SHAMELESS scammers are conning the elderly out of thousands of pounds by prentending to be police officers.

The con is known as 'courier fraud' and Thames Valley Police has responded to at least 80 calls about it in the last seven months. 

Here we look at the difference between courier fraud and normal scams and how to not become a victim to the crime... 

What is ‘courier fraud’?

It’s the name given to a type of scam where criminals prey on isolated people by posing as police officers or bank officials.

The scammer will typically make up a story about how the victim’s bank cards being used fraudulently, before saying they need to ‘protect the cards’ and transfer the money to a safe account.

Read more: police to randomly stop drivers in the day or at night 

They will then hire a courier to collect the person’s cash or cards, promising to send a replacement.

Innocent taxi drivers don't realise they are in on the plot... 

They act with urgency and make up bogus details, sometimes including a police badge number, to confuse the victim.

Police say the con artists use a taxi to ‘distance themselves’ from the crime and make it harder to ‘find and detect them’.

Is this a problem in my area?

Already this year, Thames Valley Police has responded to more than 80 reports of courier fraud.

Police say that courier fraud isn’t a ‘new type of crime’ and there hasn’t been an increase during lockdown but residents, particularly elderly people, are being targeted regularly.

In one of the latest incidents a fake Met police officer claimed Barclays were in on it. 

How big is the problem?

It is ‘difficult’ for police to predict how much money has been stolen from residents in Thames Valley because scammers have the potential to ‘empty the entire contents of their bank’.

Taxi drivers and couriers are now being ‘educated’ to spot signs of courier fraud in a new campaign being rolled out by the force.

Read more: The Oxford restaurants giving discounts this August 

Bank staff have also had similar training and in May this year one Oxford bank branch managed to stop a pensioner withdrawing cash for a scammer by calling the police.

What’s the difference between courier fraud and normal scams?

In March this year we reported that a shameless scammer had stolen £400 from a pensioner stuck in coronavirus isolation by offering to go shopping for him, only to pocked the cash.

Read the story in full here. 

Bicester Advertiser:

The man was targeted at his home address by a thief who preyed on his vulnerability.

However, police said they wouldn't consider this courier fraud. 

They said courier thieves are not ‘opportunist criminals' and instead are 'sophisticated and organised' in their approach. 

Who is likely to be a victim?

Detective inspector Duncan Wynn, who heads the Economic Crime Unit in the force and leads a team of investigators looking to find the criminals, said: “Unfortunately, anyone could be targeted by those committing courier fraud but we do tend to see that a larger majority of those targeted are aged over 70.”

Read more: Police refuse to answer question because of 'fake name' 

He said elderly people were more likely to be targeted because they have more money and are very isolated, adding: “It’s mainly the isolation factor, they are very unlikely to talk to anybody and it can happen quickly.”

What are the consequences if you commit the crime?

In a message to scammers, Inspector Wynn warned them to expect a ‘long prison sentence’ if they are caught, saying: “Courier fraud is taken very seriously and is somewhere between a theft and burglary in terms of sentencing.

“A prison sentence can also be increased if there is a vulnerable person involved.”

He said officers also have the power to ‘seize assets’ to get the money back.

What is the best advice to not become a victim?

Bicester Advertiser:

Our poster is printer friendly and can be given to your neighbours as a reference. 

  • The police and other agencies will never as you to move money into a safe account, ask you to reveal your banking PIN or full password.
  • Scammers always act with urgency using words like ‘now’, ‘quick’, and ‘don’t delay’.
  • If a scammer calls you, or you are unsure if you are being scammed, hang up and call back a familiar number – often they stay on the other end of the line
  • Stop, challenge and protect: take a moment to think about parting with your money or information, question whether the call is fake and know that it is okay to hang up, refuse or ignore calls, protect yourself and your money.
  • If you have fallen victim to a scam call action fraud on 0300 123 2040
  • In an emergency always call 999. To report a crime call police on 101.