Derbyshire Constabulary have launched a pink and perky sock puppet called Claude as the “face” of their new fraud-fighting campaign, #SockItToTheScammers.
Claude is bright pink, with a shock of yellow hair, a blue nose and four goofy teeth - all of which make him quite a memorable mascot.
Claude’s mission is to #SockItToTheScammers by raising awareness of sophisticated scams, and to try and prevent the long-term stress and financial loss that fraud victims endure.
And to do that, the puppet has three simple tips: Stop! Think! Tell!
The constabulary have acknowledged that this might not be the most conventional crime-fighting campaign - but with fraud reports continually on the rise, their aim is to try something different, and memorable. And Claude is certainly memorable!
They want to get their videos of Claude (look out for an entire series of sock puppetry) in front of as many people as they can, in the hope that not only will they be alerted to the tactics of fraudsters, but that they will also share the crime prevention tips and advice with family, friends and neighbours who might not be online.
While older people and those who are more vulnerable can be targeted by scammers, they are aware that that they are not alone, and anyone can become a victim to these types of scams.
The launch comes as criminals continue to target people in Derbyshire, with one courier fraud victim being tricked out of nearly £20,000 by scammers pretending to be from her bank.
Tammy Barnes, Derbyshire Constabulary’s Fraud Protect Officer, said:
“The impact these crimes have on victims really cannot be understated.
“People are tricked into putting their faith in the person at the other end of the phone and when that faith is shattered, their whole world just grinds to a halt.
“We commonly see most victims regardless of age, can be scared, embarrassed, and often confused as to how it could have so easily happened to them. They’re just absolutely devastated to have fallen for it.
“That’s why we need to try something completely different with Claude, so we can make sure people know how they can protect themselves when a fraudster targets them – because the likelihood is, at some point, they will.”
Each short clip will focus on a different type of fraud, from telephone to social media scams, and will see Claude explain how criminals will try to trick you into giving up passwords, PIN numbers and other sensitive details.
The first video - available to watch above - in the #SockItToTheScammers series focuses on courier fraud. This is where a fraudster will phone and pretend to be calling from either the bank or, more recently, claiming they are a police officer.
They claim there is an issue with your bank account and that your money is at immediate risk, then ask for your help with their ongoing bank or police investigation. Sometimes, they’ll say it’s an undercover investigation and that you should not contact your bank as there may be corrupt staff involved.
Eventually, they will ask victims to go to the bank and withdraw large amounts of cash or foreign currency as ‘evidence’ and collect it later; they might ask you to share details such as your PIN or internet banking passwords over the phone; they will also send a courier to your address to collect your bank card for ‘further investigation’ once they have the details they need.
Then in a short space of time, they will drain money out of your accounts.
In the short film, an elderly woman called Helen is contacted by someone claiming to be PC Stevens, who is investigating fraudulent activity at her bank and urgently needs some of her details.
But before the scam goes any further, Claude emerges in a quite surprising way to share his fraud prevention tips and to tell Helen to stop, think, and tell.
Mission accomplished, Claude then disappears and continues his quest to find and help other potential victims of fraud before it’s too late.
“By having something as eye-catching as a bright pink puppet popping up to give advice in a grizzled voice, we hope that the ‘Stop! Think! Tell!’ message will remain in people’s minds.
“We know fraud prevention messages can be very dry, easy to miss, or that people just don’t think it will happen to them.
“But the simple fact is, it can. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how easy you think it would be to spot a scam – they are so sophisticated that anyone could fall victim.”
Anyone can be the target of a scam - these criminals know that we’re all busy people so might only be paying limited attention to that risky link or call. And courier fraud is not just a Derbyshire concern, it’s happening all over the country.
Listen to Claude's tips and if you’re not sure:
Stop before clicking a link, giving your information or following the instructions from the caller.
Think about what they’re asking for, and why they say they need it. Banking and personal information is very valuable so consider carefully before giving any details.
Tell another person or organisation. If you’re still not sure about this request, talk to someone you trust - if you’re ever in doubt, try and verify what’s being asked and look for further advice: Advice about fraud | Derbyshire Constabulary.
This campaign has been created by the constabulary's media team and includes a series of awareness videos and victim interviews.
Report all Fraud and Cybercrime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online. Forward suspicious emails to email@example.com. Report SMS scams by forwarding the original message to 7726 (spells SPAM on the keypad).