We've previously covered other scams that predominantly use telephone or email communications, encouraging you to hand over personal information or click on suspicious links. However, there's another type of fraud that's recently been the focus of Dorset Police. Courier fraud involves elements of a telephone scam, but works a little differently.

What is courier fraud?

Courier fraud often begins with a telephone call from a fraudster, who will normally pretend to be a police officer or employee of the victim’s bank. To add authenticity to the scam, they'll often disclose some personal information about the victim, like their full name or address.

Sometimes, the fraudster might provide a phone number for the victim to call back, but this will usually be a false number that redirects to the same person or a collaborator. In some cases, fraudsters can even make their number appear to be coming from a named organisation such as NatWest. Action Fraud, the UK’s anti-fraud police specialists, call this number spoofing.

Once the fraudster believes that they've obtained the trust of their victim, they will normally provide one of several scenarios. For example, they may advise the victim to withdraw a hefty sum of money from their bank, or to purchase an expensive item.

The last step is for a courier to be sent to the victim, normally to their home address, instructed to collect the product or cash. Sometimes, they’ll be given a safe word to exchange with the victim, to make the process seem more plausible. However, the courier is just another fraudster working in collaboration with the person on the telephone.

Handing over your debit card

In some cases of courier fraud, the fraudsters will claim that your debit card has been cloned or has expired. They’ll ask for a range of details about the card, which may include the PIN number, and then explain that their courier needs to collect it before a replacement can be issued. You should never hand over your debit card; if you do, the fraudsters will have access to your debit card and could withdraw your money or commit identity fraud against you.

What you should do

Throughout the process of a courier fraud scam, there are several red flags that should cause you, your friends or relatives to stop and question what’s wrong with the scenario. There are also some actions that you can take to reduce the chances of the scammer being successful.

  1. Though the caller will know some basic information about the victim, this is typically information that can be stolen from a discarded letter or often found online. Details such as your name and address are common pieces of information that many people could easily find out.
  2. It's uncommon for the police to target individuals with phone calls. Similarly, if your bank does call you, they're not going to ask for sensitive information such as your full PIN number; instead, it will normally be two digits from a four-digit number.
  3. If the fraudster offers you a phone number to call back to verify the claims being made, don't immediately call back. Fraudsters may keep the line open when you hang up, meaning you'll still be connected. Instead, wait 5 to 10 minutes and call the number on the back of your debit card. If you’re using a landline, make sure you hear a dial tone before you call.

In closing

Though the process of courier fraud might seem like an obvious scam, it’s important to remember that not everybody is as switched-on to the activities of fraudsters. Certain age groups are more at risk than others, particularly those less familiar with more modern technology or banking processes.

If you have any questions about common scams that occur over the phone or by email, or you’d like to discuss how you can improve your online security, then you can get in touch with WiseGuys on 0808 123 2820.