Criminal gangs are targeting the elderly and vulnerable to get them to handover their credit and debits cards with pin numbers
As Christmas approaches police forces across the UK are warning consumers, taxi, private hire and courier firms to be vigilant and not to fall foul of criminal gangs behind courier fraud.
This type of crime is not limited to one area of the country. London City police confirmed that 2,556 courier fraud offences were reported to the Metropolitan police between April 2013 and March 2014. Between February and June 2014, Greater Manchester police has recorded 346 offences and this type of crime is on the increase across the UK.
As part of the ongoing wider work nationally officers from the Metropolitan Police’s fraud prevention team, working together with Ofcom, the DCPCU (Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit), Trading Standards and high street banks, including Natwest, Barclays and Santander, to advise on how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.
Courier fraud is a sophisticated fraud which has been refined into a fine art form where scammers telephone the victim purporting to be someone from their bank, the police or other law enforcement agency. They then dupe the person into revealing their PIN and handing over their credit or debit card to a courier or taxi driver, who may not know they are being used as part of the scam.
They scammers tell the victim that they are calling because there has been suspicious activity on their account or because their cards have been found on a suspect, and advise them to call the bank from the number on the back of their card, which helps the victim believe the call is genuine.
The victim disconnects the phone and dials their bank or police, however the fraudster has kept the telephone line open so even though a number is dialed, it is not connected and the victim is still on the phone to the fraudster, who then gains their trust and asks them to either say or key in their pin, before telling them their card will be collected and a replacement delivered.
Lynn Parker, Ofcom’s Director of Consumer Protection, said: “Ofcom is working closely with the police and the telecoms industry to help stamp out courier fraud.
“Over the last year, a number of telephone providers have made changes to their networks to cut the time a phone line remains open to a couple of seconds. This action has stopped fraudsters from being able to stay on the line to impersonate a victim’s bank or the police – a key feature of how this scam works. We have also been working to drive awareness among consumers to help them avoid falling victim to courier fraud.
“We’re fully aware that there’s more work to do to prevent courier fraud completely. We are continuing our work in this area to ensure that the necessary technical changes are fully implemented across the telecoms sector as quickly as possible.”
There are a number of variations to the scam, including:
- Fraudsters pretending to be from the police cold-calling members of the public and telling them that their bank account has been compromised by criminals. The fraudster suggests that the person should transfer their bank balance into a ‘safe’ police bank account.
- Fraudsters pretending to be from the police attending people’s addresses and retrieving the person’s card and PIN.
- Fraudsters calling the victims and telling them to withdraw large amounts of money from their bank accounts, put it in an envelope, and hand this over to a courier who would call at their home. The fraudster tells the victim this is necessary as there are corrupt staff at the bank, and not to speak to anyone when they withdraw the money.
- Members of the public receiving letters on bank headed paper informing them that their account has been the subject of a fraud. The letter advises them to transfer their funds to a ‘safe’ account and that an official will be in contact to provide them with a new card and PIN.
- Fraudsters contacting members of the public requesting them to cut their cards in half because their account has been compromised. They are then asked to post the cut card to an address where fraudsters simply tape the card together again and can use the details to commit fraud.
Banks and credit card companies are under no obligation to refund any money lost to courier fraud. Their argument will be that the customer “willingly handed over the money” to the fraudsters, so therefore it is not their responsibility for any loss.
A spokeswoman for NatWest said: “We would advise all our customers to be extra vigilant and in the case of suspicious or unexpected calls, always verify the caller using an independently checked telephone number and using a different phone line.”
Taxi and private hire drivers are also being warned about becoming involved in courier fraud with an awareness campaign. The criminal gangs are aware of this and ask the victim to try to conceal their card by placing it in a book or wrapping it up. If you are asked to pick up a package and delivery it the police advise you retain the package and call the police on 101.
The most important three things to remember are:
- Your bank and/or the police will never ask for your PIN.
- Your bank will never attend your home to deliver a replacement card or to collect cash.
- Your bank and/or the police will never collect your bank card.
- If someone calls and says they are a police officer, ask for their shoulder number, hang up, and call 101 from a different phone to check they are who they say they are.