personal finance

What is the courier fraud scam?

Courier fraud is on the rise. An increasing number of reports from the public have been submitted to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre.

How it works

The scam starts with a phone call from the fraudster, pretending to be a bank official or a police officer. The caller may be asked to confirm some personal details that would be fairly easy to find out, such as their name and address.

The fraudster may then give the victim a phone number to call. The phone number is meant to reassure the victim that this is a genuine case and not a scam. If the victim calls the number, it’s answered by the fraudster who pretends to be someone else. Once the fraudster has gained the trust of the victim they will suggest a plausible scenario, such as some money has been removed from a victim’s bank account and staff at their local bank branch are responsible. Suspects have already been arrested but the “police” need money for evidence. Or they will claim a business such as a jewellers or currency exchange, is operating fraudulently and they need assistance to gather evidence.

The next step

The fraudster then asks the victim if they will help them with the investigation by doing one of the following:

• Going to their bank and taking out money

• Withdrawing foreign currency from an exchange

• Buying an expensive item for an expert to examine

The victim may be given a ‘safe’ code word that the courier or expert will say to them so they will know they are genuine. The courier will then turn up to collect the money or expensive object, and say the code word, reassuring the victim once again that they are genuine.

When the money or object is handed over, the victim is promised that they’ll get all the money back or be reimbursed for their purchase. However, the fraudster then disappears, and the victim never receives the money they’re owed.

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Conned out of £200,000

Courier fraud was used in 2016 to dupe a 75-year-old woman from Hampshire. She handed over £200,000 to criminals she thought were from Halifax fraud squad. The Telegraph reported that not only did she withdraw cash that was collected from her house, she also transferred money into another bank account.

Protect yourself

Action Fraud has the following advice to protect yourself from courier fraud.

Your bank or the police will never:

• Phone and ask you for your PIN or full banking password.

• Ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them for safe-keeping,

• Send someone to your home to collect cash, PIN, cards or cheque books if you’re a victim of fraud.

Don’t assume an email or phone call is authentic

Just because someone knows your basic details (such as your name and address or even your mother’s maiden name), it doesn’t mean they are genuine. Be mindful of who you trust – criminals may try and trick you into their confidence by telling you that you’ve been a victim of fraud.

Stay in control

If something feels wrong, then it’s usually right to question it. Have the confidence to refuse unusual requests for personal or financial information.

The TakeFive campaign encourages you to stop and think about whether the situation is genuine, and if what you’re being told really makes sense. There’s lots of advice and information on their website.


For more information about how to protect yourself online, visit the Government’s Cyber Aware website

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