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£28.7 million lost to courier fraudsters

Over £429,000 was lost to courier fraud in Avon and Somerset between March 2023 and April 2024, contributing to a national loss of £28.7 million, data from Action Fraud has revealed.  

Pensioners especially are being urged to be vigilant after people in their 80s were most likely to be targeted by criminals carrying out this type of crime. Data shows this age group accounted for 43 per cent of victims across the UK. 

Courier fraud occurs when people are contacted by persons purporting to be police officers, or bank officials and duped into handing over money, valuables, or bank cards, which are collected from their home address, often by couriers. The criminals use a variety of different tactics, often claiming that there is a problem with your account, and they need your help to catch the real criminals.  

The victim may also be encouraged into handing over their bank cards and PINs, as well as high value items such as jewellery, watches, and gold (coins or bullion). Victims can also be coerced into going out and buying items such as gold and jewellery from legitimate retailers on behalf of criminals. 

In Avon and Somerset, courier fraud is known to have taken place in Bath, Bridgwater, Kingswood in South Gloucestershire, Langport, Taunton, Westbury-on-Trym in Bristol, and Yeovil in the last year, but this type of crime can happen anywhere. 

Action Fraud data represents only reports made to the UK’s national reporting centre directly, so reports to police may not be included. With fraud also known to be under-reported, the full number of losses and victims may be much higher. Police urge victims to come forward, even if the fraud didn’t happen recently. 

In the last two weeks (13-25 May) Avon and Somerset Police’s dedicated Fraud Team has devoted staff and resourcing to support a national intensification operation, targeted at reducing courier fraud.  

Fraud officers have been monitoring fraud logs and crime reports as they come in for early identification of courier fraud. A banking referral resulted in early identification of a victim outside of Avon and Somerset with the matter referred to another police force for investigation and victim support.

Communications centre staff received new guidance on how to identify calls relating to courier fraud, and best practice guidance has been created to help officers when attending such reports.   

Detective Inspector Scott Chadwick, of Avon and Somerset Police’s Organised and Serious Crime Investigation Team, said: 

“Courier fraud is a cruel crime that often targets vulnerable and elderly people, and can result in psychological harm, as well as financial loss, to the victims. These are people who often rely on their landline phones to stay connected with their loved ones and the outside world. 

“The criminals behind courier fraud rely on people panicking when they receive a call to say that something on their account looks suspicious. We urge people not to act immediately, but to take five minutes out to think and talk to people you know and trust who will help to look at the situation. Question who you could be speaking to on the phone, however authentic they seem, and never be rushed into acting. 

“We’re asking families and friends of older people to spread the word of what this type of fraud looks like and explain it, so that those at risk are made aware. 

“If you or a loved one or friend is being contacted by the police or the bank and asked to withdraw money, handover bank cards or make purchases, report it to police immediately by calling 999. 

“We’re also calling on taxi drivers and delivery people, who may unwittingly be asked to act as couriers to collect money or goods on behalf of the fraudsters, to be on the alert and report anything they think could be suspicious to us.” 

Police recommend that for peace of mind, a call blocking device can be fitted to filter unwanted scam and nuisance calls and stop them from getting through to a person’s landline. The devices allow calls through from a trusted caller list set by the user for friends, family members, doctors, and any other trusted contacts. To find out more about call blockers, visit  www.truecall.co.uk.  

Reports of fraud (not in progress) should be made to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.