Cheshire police has issued an urgent warning to the public after three elderly victims were conned out of more than £60,000 by fraudsters posing as police officers and bank workers.
In the last 28 days alone, three Cheshire victims have been conned out of more than £60,000 in cash and goods.
One victim in Alderley Edge has lost £20,000 cash and over £20,000 in goods and two victims in Crewe both handed over more than £10,000 each after withdrawing cash and giving it to fraudsters in the mistaken belief they were assisting police officers.
While there was a narrow escape for a Congleton victim who tried make a withdrawal from the bank but, thankfully, the Banking Protocol* was followed which prevented them from losing their money.
In the other five cases the potential victims realised there was a potential scam in progress and informed the police.
Courier frauds are mainly committed by organised crime groups (OCGs). A member of the OCG, known as the 'victim communicator' makes phone calls to vulnerable potential victims, usually the more elderly members of the community, telling them they are a police officer or work at the bank.
They persuade the victim to cooperate with an 'operation' designed to gather evidence or identify offenders responsible for a fictional offence. The victims are asked to withdraw money from their bank, purchase an expensive item and/or provide their bank details or card to assist with the operation.
The money, item or documents are handed over to another member of the gang, the 'courier', who attends the victim's address or meets them nearby, on the promise that the money or item will be returned or compensation provided.
Detective Sergeant Chris Jacques from Cheshire Constabulary's Economic Crime Unit said: "Nationally, courier fraud is a growing problem with over 1000 offences committed in the last six months. A national awareness campaign is being launched this week to target offenders, which we will be supporting.
"I would strongly urge anyone receiving calls asking for money to be withdrawn and handed over to a courier to immediately phone the police on 101 or report the incident to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Police, banks or other such services don't cold call so, if you do receive a phone call purporting to be from one of these organisations, don't be taken in by what they say. They are not genuine."
Officers have issued general advice on how to spot and avoid courier fraud:
• Police officers, banks or other such organisations will never ask you for cash or your bank details.
• If you do receive a potential courier fraud call us on 101 or report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
• If someone is trying to rush you into doing something regarding your bank account it is likely they are involved in a scam.
• Do you bank with one particular bank but the person on the phone is talking about a different one – even if they do have the right bank, it doesn't mean it is legitimate.
*The Banking Protocol trains bank staff to spot when someone is about to fall victim to a scam and will try to prevent them from withdrawing cash to give to a fraudster, after which they can request an immediate police response to the branch. 52 payment service providers, including all the main high street banks and the Post Office, are now fully signed up to the Banking Protocol and have trained up their front-line branch staff in the steps that need to be taken when a customer is at risk. Since March 2018, the scheme has been implemented by all 45 police forces across the UK.