A FRAUD prevention scheme aimed at identifying and protecting potential fraud victims has stopped more than £100,000 being passed to criminals in Staffordshire in the last two months.
The scheme, launched at the end of September, developed as a partnership between the police, Trading Standards and the finance industry, enables bank staff to contact police if they suspect a customer is in the process of being defrauded, with a rapid response to the branch.
In October and November, Staffordshire Police received five calls where concern for six adults (four men and two women) was reported and recorded. This included three ‘romance frauds’ and one ‘carer fraud’.
Romance fraud works through social engineering rather than any kind of sophisticated technology. The fraudster typically creates a profile on a dating or social networking site, exploiting information that potential targets have posted.
As soon as the fraudster has gained the trust of the victim, he or she will typically profess to have fallen in love, and soon after that, begin requesting money. They may claim to have an emergency need for funds or may request money for air-fares to visit the target. Among other possibilities, the fraudster may request photos or personal information that could eventually be used to blackmail the victim and extort more money.
Detective Inspector Rob Harvmann, of the force’s Fraud and Financial Investigation Unit, said: “Fraud can have a devastating impact on some of the most susceptible people in society and it’s by working together with Trading Standards and the finance industry that we can make a real difference. This joint working is a great example of taking action to protect people from becoming victims.”
A NEWBORN baby was threatened by a gang of burglars, police revealed today, as officers appealed for the public’s help catching thieves behind a series of raids across the Midlands where victims have been attacked in their own homes.
Jewellery worth tens of thousands of pounds has been stolen from a number of homes across parts of Birmingham in recent weeks.
Violence has been used on a number of occasions, with other victims being threatened but not harmed.
In all detectives are investigating 28 crimes, which are believed to have been carried out by a number of different groups which are not connected to each other.
Areas, where burglars have struck, include Balsall Heath, Erdington, Small Heath, Winson Green, Kitts Green, Hall Green, Edgbaston and Alum Rock and Four Oaks.
There have also been break-ins in vand Ward End and Moseley.
One victim was struck with a metal bar, and others have been hit with fists. No one has been seriously injured.
In one incident in Balsall Heath on 8 November, a front door was forced in and a family ushered into a bedroom.
The gang picked up and threatened to harm a newborn baby if they were not told where money was hidden, and knives were held to the throats of women in the house.
In another incident, in Small Heath on 21 November, a gang armed with screwdrivers took off a victim’s jewellery and squirted his hands with cleaning fluid.
A man, aged 27 has been arrested on suspicion of robbery in connection with a raid on a home in College Road, Moseley. He remains on bail.
Detective Inspector Dave Keen, overseeing the investigation, said: “The spate we have seen recently is a real concern for me and we are doing everything we can to identify the criminals responsible.
“We’ve got a dedicated taskforce which is which is working on this literally 24 hours a day.
“We’ve got a lot of good lines of inquiry, and in the areas where these offences have happened, there’s a commitment to carry out special patrols, in conjunction with Central Motorway Patrol Group officers and dog handlers.
“It’s also very important that residents do as much as possible to protect their property.
“Asian traditions have always placed a strong emphasis on jewellery it plays an important role in many religious festivals as well as significant family occasions, with many items handed down through generations.
“These are not just highly valuable possessions; they are also of great sentimental worth and are a huge loss to their owners if such jewellery is taken.
“We’re issuing a warning to people owning valuable gold jewellery and urging them to take simple steps to protect it.
“We believe these criminals scope areas for homes that could be potential targets, I ask people to be aware of individuals or vehicles in their area acting suspiciously. If you are in any doubt, call the police.
“Any information will help with our investigations into identifying and bringing those responsible for these burglaries to justice.”
Anyone with information or who has been offered Asian or high-value gold for sale is asked to call Det Sgt Tom Lyons at Stechford police station on 101.
Alternatively, information can also be passed anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Follow these simple steps to help reduce these types of crime:
- Keep the jewellery in a safe place and locked up if possible.
- Consider installing a safe at home which is securely fixed to the floor or wall. Speak to your insurance company ensure you have a safe that offers the correct level of protection.
- Ensure that the jewellery is insured.
- Consider storing high valuable items elsewhere such as in a bank or safety deposit box; contact your bank for details.
- Make a list of all jewellery stored in your house with a description of each item.
- Photograph all pieces of jewellery against a plain background with the ruler next to them to give an idea of size.
- Make sure your home is kept secure at all times: keep windows and doors locked, switch lights on when going out to make your home look occupied, use burglar alarms and install dusk till dawn security lights on the outside of your property.
- If you are buying jewellery as a gift, don’t leave it or its packaging on display. Follow as much of the above advice as possible to keep it safe.