Express & Star

'Particularly nasty' fraudsters steal more than £250,000 from West Midlands residents in cruel scams

Courier fraudsters stole more than a quarter of a million pounds from West Midlands residents last year - and police are warning residents to be vigilant to avoid becoming victims themselves.

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The warning comes from West Midlands Police, who reported that almost 50 cases of courier fraud took place in the region, costing victims hundreds of thousands of pounds.

In total, 46 cases were reported in 2023 and the amount of money lost was £283,281.

According to the data - provided by crime firm Action Fraud - people in their 80s are 'most likely to be targeted' as they make up almost half (43 per cent) of all cases reported in in the UK, with a grand total of £28.7 million lost in 2023 alone.

Police issued the warning as over a quarter of a million pounds was lost

Police say that courier fraud takes place when people are contacted by persons claiming to be police officers or bank officials and duped into handing over money, valuables or bank cards. The valuables are collected from their home address, often by couriers themselves.

The criminals use a mixture of different methods, usually claiming that there is a problem with their victim's account and they need their help to catch the real criminals behind it.

The victim may also be encouraged to reveal 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.

Of reports made, 63 per cent of victims were female and 37 per cent were male, with an average loss per victim of £20,032. Comparative reporting data for 2022 and 2023 showed that there was a slight decline in total losses this year, of £85,976 (£28,772,067 vs £28,686,091).

Detective Sergeant Victoria O’Keefe, from the Lead Force Operations Room at the City of London Police, said: “This is a particularly nasty crime type often resulting in significant psychological harm and financial loss to victims, many of whom are living alone and suffering age-related illness.

“Led by the City of London Police, this operation was a joint effort by forces across England and Wales to intensify activity and jointly crack down on fraudsters who prey upon elderly people by cold calling landlines and posing as police officers and bank officials. Over a two-week period, we worked with colleagues in the Metropolitan Police and teams across England and Wales to proactively arrest offenders and safeguard vulnerable victims.

“Many elderly people rely on their landline phone to stay connected to the outside world and for peace of mind, we would recommend protecting loved ones from fraudulent calls by getting a call blocking device fitted.

“If you hear that your friend or loved one is being contacted out of the blue by the police or the bank and asked to withdraw money, handover bank cards or make purchases, report it to the police immediately."