Pensioners are being urged to be vigilant after data revealed that more than £28.7 million was lost to courier fraud in the last year.

People in their 80s are most likely to be targeted by criminals carrying out courier fraud, with this age range accounting for 43 per cent of all victims, data from Action Fraud shows.

Courier fraud occurs when people are contacted by persons purporting to be police officers, or bank officials and duped into handing over money, valuables or bank cards, which are collected from their home address, often by couriers. The criminals use a variety of different tactics, often claiming that there is a problem with your account and they need your help to catch the real criminals.

The victim may also be encouraged into handing over 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.”

At the start of May 2024, City of London Police’s Lead Force Operations Room (LFOR) led the coordination of a two-week intensification period on courier fraud.

Across the two weeks, there were over 100 referrals from 26 forces across England and Wales. LFOR then acted as a temporary “command centre” to help support forces with the dissemination of referrals whilst also providing tactical support.

Financial losses during this period amounted to total over £290,000 with one victim losing £56,000. The majority of offences (70%) involved criminals pretending to be the police and in 22% of cases they pretended to be from their bank.

Approximately 85% of victims were aged 60-90 years old; 31.5% were in their 70’s and 33% were in their 80’s. The oldest victim was 94 years old.

Five suspects were arrested, and enquiries are ongoing.

The National Economic Crime Centre, in the National Crime Agency, provided funding to support the intensification period, and helped to coordinate alongside City of London Police.

A total of 100 trueCall blocker devices were also purchased and offered to victims across the country during the two-week period.

Call blockers filter unwanted scam and nuisance calls and stop them from getting through to the person’s landline. The devices allow calls through from a trusted caller list set by the user for friends, family members, doctors and any other trusted contacts. To find out more about call blockers, visit www.truecall.co.uk.

City of London Police previously worked with trueCall as part of an initiative in 2021 to install call blockers in the homes of residents living in the city.

Reports of fraud should also be made to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040. In Scotland, reports of fraud can be made to Police Scotland on 101.

Notes to editors

Figures quoted are from April 2023 to March 2024

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