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Police plea to elderly - don’t be conned by phone scammers’ banking scare stories

Thursday 13 February 2014

Police are urging West Midlands’ communities to rally against phone scammers who are conning the region’s elderly out of thousands of pounds with banking scare stories.

Courier fraudFraud investigators have reported a surge in reports from residents who’ve been stung by a "Courier Scam" which sees tricksters talking vulnerable people into handing over bank cards and PIN numbers.

The ruse involves callers posing as police officers and panicking targets into believing their bank account has been hacked…and that they need to seize the cards and security details, including PIN numbers, to stop further fraudulent transactions.

In some cases, the scammers have sent couriers to the customer’s homes to collect bank cards which have then been used to withdraw cash or go on spending sprees.

The tactic gained popularity amongst con artists last year and in the first six weeks of this year more than 30 people − whose ages range from 59 to 93 − have fallen foul of the con.

West Midlands Police Chief Inspector Adrian Atherley, said: "Police officers or genuine bank officials would never call and ask you to divulge PIN numbers over the phone or send couriers round to collect cards. If you receive a call requesting this then hang up and contact police.

"The scammers claim the target’s bank account has been hacked and advise them to hang-up and phone the number on the back of their card. However, because the fraudsters don’t themselves hang up, the victim is unwittingly still on the line to them rather than their starting a fresh conversation with their bank.

"They are then asked to hand over PIN numbers, either verbally or by keying them into the handset, and are told a courier will arrive to collect their cards. And of course armed with the cards and PIN the account is at their mercy."

The victims identified so far this year have collectively lost around £10,000 to the scam.

One of the worst cases saw an 88-year-old Erdington lady lose more than £3,000 between January 23 and 26 having been falsely told men had been arrested for tapping into her bank account.

She also handed over £200 in cash to the ‘courier’ after the fraudsters told her they needed to seize her last withdrawal as "evidence". She agreed a password with the caller and also received daily updates from the thieves claiming the suspects were being quizzed and urging her not to discuss the "case" with anyone − but the follow-up calls were designed to give them more time to spend the lady’s money.

Chief Insp Atherley, added: "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 and remind them never to disclose bank details or hand over cards to anyone.

"Our advice is always to be wary of unsolicited callers, whether on the phone or in person, and if in doubt, hang-up or close the door...and call police. Don’t get conned!"

West Midlands Police arrested three London teenagers last September on suspicion of running a phone scam from a Birmingham B&B.

Imran Miah and Masum Uddin − both aged 18 − and 19-year-old Hussain Abidrahman were detained in Edgbaston’s Holly Road after a courier was despatched to collect bank cards from a pensioner in Sutton Coldfield.

All three are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and are due to be sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on March 7.

Protect yourself against courier fraud:

  • Your bank or police will never send a courier to your home to collect bank cards
  • 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.