Officers from the North East Regional Organised Crime Unit (NEROCU) want to empower victims and raise awareness of the complex scams being used to dupe people out of their hard earned cash.
Work at the NEROCU continues to pursue fraudsters and bring them to justice, but officers are also determined to make sure the public feel confident and capable of challenging scammers to help catch them in the act and report them in real time.
The crime type, known as courier fraud, often targets vulnerable and elderly people via calls to their landline or mobile telephones from withheld numbers from someone purporting to be a police officer or figure of authority.
This criminal then proceeds to inform the victim of fraudulent activity on their bank account and sometimes claims that their bank staff are involved.
The criminal then directs the victim to attend their local bank to withdraw a large amount of cash and to return home where it will be collected by a police courier for examination – who is actually a criminal associate.
Temporary Detective Sergeant David Holcroft, from NEROCU’s Proactive Economic Crime Team (PECT), said the best thing for people to do is to accept nothing and challenge everything.
He said: “These criminals are experts in manipulating people and copying the methods of communication used by banks, HMRC, the police and other reputable organisations to appear legitimate.
“They prey on people’s vulnerabilities and fears, exploiting this and profiting from it. The best thing people can do is assume any correspondence or cold-calls are fake.”
Recently in the North East two elderly victims have been de-frauded of £22,500 and £7,000 after criminals called pretending to be a police officer and stating their bank account had been compromised.
Another victim recently attempted to transfer £61,000 to a bank account after being contacted by fraudsters. Their bank noticed the suspicious transfer and blocked it but the criminals were quick to act and instructed the victim to attend a jewellers to purchase expensive watches, which would subsequently be collected by a criminal courier.
DS Holcroft added: “No reputable organisation will mind if you take your time, challenge them, or ask for proof and hang up. Only a fraudster will try and hurry you into making a rushed transaction or supplying personal details in a hurry.
“If in doubt, check it out using your trusted sources. So, for example, drop into your local bank or call the number given on your official bank statement. If you’re online and there’s a pop up, ignore it – if there’s a link - don’t click it.
“If you do find yourself a victim then please report it. You will never be judged and shouldn’t feel embarrassed. These criminals are master manipulators who use complex and well thought out tactics to trick people.”
NEROCU officers also work with banks and community groups to educate staff and the public around spotting the signs and how to report it.
For help and advice visit the Action Fraud website.
If you need to report a crime or suspicious activity please speak to your local police force via their website or calling 101. Remember, in an emergency, always call 999.