A national campaign has been launched today (Monday, May 16) urging people to be vigilant to courier fraud and help protect their loved ones.
The warning comes as a new list of tactics used by courier fraudsters has been unveiled by the City of London Police.
Typically, courier fraudsters target their victims by claiming to be a police officer or a member of staff from a victim’s bank, and they often pressure people into making quick financial decisions to assist with fictitious investigations.
Nationally, in 2021 alone, 3,625 people were victims of courier fraud, with losses totalling more than £15.2 million.
An analysis of data from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has highlighted four tactics which are now more commonly being used by fraudsters.
Four common tactics used by courier fraudsters
Bank card expiry: Fraudsters claim to be from the victim’s bank and say their card is no longer valid. They ask for the pin number and then send a “courier” to collect the card before using it for fraudulent purposes.
Purchasing high end items: The suspects pretend to be police officers and ask the victim to help with an undercover operation by purchasing expensive items like watches, jewellery and gold. Once the item is purchased, the victim will hand over the item to the criminal.
Counterfeit cash/bank investigation: A person claiming to be a police or banking official informs the victim that they need to help with a banking corruption investigation. The victim is told to withdraw a large amount of money and the cash is picked up later by a courier to “check for fingerprints or to identify counterfeit bank notes”.
Computer takeover: The fraudster telephones the victim, purporting to be from their internet service provider, saying that they have had an issue with their internet connectivity and they are due compensation. The victim is persuaded to download a remote access application, giving the suspects access to their home computers. The fraudster persuades the victims into thinking that they have been paid too much compensation and the victims then withdraw cash to pay the money back, which is later collected by a courier.
Data from the NFIB shows that women between 70 to 89 years old lost more than £6.7 million to courier fraud in 2021. Men in the same age range lost almost £4.2 million during the same period.
Support services have been created to help combat nuisance calls, including the trueCall system. The device acts like a home receptionist and lets calls from friends and family straight through, but unrecognised callers are required to identify themselves before the call is put through and unwelcome callers are blocked.
Steve Smith, Director of trueCall, said:
"Older and vulnerable people really do need protection - particularly those who live alone and those who have been scammed already. It is this demographic that are being specifically targeted by telephone scammers, receiving 20 per cent – 40 per cent more unwanted calls than the rest of the population."
Fraud Protect Officer PC Neil MacKenzie of Northamptonshire Police's Economic Crime Unit said:
“Fraudsters are callous individuals ho prey on some of the most vulnerable and most trustworthy members of our community. Courier fraud is no exception.
“Our advice is that if you receive any call in which you are asked to provide personal or financial information, take a few moments to reflect on the situation and stay calm. Never assume a phone call is genuine, even if the caller knows basic details about you, such as your name and address.
“You should also know that criminals can make any telephone number appear on your phone handset, so even if the number shown seems authentic, never trust this.
“Under no circumstances would the police or banks ask you to withdraw money from your account, or transfer funds into another account for fraud reasons, nor would they ever ask you to become part of an undercover investigation.
“If you receive a phone call of this type, have the confidence to end it. A genuine organisation will never mind you taking the time to think things over or to contact them back on a number you have verified, for example from your bank statement or payment card.
“If the caller is claiming to be a police officer, the relevant force can be contacted on 101 and will be able to verify if a caller is a genuine officer of member of staff.
“As fraudsters can keep telephone lines open for a while, the best advice is to use a separate line to make any subsequent phone calls. If you are using the same phone, wait at least five minutes after replacing the handset and call someone you know first to make sure the line is free.
“We would urge everyone who is involved in a caring or supportive role to people of these ages to start conversations about the tactics used and warning signs to look out for telephone fraud.
“Just having that conversation, especially if their loved one is not particularly tech savvy, could be the difference on whether someone becomes a victim of this trust-eroding crime.”
Signs of courier fraud
Tell-tale signs of courier fraud include:
Courier fraud usually starts with an unsolicited telephone call to the victim
Typically, the suspect will pose as a bank official, police officer or a computer or utility engineer
Courier fraudsters will usually request the victim purchases high value items such as Rolex watch and gold bullion, withdraws cash or provides a bank card for collection from a courier
Fraudsters will instruct victims not to tell any family or friends about what they are doing
When carrying out courier fraud, criminals will request the victim hangs up the phone to ring their bank for confirmation while keeping the line open. The suspect then purports to be bank official and provides false confirmation
Fraudsters will also plan for a courier meet the victim to collect the item they have purchased.
If you think you have been a victim of fraud you should report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, by calling 0300 123 20 40 or online by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.
It’s also important to report all fraud-related incidents to Action Fraud to help build a national picture and help prevent others falling victim to scams.
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).