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Vulnerable people and jewellery shops targeted in scam

West Mercia Police are aware that criminals pretending to be police officers are again attempting to defraud people in Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire, in a scam known as ‘Courier Fraud’. Some jewellery shops are also being taking advantage of as part of the scam.

Detective Inspector Emma Wright said: “This type of fraud traditionally targets older, vulnerable people however cases reported in the last 24 hours would suggest the criminals are targeting a broader range of ages.

West Mercia Police Economic Crime Unit is also making all jewellery shops aware of the Courier Fraud scam that can see their businesses used by criminals as part of the fraud.

Detective Inspector Emma Wright said: “Courier Fraud is an especially cruel type of fraud that sees vulnerable people prayed on by criminals.

“Victims are telephoned by a person, pretending to be a police officer. The bogus police officer explains that the victim’s bank accounts are under threat from fraudsters. He or she convinces the victim to participate in a fictitious undercover police operation to catch the fraudsters and safeguard their funds. They are told not to inform anyone, including their bank, as bank staff are equally under suspicion. Often the bogus Police officer discloses private financial information about the victim, which is used to encourage the victim to trust them.

“Where the jewellery shops may come into this, is that victims are sometimes instructed to either buy gold bullion or high valued watches. These items are handed to a courier who confirms a password given to the victim over the phone by the suspect.

“While this may seem hard to believe and that nobody would fall for this con, we have had recent cases where one victim was convinced over several long and very detailed calls to buy £250,000 in gold which once delivered to their home, was handed to ‘investigating officers’ and another where a victim who had already withdrawn more than £25,000 in cash was tricked into purchasing a £35,000  designer watch as part of a fake investigation, which was then handed to waiting criminals pretending to police officers.

“These people are operating as part of organised crime gangs. They are ruthless, extremely convincing and extremely successful and these scams net millions of pounds a year for them.

“So my message to everyone is simple: no police officer, bank security staff or government agency, will ever ask you for your bank details over the phone or by text and email. They will never tell you to withdraw money as part of a criminal investigation, nor ask you to buy goods like watches or gold, nor request that you transfer funds to another account. The police and security teams for banks simply do not work in this way. I would ask you to please let elderly and vulnerable people know never to believe anyone who claims to be from the police and who then asks for their money, even if they know some of your financial and personal details.

“We are contacting all jewellery shops across West Mercia to encourage them to be aware of the scam and what to look for if they are approached by a customer who may be a victim of this fraud and we are working in conjunction with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to combat this type of crime.”

“If you are concerned you have been targeted, because for example, you have recently provided bank details, handed over cards/cash/valuables, you are going to visit your bank/a jewellers, or the caller has arranged for someone to visit your address to collect items; you should call the police to report this on 101. In an emergency dial 999.”