A victim of courier fraud has described losing her “trust in people” after being conned out of almost £60,000.
The 65-year-old, who wishes to remain anonymous, has shared her experience in a bid to warn others and raise awareness of the sophisticated scam.
In the last two months, police in Norfolk have received more than 100 reports about fraudulent calls from suspects claiming to be police officers. The cold-callers will make efforts to defraud victims of money, asking them to withdraw large sums of cash in connection with an investigation.
The victim, who lives in Breckland, was targeted in September when she received a telephone call on her landline from an unknown number. The caller claimed to be a police officer working on behalf of the Fraud Prevention Investigation Team in London.
The officer said he was calling from Paddington Police Station and that they were investigating a case of stolen identity whereby someone in London had been using the victim’s personal details. In a bid to gain the victim’s trust, the fraudsters said she could verify their identity by ending the call and immediately dialling 999 and ask to verify the officer’s collar number and investigation reference. What the victim didn’t realise is that the line had been left open by the fraudster and so when she picked up to redial 999, the call was still connected to the scammer.
The victim was told police were carrying out an undercover operation into suspects allegedly passing counterfeit notes through the banking system and asked for her help.
Recalling the incident, the victim said: “I had grown up trusting the police and had no reason to think this was a scam. I had already verified that this was legitimate by calling the generic 999 number and so I agreed to help the officer with their investigation.”
The victim was asked to go to the bank and withdraw some money, which would then be collected by a courier who would attend her home address. The cash would then be examined to see if it was counterfeit. The victim was advised the money would be reimbursed as soon as their enquiries were complete and he was grateful for her assistance with the investigation. The suspects kept in contact with the victim, providing regular updates and advised the money was counterfeit. The cold-caller said a further two transactions would be needed as part of their investigation.
Describing the con, the victim said: “The officer would remain on the phone whilst I attended the banks in order to listen in on the conversation. I assumed this was part of the investigation and it made me feel at ease given that I was involved in an undercover operation. So, as asked, I withdrew two further payments from separate banks and handed them over to the courier. As expected, they too were counterfeit.
“At the time I felt like I was doing something to help. I’m of the generation that strongly believes the local bobby will always help you out. These scammers preyed on that and they targeted me when I was in an emotionally vulnerable position.
“I realise now that these scammers treat this as their job and like us, they strive to do it to the best of their ability. They commit these crimes in such a sophisticated way, preying on the older generation who are more likely to be isolated, vulnerable or more financially stable.
“Looking back now, they brainwashed me into thinking I was being helpful. They made me feel like I was in control; when I asked whether I could tell my daughter about the investigation, the officer had never strictly told me not to so, but advised that it wouldn’t help the undercover operation. Therefore, I made the decision myself to keep it from her believing it would be within the best interests of the investigation.
“The effects of this crime will never be understood by someone who has not been through it. My children now regularly stay at my house as I struggle to be alone. I have undoubtedly lost my confidence and ability to socialise as perhaps I used to or would like to.
“Although I know that this was a sophisticated crime, that often many people fall for, I cannot help blaming myself and I often feel frustrated and emotional about it. I will no longer be able to have the future I envisioned and the financial implications are major. It has undoubtedly changed the way I trust people and the world.”
Norfolk Police are reminding residents that your bank or the police will NEVER ask for your PIN, bank card or bank account details over the phone. Never give these details to anybody.
Further advice includes:
Neither the police nor the banks will send a courier to collect money from you.
Always request Photo ID and if unsure call the police.
If you’re asked to telephone a bank, then always do it on a different phone to the one you were contacted on.
Fraudsters will keep the line open and have been known to play ringtones, hold music and a recorded message down the phone so the victim believes they are making a call to a legitimate number. Ensure you can hear a dialling tone before calling police or use a friend or neighbour’s telephone instead.
Do not rush into complying to the scammers demands / requests.
If you have already given your bank details over the phone or handed your card details to a courier, call you bank straight away to cancel the card.
Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Lorne Green, who commissions a countywide support service for scams victims, praised the victim for sharing her experience in order to help others protect themselves.
“What this Breckland resident has experienced is truly shocking. Her story highlights just how complex and convincing these scams can be and also the impact they have on their victims’ lives. Her bravery in speaking out in order to help raise awareness and prevent others finding themselves in her shoes is to be commended.
“As evidenced by this case, the emotional and financial hurt of being a victim of a scam can be massive. Key to preventing that harm is sharing information and advice, and learning how to keep ourselves safe.
“Who among us has not had that phone call, email or knock on the door by parties unknown seeking heartlessly to steal from us? Don’t brush off suspicious approaches; report them. If you’ve been a victim, speak out. Not only will you help the police with their investigations to put these criminals where they belong, but you may help your family, friends and fellow Norfolk residents avoid the hurtful exploitation you’ve endured.
“And if you’ve been affected by a scam, please don’t suffer in silence. The Norfolk Scam Prevention Service is there to help you.”
The Norfolk Scam Prevention Service, delivered by Norfolk and Suffolk Victim Care, is a free and confidential service offering specialist support to individuals that have been targeted by scammers. The service, commissioned by the PCC and supported by the partners who make up the Norfolk Against Scams Partnership, helped 1,200 people affected by scams last year. Feedback from those using the service shows it is helping people feel more confident, safer and better placed to cope with the impact of what they have experienced.
Kami Al-Faris, service coordinator for the Norfolk Scam Prevention Service, said: “Sadly, in the last three months, we have seen an increasing number of reported incidents of elderly people being targeted by scammers impersonating police officers and the National Crime Agency, as well as scams directly relating to Coronavirus, including fake Track and Trace messages and false requests for information from local or national authorities.
“We have worked with victims facing these types of scams who have lost up to £390,000; whereas some victims who have not lost any money, may instead have their data or privacy compromised.
“We can help victims cope and recover from their experience, providing practical advice and information so they can get back their confidence and feel safe again. If you have been affected by a scam and would like to talk in confidence with a specialist member of our team phone 101 followed by extension 5005 or email email@example.com.”