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Warning as courier fraud scammers trick people into handing over gold

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SCAMMERS are continuing to target people in new ways, with victims now being asked to buy gold to hand to a courier working for the police.

Last week an elderly woman in West Wales fell victim to courier fraud after being conned into believing she was working with police to prevent fraud. She was tricked into buying £25,000 of gold and handing it over to scammers.

DC Gareth Jordan, from Dyfed-Powys Police’s cybercrime team, said the recent crimes had seen victims called by someone purporting to be a police officer from Paddington Police Station.

DC Jordan added: “The fake police officer tells them about fraudulent activity on the persons bank card, or tells them that they need to transfer money to another account due to suspicious activity.

“It is the prelude to courier fraud, where someone comes to pick up the bank card, after extracting all the details such as PIN from the victim, or getting the person to go to the bank to withdraw money that can then be collected or sometimes transferred into other accounts.”

Since October the force has received complaints of 62 courier fraud calls. Thankfully 52 of the potential victims realised it was fraud, with a further five prevented when the bank intervened.

Sadly, five people fell victim to the criminals – two handed over gold, while three gave cash.

Their total losses were £63,000.

“We are working to make bank staff to look for the tell-tale signs of this, and contacting their branch managers to ensure staff are aware,” said DC Jordan.

“We are asking PCSOs to visit banks that are open on their patch and ask bank staff to inform any customers withdrawing money or transferring money about this scam.

“This scam is often aimed at the older generation, who have a respect for the police and may fall for the story that much more readily.

“What is worrying is that it can be just the start of further fraudulent activity including phoning the victim up stating they are the bank and getting the victim to transfer money to another account in the deceitful belief that their own account is now at risk due to fraudulent bank card use. The third part is investment fraud and gold purchases.”

The three phases of courier fraud

The scam begins with a person, usually male, phones the victim pretending to be a police officer. The bogus police officer explains that the victim’s bank accounts are under threat from fraudsters.

He convinces the victim to participate in a fictitious undercover police operation to catch the fraudsters and safeguard their funds.

They are told not to inform anyone, including their bank, as bank staff are equally under suspicion. Often the bogus police officer discloses private financial information about the victim, which is used to encourage the victim to trust them.

First phase: To influence the victim, the suspect asks about his/her bank account balances and overdraft facilities in place. The victim is then instructed to withdraw a small amount of cash (depending on victim’s bank balance). Victim is instructed to hand over the cash to a courier who must confirm a password/pin number provided by the suspect. Victim is later called on the phone and told most of the cash was identified as counterfeit.

Second phase: Once the victim trusts and believes the suspects’ instructions, he/she is provided with several bank account numbers (mule accounts). Victim is instructed to move a large amount of their money (often £100,000 to £300,000) into what is purported to be “safe” accounts, which are actually the mule accounts. Often the holders of the beneficiary accounts are third parties (patsy) who are unaware of the sources of the credit in their account. The money is quickly dissipated from the beneficiary accounts into accounts outside UK jurisdiction. Monies in the beneficiary account may simply be withdrawn from any UK ATM.

Third phase: Victims are instructed to either buy gold bars or high-valued watches. Again these items are handed to a courier who confirms a password given to the victim over the phone by the suspect.

DC Jordan said the order of the phases changes from victim to victim.

He said: “The suspects invest a considerable amount of time and effort in building a rapport with the victim.

“They usually instruct the victim not to divulge any details to anyone because the ‘operation’ must remain covert. Victims are coached with a cover story for bank staff, if their transactions (unusual) are flagged by the banks safety measures.”

Please remember – and tell others . . .

  • The police, or your bank, will never ask you to withdraw money or transfer it to a different account.
  • Your bank will never send a courier to your home
  • Your bank and the police will never collect your bank card
  • Your bank and the police will never ask you to reveal your full banking password or PIN
  • If you receive one of these calls, end it immediately
  • Do not click on links or attachments in unexpected or suspicious texts or emails.
  • Confirm requests are genuine by using a known number or email address to contact organisations directly.

If you think you, or someone you know, may have been targeted by scammers, please report it to us online: 

https://www.dyfed-powys.police.uk/en/contact-us/report-an-incident/, by email 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk or call 101.

Always call 999 if you feel you are in immediate harm or danger.

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Welsh Guards sergeant shot dead during Castlemartin live-fire training exercise

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A BRITISH ARMY sergeant was killed on Thursday night (Mar 4) in a shooting accident at Castlemartin Training Area, The Herald can confirm.

The solider was training with live ammunition, ahead of a planned deployment to Iraq this summer.

Five police cars and an ambulance were seen screaming through Pembroke towards the incident at approximately 10pm towards the incident.

A coastguard helicopter, CG187, was scrambled to the scene, and hovered near Bosherston for a while, but was stood down and returned to base.

The Herald has contacted the MOD for a comment, who said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on the 4th of March.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

THIS STORY IS UPDATING

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Pembrokeshire County Council bills Home Office for Penally camp costs

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THE COUNCIL has sent an invoice for more than £80,000 to the Home Office.

It is to cover some of the costs that the local authority has incurred in connection with the Penally Asylum Seeker Centre, near Tenby.

Following a question on the issue from Cllr Jonathan Preston at Full Council the Council have confirmed that a bill has been sent.

The Member for Penally ward asked: “Please can the relevant Cabinet Member provide a breakdown of all costs to this authority which have been incurred in providing staff, services and other associated resources to Penally camp since its re-purpose by the Home Office last September?”

Council leader Cllr. David Simpson confirmed that on February 22 Pembrokeshire County Council submitted an invoice for £83, 858 which includes £65,564 in staff costs, £12,799 of specialist support and £5,495 for works such as barriers.

Pembrokeshire County Council is currently awaiting payment, the Authority confirmed.

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Hospitality sector welcomes Budget boost

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IT HAS been so long it seems since we could stand at a bar and enjoy a well-earned pint, but now we are on the road back to normality, the Herald has spoken to some of those in the hospitality sector who have been asked to close. We wanted to know what the owners in businesses in these sectors locally thought of the budget and if Rishi Sunak had done enough to help them.

We first spoke to a Milford Haven restaurant business. Owner of Martha’s Vineyard in Milford Haven, Dan Mills said that the budget was not a silver bullet to fix all problems but said that the budget had gone a fair way to delivering what many in the Pembrokeshire hospitality sector have been calling for in recent weeks.

Dan Mills said: “The biggest risk many of us were facing was the cliff edge of a VAT increase, the end of the Furlough Scheme and a return to full business rates, I’m pleased that the Chancellor has recognised this and taken action on all fronts.

“With talk of the Welsh Government restricting us to outside trading for an initial period, the flexibility that the Furlough Scheme brings will be a huge help to ensure staff retain their jobs.

“I was also delighted to see that the Chancellor has provided funding to Wales to ensure that we benefit from a further 12 months of Business Rate Relief here in Pembrokeshire, that’s money that many of us can instead invest into restarting our businesses.

“I hope that the conversation that unfortunately began due to Covid between politicians and the Pembrokeshire hospitality and tourism sector can continue long beyond this crisis, it seems that through some open and honest feedback we are making real progress.

Award winning gastro-pub The Griffin Inn is well known throughout Wales and has received many national reviews. Their reputation puts them in a strong position once they are allowed to re-open. We spoke to Sian and Simon Vickers about the budget.

Simon Vickers, co-owner is also a director of Visit Pembrokeshire. He told The Herald: “I think the budget was very positive for the hospitality industry with the reduction in VAT being the biggest help.

“Overall I feel the government have supported the industry amazingly

In regard to tax on alcohol, Simon said: “Duty has been frozen It would have been nice to have seen a cut in it. Whether there’s a cut or not the breweries always increase their prices so in all honesty it never affects us.”

The ongoing financial support has been welcomed by industry group CAMRA, The Campaign or Real Ale, but the organisation said that the Chancellor had missed the opportunity to lower beer duty to save our pubs.

Their national chairman Nik Antona issued a statement to The Pembrokeshire Herald saying: “Freezing alcohol duty is obviously better than a rise. However, CAMRA had hoped to see the Chancellor announce a cut in duty on beer served on tap in pubs and social clubs to benefit consumers and help the great British pub recover and thrive in the difficult months and years ahead by being able to compete with supermarket alcohol.

“The Government’s commitment to review alcohol duties in the coming months is welcome. CAMRA will continue to call for a lower rate of duty for beer served in pubs – an option available to the Government now we have left the European Union.

“Reducing tax on beer served in pubs and social clubs would encourage responsible drinking in a supervised, community setting – as well as boosting jobs and local economies, helping consumers and benefiting pubs and licensees.”

On financial support announced, Nik commented: “Cutting VAT as pubs begin to reopen, and reducing it until April next year, means they can now start benefiting from that cut – but CAMRA believes this VAT cut should be extended to alcohol so that traditional locals that don’t serve food can benefit too.

“The extension of furlough until September and new grants of up to £18,000 are very welcome. However, pubs are unlikely to be able to fully reopen at pre-COVID trading levels due to outside space and then table service only indoors. The beer and pubs sector will need further support over the coming months, over and above new loans, to help them get back on their feet until there is a full and proper re-opening and they can trade at full capacity.

“Extending the business rates holiday until the end of June will help keep the wolves from the door for many English pubs, with the two-thirds reduction for the rest of the financial year a welcome step. However, given how tough it will be for many pubs we believe the 100% cut in business rates needs to be extended for a full 12 months as has already happened in Scotland.”

Picture: Simon Vickers, Griffin Inn, Dale

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