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Protect your loved one from courier fraudsters

The City of London Police reveals a warning regarding a new list of tactics used by the courier fraudsters.

The scam involves courier fraudsters targeting their victims who claim to be police officers or a staff member from a victim’s bank, often pressuring people into taking a quick financial decision to assist with fabricated investigations. As a result, 3,625 people were victims of courier fraud, with losses amounting to more than £15.2 million in 2012 alone.

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has released an analyzed data highlighting four modus operandi (MOs), which are quite prevalent among fraudsters.

Four most common MOs used by courier fraudsters.

  • Bank card expiry: Claiming to be from the victim’s bank, these fraudsters will convince them that their card is no longer valid. After asking for the PIN, they send a “courier” to collect the card before these fraudsters use it for their purpose.
  • Purchasing high-end items: These impostors pose as police officers and under the pretext of helping with undercover operations as the victim buys expensive items like gold, jewelry, and watches. After these victims have purchased the expensive item, the fake police ask them to hand over the product and disappear without a trace.
  • Counterfeit cash/bank investigation: An imposter will pose as either a police or banking official who convinces their victims to uncover a banking corruption investigation. These victims are told to withdraw a huge sum of money to check their fingerprints or identify counterfeit banknotes to uncover the fraud. Once the money is withdrawn, these impostors either pick up the money immediately or instruct their victim to courier it.
  • Computer takeover: These fraudsters would call their victims via telephone and claim to be their internet service providers while convincing them about an issue with their internet connectivity. They further assert that the victim is entitled to compensation. The victim is convinced to download an application granting these fraudsters full access to their home computer. These fraudsters then persuade their victims that they have overpaid, and the victims withdraw cash to pay back the money, which is, of course, collected later by a courier.

Superintendent of the City of London Police’s Lead Force Operations said: “Fraudsters and courier frauds are insensitive individuals. Their ideal targets are the most vulnerable and trustworthy members of society. It has been observed that elderly people between 70 to 89 years old, mostly the women, are more likely targets than men for the courier fraudsters.”

“We would encourage everyone to engage in a caring or supportive position for the elderly and discuss the methods employed and the warning flags to be aware of these courier frauds. Conversing with these elderly people would make the difference in becoming a victim.”

Signs of courier fraud

  • The victim will get an unsolicited telephone call from a courier fraudster.
  • Generally, these fraudsters will impersonate a bank official, police officer, utility, or computer engineer.
  • These fraudsters will convince their victims to buy a luxurious item such as gold bullion or a Rolex watch, provide a bank card or withdraw cash for collection from a courier.
  • These fraudsters are savvy and will instruct them to avoid spreading the news about this entire episode to their family or friends.
  • While carrying out a bank fraud, these criminals will appeal to their victims to hang up the phone to call the bank for confirmation while keeping the line open. The criminal provides false proof while impersonating a bank official.
  • The items purchased are then couriered by these victims as arranged by the fraudsters.

When anyone receives an unexpected call from someone claiming to be one of these officials, their identity should be verified. Hang up the phone and call the number you know is genuine after five minutes.

A man impersonating a police officer called Brian’s mother, aged 83, in August 2021. The imposter continued that one of her nephews was arrested for possession of her debit card and had spent £1,400. In due course, she was deceived into believing she had a word with her bank and several other detectives.

The criminal convinced Brian’s mother into believing that her bank was involved in counterfeit bank notes and the police needed her as an undercover. She was sworn to secrecy and was instructed to withdraw £4,250 from her bank. She was then instructed to put the cash and her driving license and bank card in an envelope and was provided with a secret password to be used when the courier came for the collection.

When the courier arrived,the envelope was given by Brian’s mother after spitting the agreed secret password. After a few days, these criminals called again and instructed her to transfer her money from her savings account to her current account. As a result, a whopping £29,788 was withdrawn through various fraudulent transactions.

Brian remarked: “I realized it was a scam as soon as she informed me what had happened.” People’s trust is completely eroded as a result of these schemes. My resilient mother now doubts everyone she speaks with since it has eroded her trust and faith in others.
“I would advise everyone to trust their gut feelings and use common sense. You should be concerned if someone is pressuring you for speed and secrecy, as they did with my mother. It can wait if it’s sincere.”

According to the NFIB data, in 2021, women between 70 and 89 lost around £6.7 million to courier fraud 2021. In the same period and with the same age range, men lost around £4.2 million.

Several support services help in combating nuisance calls like the trueCall system. This device acts like a home receptionist. While calls from friends and relatives are directly connected, calls from unknown numbers need to identify themselves before being connected. Unsolicited callers cannot proceed, and they are blocked right away.

Director of trueCall, Steve Smith, commented: “older people need more protection as they are very vulnerable, especially those who live alone and have already been victims of a scam. It has been noticed that these people receive 20% to 40% more unwanted calls than the rest of the population.”

The City of London Police would be prompt to take these actions to avoid begging a victim when they receive a call from an unknown caller or fail to verify the identity. It is always advisable to be cautious.

Advice from the Experts

Stop: you should take a moment to stop and think before you give away your sensitive money or information.

Challenge: Analyze the situation to see if it’s real or not. Any request can be turned down, ignored, or refused. Only scammers will try to intimidate you or hurry you.

Protect: Contract your bank immediately and report it to the authority in charge if you believe you have been a victim of fraud. You can also consider fund recovery services to get your lost money back.

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