CONSUMERS should be alert to a growing scam in which criminals pose as police officers and ask their victims to take part in a fake undercover operation.
Fraudsters are contacting members of the public, usually by phone, purporting to be from the police, or in some cases the fraud team within their bank. The criminal claims they are investigating a fraud at a local bank branch where staff are suspected of being complicit, including issuing fake bank notes, and asks their target to help in the operation.
As part of the scam, the individual is requested to visit the branch and withdraw a substantial sum, often thousands of pounds, of the supposedly counterfeit cash to hand over to the ‘police’ for ‘analysis’. The victim is assured that the money will be deposited back into their account after the operation is complete. However, once the money is passed over the fraudster disappears with the cash.
The criminal instructs their victim not to discuss the case with anyone in the branch, giving them plausible explanations as to why they are withdrawing the money. As a result, despite being questioned by the bank staff, the victim takes out the cash, convinced that the staff are part of a fraud.
In another version of the scam, the criminal convinces the victim to transfer money to a so-called ‘safe account’ to protect their funds from the ‘corrupt’ bank staff. However, the account is in fact controlled by the criminal.
All customers are reminded that the police and banks will never ask members of the public to become part of an anti-fraud operation or to transfer money to a ‘safe account’ for fraud reasons.
Katy Worobec, Head of Fraud and Financial Crime Prevention, Cyber and Data Sharing at UK Finance said:
“This is a particularly nasty scam as it plays on people’s public-spirited nature to assist the police. We are receiving a growing number of reports of it occurring, with people often losing large amounts of money, so it’s vital that everyone is aware. Remember, the police will never ask you to withdraw money and hand it over to them for safe-keeping.”
Paul Callard, Financial Crime Team Manager for Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “This scam has targeted individuals in our force area and we’ve actually received a report from a female victim in her 70s from Crickhowell, who was conned out of almost £15,000. The victim was able to get the initial £5,000 back from the victims bank however has not been able to get the other £9,638.16 back. Scams like these have such a negative impact on victims. I would urge people to please act with caution if approached by these types of scamsters. If in doubt, hang up and ring police on 101.”
The victim first received a phone call from a suspect claiming to be trying to catch out fraudsters. This suspect claimed that to catch out these fraudsters the suspect needed £5,000 for investigation purposes. The victim contacted her bank and had the full £5,000 transferred into the suspect’s bank account. The victim was then contacted by a suspect claiming to be from the HMRC. This suspect claimed that the victim was owed £18,000 for a tax rebate and all the victim had to do to release these funds was transfer money into a safe bank account which the victim would receive back whenever the £18,000 was released.
Advice to consumers on how to avoid this scam:
- The police will never ask you to become part of an undercover investigation or for you to withdraw cash and hand it to them for safe-keeping.
- Be wary of any calls, texts or emails purporting to be from the police asking for your personal or financial details, or for you to transfer money.
- If you are approached, or feel something is suspicious, hang up the phone and don’t reply. Then report it to Action Fraud and your bank on their advertised number.
Visit the Take Five to Stop Fraud website for more advice on how to stay safe from scams.