Project Prospero is West Mercia Police’s response to courier fraud which has been ongoing for a number of years.
Typically, criminals carry out Courier Fraud by cold calling the victim, purporting to be a police officer, government officials, HMRC, bank official etc…. 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, purchase an expensive item, provide their bank cards/details or transfer money. A ‘courier’ will then come and pick up the cash or items, on behalf of the police or bank. Sometimes the victim may be persuaded to transfer a large sum of money to a “safe account” rather than a courier attending. Once the money is handed over or transferred it will be gone and the victim will never see it again.
This video from West Midlands Regional Cyber Crimes Unit explains it in more detail:
Courier Fraud – “Your debit/credit card is YOURS!” – YouTube
This video is an example of how it can work (there are other MOs):
Courier Fraud – 89 year old victim speaks out – YouTube
Sadly Operation Prospero offences are happening again with multiple offences reported across the force recently. An elderly lady in Shropshire lost £40,000 in one of these crimes, whilst only yesterday there was an attempt in Shifnal. These criminals are likely operating within Telford now and you need to know how to respond.
This crime type effects all members of society, but tends to be elderly and vulnerable people who fall foul of the criminals, often losing tens of thousands of pounds (as above). It is hugely underreported with victims (and their families) often blaming themselves or hiding that it has happened from family members. In many of these cases, criminals are pretending to be police officers, so victims may not have confidence in the police and as officers assisting them we need to give them the best service possible.
Please make family, friends and neighbours are aware so that they do not become a victim.
Why is it called “Courier Fraud”?
The ‘courier’ part of courier fraud is there because scammers will send someone round to collect the ‘evidence’ – usually cash or bank cards complete with PIN numbers – or in some cases actually pick the victims up and take them to a bank, jewellers, or currency exchange to withdraw cash, or buy expensive items to use as collateral in the investigation. The closure of many local Banks has made it easier for criminals to use less secure outlets where their victims can withdraw cash.
So, imagine going about your usual day when your phone rings. You answer it – it’s the Police!
You are told that there’s been fraudulent activity on your bank account, and they need you to help in an investigation to get it sorted. They already have your name and address, but ask you to confirm your identity with your bank details and PIN.
You panic – this sounds serious.
They then ask you to withdraw a substantial sum of cash to use as evidence in the case, but not to tell anyone you’re helping them, as this could jeopardise the investigation and you could be arrested. They send a courier over to pick up the money, and your bank card, all of which you’ll get back as soon as the investigation is finished.
In other cases, they may ask the victim to buy high value items such as jewellery or watches “to help in their investigations”
But of course, You never hear from them again. You never get that money back, and this is how Courier Fraud happens.
How can you help?
If you know what to look out for, you can help protect not only yourself, but also those you care about.
Possible signs that could show someone might be a victim.
• Are they suddenly receiving more phone calls than usual, and not wanting to be overheard?
• Do they seem anxious or withdrawn?
• Are they suddenly more concerned or secretive about their finances than usual?
• If you have access to their bank accounts, are there unusual unexplained high-value withdrawals or purchases?
• Are they experiencing sudden money issues out of the blue?
• Have you noticed unusual visitors to your vulnerable neighbours?
Nationally, total losses to Courier Frauds exceeds £12 million and average personal losses are in excess of £4,000 with some individuals losing much higher figures.
So stay in control
If something feels wrong, then it’s usually right to question it. Have the confidence to refuse unusual requests for personal or financial information. Neither your Bank nor the Police will ever call you and ask for your PIN, or get you to hand over your Credit Card to a courier.
Take Five To Stop Fraud
STOP: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
CHALLENGE: Could it be fake? It’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
PROTECT: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud
• Avoid disclosing security details
• Emails, Phone Calls and Texts may not be authentic
• Always make direct contact with any organisation by using a genuine phone number
• Stop and Challenge any unexpected requests
• Protect others by reporting Fraud and Scams
If you’ve fallen for a scam, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk.
Scam Text messages can be forwarded to 7726 to help phone providers take early action and block numbers that generate spam on their networks.
Forward Fake Emails received to email@example.com.