New figures released this week reveal that 28 people in the Avon and Somerset Police force area were victims of courier fraud in 2019, amounting to an estimated £127,224 of losses.
Avon and Somerset Police have issued the figures at the same time as a fresh warning for residents in the Burnham-On-Sea area as part of a national campaign to raise awareness of the fraud.
A three-week campaign led by the National Economic Crime Centre has seen a combination of awareness raising and enforcement activity taking place. All 43 Police forces in England and Wales have been supporting the operation.
Nationally, since November, 44 people have been arrested on suspicion of courier fraud. Over the past two years there have been more than 3,000 victims of courier fraud reported nationally with losses believed to be around £12m.
Police say victims are predominantly over 60 years of age with the most targeted demographic being females aged between 80 and 89 years.
A spokesman says: “Courier fraud is where fraudsters call someone, pretending to be a police officer or bank official, warning that there are corrupt bank staff, intent on stealing their money, and ask for their help.”
“Typically, the caller then tells the victim to withdraw a sum of money and a courier is sent to collect it. The ultimate aim of this call is to trick them into handing over money or their bank details.”
“Common techniques used by the fraudsters include telling the victim to withdraw large sums of cash or go and buy high value items. Sometimes they instruct the victim to leave their bank cards in an envelope somewhere safe.”
“In all cases, a ‘courier’ will then come and pick up the cash, expensive item or envelope, on behalf of the police or bank. They will often come to the victim’s home address.”
Last year, Police say a taxi driver in Somerset thwarted a courier fraud incident when he became suspicious when taking a woman to the bank.
“His taxi had been pre-booked – allegedly by the woman’s relative – but after the taxi driver discovered the woman was planning to withdraw a large sum of money when she got to the bank, he became suspicious,” says a spokesman.
“He alerted bank officials who advised the police and the large cash withdrawal was stopped.”
Police urge residents not to discuss their finances with anyone who calls out of the blue, even if they claim to be a police officer or a representative from a bank fraud department.
“Genuine callers will be happy for you to make an appointment to visit them at a bank branch or police station. They will never ask you to withdraw cash on their behalf; arrange for cash to be collected by a courier; ask for details about your bank card; or ask for the PIN on your card,” says a spokesman.
“If you know someone who may be vulnerable to this type of offence, please speak to them and share our crime prevention tips and remind them of the threat from telephone fraudsters.”
“People who receive a call on their landline and are asked to contact their local police station or bank to verify the caller’s details ideally need to put the receiver down and not touch it for five minutes, just in case the fraudster has kept the line open.”
“Ensure you have a dialling tone before re-using. Ideally use another phone such as a mobile phone or a neighbour’s phone and use 101 to verify the call.”
“We would also appeal to taxi drivers who are asked to collect parcels – especially from elderly – to be vigilant and contact us if they are suspicious.”
DS Louise Sinclair, of Avon and Somerset Police’s Complex Crime Unit, adds: “Victims of courier fraud tend to be elderly, living alone and trusting of the police and other official organisations.”
“It is important we all play our part in protecting these vulnerable members of our community, informing them this type of crime is happening and encouraging them to report any attempts of courier fraud – successful or not – to Action Fraud and the police.”
“As a force we have been happy to support Operation Radium and will continue to do all we can to create a hostile environment for would-be fraudsters,” she said.