Fraud police are urging residents to stay vigilant against phone scammers posing as cops and bank staff after eight Birmingham residents were collectively conned out of £26,000 in the last few weeks.
Schemers posing as London detectives are understood to have made a spate of ‘phishing’ calls trying to panic people into handing over cash and bank cards with scare stories suggesting their accounts had been hacked.
On March 16 they succeeded in conning £3,500 out of a Billesley pensioner (aged 78) after claiming his card had been cloned, and four days later took £4,000 in cash from a 46-year-old Selly Park man who was told the notes were counterfeit must be seized as evidence.
The same scam convinced an 84-year-old Kings Norton woman to hand over £5,000 and the cruel conmen made off with £7,500 from an 80-year-old man having sent a ‘courier’ to his Kings Norton home on 23 March to collect the cash and cards.
He became suspicious two days later and, on contacting his bank, found the fraudsters had used his card to plunder more funds from his account.
Sergeant Rod Rose from West Midlands Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “The scam involves people calling and pretending to be police officers – most recently claiming to be from Hammersmith or the Met in London – reporting suspicious activity on their bank account.
“They may claim to have arrested someone with a cloned bank card, that money has been taken from their account, or that cash in their account is counterfeit. In some cases they’ve convinced pensioners their bank is issuing fake notes and instructed them to withdraw large sums and hand it over to a ‘courier’ for police to examine…and of course they never see the money again.
“Some people fall for the scam because they believe the bogus PC’s story has been verified by a follow-up call to their bank − but because the scammers don’t hang up the victim is unwittingly still speaking to them and not a bank official.
“Our message is simple…police officers or genuine bank officials would never ask you to divulge PIN numbers over the phone or send couriers round to collect cards or cash. If you receive a call requesting this then hang up and contact police.”
A total of 30 such cons – billed Courier Fraud as a runner is sent to collect cards or cash – have reported to West Midlands Police since the start of March.
Most of those were failed attempts as, following an awareness raising campaign last year by West Midlands Police, many people are now switched on to the hustle.
However, Sgt Rose believes many more fraud attempts have been made by the tricksters but may simply have been dismissed as nuisance calls by intended targets.
He added: “It’s good that people are getting the message and not falling for the fraudsters’ patter. But it’s important people contact us if they’ve been targeted so we can build up an accurate picture on the scale of the fraud, the tactics being used and potentially gather crucial information on offenders.
“These con artists are cold, calculated thieves. Their tactic is to scare and confuse elderly people into handing over sensitive information…and they are convincing. If you’ve got elderly relatives, friends or neighbours please make sure they are aware of this scam.”
Protect yourself against courier fraud:
• Your bank or police will never send a courier to your home to collect bank cards or cash
• Your bank or police will never ask for your PIN number
• If you receive one of these calls end it immediately.
If you’ve been a victim call your bank and cancel your cards immediately – try to call from a different phone if reporting it immediately after being contacted by someone you believe was a scammer – and report it to West Midlands Police on 101.