Detectives investigating more than 100 cases of so-called ‘courier fraud’ in the West Midlands since the start of the year have raided 10 addresses and arrested four people in connection with the crimes.
Officers from the West Midlands Economic Crime Unit (ECU) forced entry to nine properties in Perry Barr, Nechells, Aston, Kings Norton, Washwood Heath, Kitts Green and Wednesbury at 7am today (5 March).
Colleagues from the London Regional Fraud Team simultaneously raided a property in the Camden area of the capital as part of the major investigation.
A 58-year-old man was arrested at an address on Burns Road, Wednesbury and a 20-year-old man was arrested at a property on Gilden Crescent, Camden, both on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud. A quantity of live ammunition has also been found at the Wednesbury address.
Three of the men are being held at police stations in the West Midlands, whilst the fourth is currently being transported from London as thorough searches continue at all 10 locations.
This morning’s action followed the arrests of two men aged 18 and 19 last night (4 March) in Birmingham city centre as a result of quick-time enquiries.
The number of courier fraud offences has risen dramatically in the West Midlands since the start of the year and officers have been working around the clock to close-in on suspected offenders.
Courier-fraudsters commit their crimes by cold-calling victims and claiming to be police officers. They then use a story to convince the person to hand their card to a courier who visits their home to collect it.
The key part of the fraud is that the phone line is left open by the thieves, which means when the victim calls their bank to confirm the story they’re actually speaking to the scammers.
Latest figures show 114 reported cases in the West Midlands area since 1 January 2014, with elderly victims being specifically targeted.
The recent spike prompted a major crime prevention drive by police last month as people were urged to warn elderly relatives and neighbours about the cruel phone con.
An 85-year-old victim, who lost £300 in a matter of minutes after handing over his card, branded the scammers “low-life cowards” and warned others not to fall for the ruse.
Detective Chief Inspector Adrian Atherley, from the West Midlands ECU, said: “The action we’ve taken over the last 24 hours has been the result of extensive enquiries; we’re hoping it will seriously disrupt these networks who seek to exploit vulnerable members of our community.
“The people responsible for committing these crimes are cold, calculated thieves; their tactic is to scare and confuse elderly people into handing over sensitive information – but the police and banks will never ask for your PIN over the phone, so you should always put down the receiver straight away.
“Despite today’s arrests, it is vital people remain vigilant to this scam, so if you’ve got elderly relatives, friends or neighbours please 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!”
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fyfe, Head of the London Regional Fraud Team, which is based out of the City of London Police, said: “This operation reveals courier fraud, with elderly people often being the targets, to be a wide reaching problem which is being met by a national law enforcement response.
“The consequences for innocent members of the public who fall victim to these fraudsters can be terrible, so it is absolutely vital people do not give their bank details or cards to anyone.
“Vigilance, coupled with enforcement action being taken by the West Midlands Economic Crime Unit and the London Regional Fraud Team is the best way to confront this scam now and in the future.”
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.