Police are urging people to make older or vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours aware of courier fraud scams.
In the past two years people in Cheltenham, Gloucester, the Cotswolds, Stroud and Tewkesbury have fallen victim to the callous crime, with the average age of the victim being 85-years-old.
Courier fraud starts with a fraudster calling a victim, claiming to be a police officer or bank official. They say they need assistance with a police or bank investigation, aiming to trick the victim into disclosing their bank card and PIN details.
Sometimes the fraudsters tell victims to withdraw cash or purchase expensive jewellery. Victims will then be visited by a ‘courier’ – who is really a member of the fraud gang. They normally go to the victim’s address to take the bank cards, cash, or other property from the victim. Sometimes they will arrange to meet nearby.
One elderly Gloucestershire woman was even persuaded to travel to London to hand her cash over to a fraudster.
Gloucestershire police is supporting a national campaign aiming to educate people on the different ways fraudsters con those who are elderly and vulnerable.
Detective Sergeant Simon Shaw said: “Courier fraud first appeared in Gloucestershire in 2013. Since then, our communities have been hit in waves by organised crime groups, mostly from London. The fraudsters will target a specific area for a few days and then move on. We’ve seen them in almost all areas of the county.
“They tell the victim a story about their bank card being cloned or about counterfeit currency in their local bank. The caller will sound professional and very convincing. Often they will know some of the victim’s personal details, and they will use this to gain their trust.
“Sometimes they will tell you to hang up the phone and call the police on 101, or call the bank on the phone number shown on their bank card. But the fraudster will stay on the line, so when the victim re-dials, they will still be connected to the fraudster.
“The fraud gang will then send a ‘courier’ to the victim’s home to collect the items which are said to be needed for their “investigation”.
Gloucestershire police has issued the following advice:
• Neither police nor bank officials will ever ask you to withdraw money from your account, purchase anything or hand over your personal details or passwords.
• If you believe you are being targeted by a scammer hang up the phone and use a different phone line to call Action Fraud or the police, as scammers have a way to stay on the line and will pretend to be the police when you call back.
• If you don’t have access to a different phone line, wait for a period of time and try calling a family member or friend first to make sure the scammer is no longer on the line.
• Just because someone knows basic details about you like your address or date of birth, it doesn’t mean they are genuine bank or police employees.
• Always question suspicious phone calls and report them to Action Fraud or the police.
If you think you or someone you know has been defrauded, you can report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.