March 14, 2015
Teenage courier fraudsters jailed for conning victims out of £88,000

Two teenagers have this week been jailed for defrauding vulnerable people across the south west - including the Burnham-On-Sea area - out of more than £88,000.

Rahim Choudhury and Abdul Shafee, both 19, of Quaker Street in London, were given the custodial sentences at Bristol Crown Court of 38 months and 15 months respectively.

In early January 2015, Rahim Choudhury admitted to conspiracy to commit fraud offences, where 30 victims were defrauded out of a total of £88,500.

On January 29th Abdul Shafee admitted conspiracy to commit fraud offences. The prosecution attributed two offender phones to him, which had been used to call 13 victims of courier fraud.

Detective Inspector Tony Hubbard, of Avon and Somerset Police, who is working for Zephyr, the South West’s Regional Organised Crime Unit, said after the trial: "Choudhury and Shafee, who are only 19, committed these crimes, predominantly in the south west, to fund their cash-rich lifestyle and have shown no remorse to the victims they have deceived."

"We can see from evidence recovered how they identified vulnerable victims and portrayed their own arrogance and extravagant lifestyle, obtained from the misery and loss of others."

Photographs found on their mobile phones included several expensive cars, as pictured right, and watches, and bundles of cash, which showed the kind of lifestyle they were living.

Detective Inspector Tony Hubbard added: "We welcome the custodial sentences imposed against them and hope this sends a clear message to others to stop now similar crimes or face legal action and the prospect of a term in prison."

"Zephyr is committed to tackling organised crime that targets the most vulnerable in our society and will relentlessly pursue all those involved in this abhorrent crime. Within the south west region victim losses within the past 12 months are in excess of £2 million, with 700 reported crimes, and no doubt many more crimes of this nature go unreported," said DI Hubbard.

Courier crime offenders often claim to be officers from the Metropolitan Police and use a variety of pretences, including suggesting that a victim's bank card has been used by somebody that they have in custody. They then ask the victim to phone the bank to cancel the card and tell the victims’ that they will send a courier round to collect the card or money.

Meanwhile, the fraudster stays on the line and obtains the victim's bank details whilst the victim believes they are phoning their bank. The courier, which is often a legitimate taxi requested by the fraudsters, then calls at the victim's address and collects an envelope containing the card or cash requested.

There are occasions where high value goods such as jewellery or electrical items have been collected by the courier, which the victim has, by direction of the offenders.

Police urge children, grandchildren, relatives and friends of the elderly and vulnerable to warn them of the scam. Taxi company owners and drivers are also asked be vigilant, especially if approached or asked to courier small packages to London on behalf of elderly people.

Banks and other financial institutions - in particular counter staff - have also been asked by police to be suspicious if elderly customers uncharacteristically withdraw large amounts of cash. Anyone who receives a suspicious call is urged to hang up immediately, dial 1471 and note the number that called you. If you need to use the same phone wait five minutes, as the fraudsters could still be on the line, or use another phone, perhaps a neighbour’s. Report the call to your local police on 101 or through Action Fraud.

Simple guidelines to help you to prevent yourself becoming a victim of courier fraud are:
• Never give your PIN or bank details out over the phone
• Never withdraw cash and send it anywhere via a courier or taxi
• Never send bank cards anywhere via a courier or taxi
• Neither the police or your bank with ever ask for you to do any of the above.

If you can assist police in identifying anyone involved in committing this type of crime, or you have been a victim, call your local police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. You can also contact Action Fraud (National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre) on 0300 1232040.

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