bank, very often in large amounts, which will later be collected by an ‘agent’ of the scammer. The reasons given by the caller are elaborate and complex and it is likely that an element of victim grooming takes place. Examples are; to help with Police investigations against the bank, that the bank are dealing in counterfeit money, that the bank is committing fraud and the resident’s money is in danger, but other reasons could be given.
Bank staff often ask questions of their customers if the transaction is unusual, or suspicious. Scammers know this and preload their victims with a cover story to give the bank. Some reports state that the scammers have ‘accompanied’ their victim to the bank by keeping the line to a mobile phone open. The victim is asked to place the phone on the counter when withdrawing the money. The scammer can then hear what security questions are being asked and may use that intelligence on future victims.
Once the money has been withdrawn from the bank, the scammer will arrange for the ‘evidence’ to be collected. This could be the victim’s home or another location, sometimes that location requires a bus or taxi ride. The victim will be given a code word and told that the agent will give this code word when they come to check the evidence. Sometimes paperwork is given in exchange for the evidence, sometimes it is just taken.
Often the victim gets swept up in the excitement of thinking they are ‘helping the Police’ and lose sight of reality. It is likely that once the victim has followed instructions and parted with money, that they will be targeted again. Similar methods are used to persuade victims to buy iTune/Amazon vouchers, or to withdraw Euros.
Residents are asked to be alert to these types of fraud, particularly if they have family members or neighbours who may be vulnerable. Neither the Police or any Law Enforcement Agency would ever act in this way.
Every Police or Police Community Support Officer has a unique collar number. Residents are advised to always make a note of this number and make independent checks should they become concerned. Do not use telephone numbers given by the caller to make checks, they will be false, or the line may be kept open. Make independent enquiries using a different telephone and a number sourced by the resident.
Residents are urged to report any suspicious activity to the Police on 101, to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or to Trading Standards via our partners at the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06. In an emergency, call the Police on 999.