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Criminals impersonate police in fake investigation fraud

Police car with do not cross tape and CRIME

POLICE are warning people, particularly the elderly, to be wary of a growing fraud in which criminals pose as police officers and ask their victims to take part in a fake undercover operation.

Seventeen offences have been reported to Staffordshire Police with two losses totalling approximately £20,000. Four further reports were reported directly to Action Fraud but did not report a loss.

Fraudsters are contacting members of the public, usually by phone, claiming to be from the police, or in some cases their bank’s fraud team. They claim they are investigating a fraud at a local bank branch where staff are suspected of being complicit, including issuing fake bank notes, and ask their target to help in the operation.

As part of the fraud, the individual is asked to visit their bank and withdraw a large sum, often thousands of pounds, of the supposedly counterfeit cash to hand over to the ‘police’ for analysis. The victim is assured that the money will be put back into their account after the operation is complete. However, once the money is passed over the fraudster disappears with the cash.

The victim is instructed not to discuss the case with anyone in the branch, giving them plausible explanations as to why they are withdrawing the money. As a result, despite being questioned by bank staff, the victim takes out the cash, convinced that staff are part of the fraud.

In another version of the fraud, the criminal convinces the victim to transfer the money to a so-called ‘safe account’ to protect their funds from ‘corrupt’ bank staff. However, the account is controlled by the offender.

Detective Inspector Rob Harvmann, of the force’s Fraud and Financial Investigation Unit said: “Fraudsters will use whatever way they can to get people to believe in them. Impersonating a bank official or a police officer reinforces that belief.

“It’s important to remember neither the bank nor the police will cold call you asking you to act on their behalf. Be vigilant, do not engage in conversation, put the phone down and tell someone you trust. If you have been a victim of such a fraud and you have handed money to someone, please contact 101 or Action Fraud.”

Advice on how to avoid this fraud:

  • The police will never ask you to become part of an undercover investigation or for you to withdraw cash and hand it to them for safe-keeping.
  • Be wary of any calls, texts or emails purporting to be from the police asking for your personal or financial details, or for you to transfer money.
  • If you are approached or feel something is suspicious, hang up the phone and don’t reply. Then report it to Action Fraud (www.actionfraud.police.uk) and your bank on their advertised number.

Visit the Take Five to Stop Fraud http://takefive-stopfraud.org.uk for more advice on how to stay safe from scams.

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