Action Fraud is warning the public to be wary of courier fraud after receiving 2,171 reports between August 2017 and July 2019. The total reported losses in the same period were £10,549,793.
The latest figures from the national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, reveal that the majority of courier fraud victims are elderly, with more than half aged 80 or over at the time of reporting. Only 3% of all courier fraud victims were under 50 years old.
Nationally, the most likely demographic to be targeted by courier fraudsters are women over 75 years old (62%). On average, victims reported losing £8,346 each to courier fraudsters.
What’s courier fraud?
Criminals typically carry out courier fraud by cold calling the victim, purporting to be a police officer or bank official to gain their trust. The fraudsters will then claim there’s an issue with the victim’s bank account or request their assistance with an ongoing bank or police investigation.
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.
What’s being done to stop it?
Law enforcement agencies are working with banks to fight back against this type of fraud through a rapid-response scheme called the ‘Banking Protocol’.
This industry-wide initiative trains bank branch staff on how to spot when someone is about to fall victim to a scam and what they can do to prevent them from withdrawing cash to give to a fraudster. The staff can request an immediate police response to the branch to investigate the suspected fraud and catch those responsible.
The ‘Banking Protocol’ is now operational across the UK and has already prevented customers from losing £38 million to criminals. It also led to 231 arrests in 2018.
Behind all of the clever tricks and ever-changing narratives, there are a few basic recurring elements that are common across many frauds, including courier fraud. Here’s what you need to remember:
Your bank or the police will never… call and ask you for your full PIN or full banking password, ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them, or ask you to transfer money out of your account.
It pays to stop and think anytime you receive a request for personal or financial information. Remember, if you feel uncomfortable or unsure about what you’re being asked to do, never hesitate to contact your bank or financial service provider directly, using a number you trust, such as the one listed on your bank statements or on the back of your card. Alternatively, sense check your actions with a trusted friend or family member and get their advice on whether you should go through with any action relating to your finances.
Commander Karen Baxter, National Police Coordinator for Economic Crime at the City of London Police, said:
“Courier fraud affects the most vulnerable people in our communities. It’s important we all do what we can to protect these individuals and raise awareness of how people can protect themselves.
“The ‘Banking Protocol’ is just one of many ways police forces across the UK are working in collaboration with the banking sector to protect people from fraud.
“You can assist us by looking out for those in your community, in your circle of friends, or even within your family, that may be susceptible to this type of fraud. Victims tend to be elderly, living alone, and trusting of the police and other official organisations. By 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, you can help us create a hostile environment for fraudsters.”