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Intelligence Policing

Local police are urging elderly Londoners to avoid falling foul of ruthless fraudsters who use courier firms to help defraud victims of their life savings.

Vigilance can report that throughout the MPS's Courier Fraud Awareness Day  on 20 March, 2013, Safer Neighbourhoods Teams (SNTs) in every borough carried out activities to highlight crime prevention measures against the scam, which has impacted every borough and claimed 2,229 victims - mostly elderly - in two years.

Since January 2011, police have arrested 130 courier fraudsters and charged 93, including two brothers who have been jailed for more than 10 years for taking almost a quarter of a million pounds from over 200 victims (see case study below).

According to the police spokesperson the fraud works by the suspect telephoning the victim and claiming to be someone from an authority - usually the police, bank or Serious Fraud Office, telling them that their bank account has been compromised and their card must be collected.

The police image maker said the most convincing element of the ruse is that the suspect instructs the victim to hang up and call the police/bank/Serious Fraud Office on a genuine number to check that they are who they say they are. The victim, he said dials the new number but the fraudster does not disconnect so, unknown to the victim, they are still speaking to the suspect or a co-conspirator.

The fraudster then convinces the victim to reveal their PIN, usually by typing it in on their keypad. The suspect is able to tell which keys have been pressed. They then instruct the victim to put their bank card in an envelope and send a - usually unwitting - courier or taxi driver to the victim's house to collect it. The card is delivered to another suspect and is used, with the PIN, to empty the victim's bank account.

Police have identified that Organised Criminal Groups (OCGs) are behind the fraud but despite arresting many of these, courier fraud is continuing as new OCGs take over and convince victims that they are genuine.

The aim of Courier Fraud Awareness Day is to help stop Londoners becoming victims by showing them how the fraud works and teaching them the key crime prevention pointers. These are:

- Police and banks will never ask for your PIN or bank card

- Never give your PIN or bank card to anyone

- If you are contacted by someone who asks for these, hang up

- Use a different line to report it to police on 101 or allow at least five minutes for the line to automatically clear. Call 999 if the crime is in action.

SNTs and Operation Sterling, the MPS fraud prevention team leading the awareness day, to:

- join 2,500 police cadets in letter-dropping fraud prevention flyers to homes across London

- give presentations to local elderly residents

- deliver courier fraud prevention flyers to banks, to be handed to customers

- set up courier fraud prevention stalls at transport hubs and key community areas

- make follow-up visits to victims and visit potential victims

- attend the Dementia Action Alliance quarterly meeting, to share their message with its 230 member organisations

- revisit some of the 3,000 cab and courier firms they have already advised on spotting courier fraudsters

It was gathered Police were also asking friends and family of the elderly to share the crime prevention advice with them.

The MPS lead on organised crime, Commander Steve Rodhouse, said: "Courier fraudsters put a huge amount of time and effort into being convincing because for them the pay-off is immense. This is a massive part of what makes them so successful. We want people to question even truly genuine sounding calls and, most importantly, remember police and banks will never ask for your PIN or bank card, so you should never give these away.

Commander Rodhouse added: "We are also urging courier and cab firms to be alert to anyone who may be using them to carry out this fraud. If you are asked to collect a package that you believe could be a bank card, do not make the delivery but call police immediately. You could prevent someone from being a victim of this terrible crime, and also stop yourself from being implicated."

Case study: Camden fraudsters jailed for biggest recorded courier fraud

Two brothers who conned 218 vulnerable elderly people out of £244,500, which they spent on designer clothes, aftershave and luxury holidays, were jailed for 10 years and three months on 24 January 2013.

Police in Camden began investigating unemployed Mohammed Dulu Miah, aged 26 (28.12.86) and Shilu Miah aged 31 (08.09.81) of Sidmouth Street, London after identifying a series of "courier frauds".

The brothers telephoned mostly 80 to 90 year olds across London, pretending to be from the bank and fooling them with the ruse before sending an unwitting local mini cab driver to collect their bank cards. The Miahs often kept their victims on the phone for several hours after obtaining their card and PIN, while they stripped their accounts. Afterwards they taunted some of the victims about their loss and subjected them to sexual and racial insults.

The brothers spent their victims' money on champagne, clubbing, luxury cars, designer clothes and holidays. When police searched a small bedroom that the brothers shared in their parents' flat, they found it crammed with designer clothing by Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren and Gucci. They also found over £2,500-worth of aftershave and a safe containing more than £17,000 in cash and a quantity of gold jewellery, all of which police seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Police arrested the men at their home on 5 July 2012. Mohammed Dulu Miah pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud at Blackfriars Crown Court on 13 November 2012 and was subsequently sentenced to four years and three months imprisonment on 24 January.

Shilu pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud. However, following a seven-day trial it took the jury under an hour to find him guilty, on 15 January. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment alongside his brother.