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Pensioners conned into buying gold in ‘courier fraud’ scam

Individuals are contacted by criminals purporting to be either from the police or from their bank
Individuals are contacted by criminals purporting to be either from the police or from their bank - AFP

Fraudsters are coercing pensioners into buying gold in a new scam, police forces have warned.

In one case, reported to the City of London Police, the national lead force for fraud, a victim lost £5.3 million, in another the individual lost almost £2 million.

Under the scam, known as courier fraud, individuals are contacted by criminals purporting to be either from the police or from their bank, claiming that the victim’s account has been taken over by fraudsters. The victim is then told to transfer money or buy gold bullion and jewellery, often with the criminal posing as a courier to collect these valuable items from the victim’s address.

Wiltshire Police, which has a dedicated team investigating courier fraud, urged pensioners to be vigilant after a rise in courier fraud in the East and South of the UK.

Duped out of £5 million by scammer

One victim was duped out of £5 million by a scammer, while another lost £50,000.

“In the last three months, more than £19.6 million has been lost to courier fraud, with high-value gold bullion cases reported in Wiltshire, Thames Valley, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire,” a Wiltshire police spokesman said.

“On November 30, a 91-year-old woman from the Marlborough area tried to withdraw £50,000 from her bank following a phone call claiming to be from London police. Luckily this transaction was blocked by the bank and her son encouraged her to report the incident.”

In all cases reported that featured gold bullion being purchased, the victims were between 75 and 91 years of age.

The spokesman added: “In some cases, criminals have even visited the victim’s home, posing as police officers to collect money, jewellery and bank cards.”

Victims losing ‘significant amounts’

Det Sgt Victoria O’Keefe, from the Lead Force Operations Room at the City of London Police, said: “The victims of this crime are losing significant amounts of money and on some occasions, it amounts to their life savings.

“In many of the recent reported cases, the victims are being encouraged to purchase gold bullion but may not ask to look at it, have no interest in the item or are not able to give a satisfactory reason for the purchase. They may also appear slightly evasive, nervous and will want to buy the item and leave as soon as possible.”

She added: “If you are a jeweller or gold dealer, we urge you to look out for the signs of courier fraud. The victims in these crimes are often told to give cover stories on why they are purchasing the item and they believe what they are doing is legitimate. Another tell-tale sign is that the victim may be on the phone to someone whilst they make the purchase.

“If any members of the public hear of any friends and family being contacted out of the blue by the police or their bank to make purchases on their behalf, call the police and report it immediately.”

Courier Frauds of ‘great concern’

Cheryl Hurren, Complex Fraud Team manager at Wiltshire Police said: “Courier Frauds are of great concern to Wiltshire Police and we take this type of fraud very seriously.

“We are aware that fraudsters use many devious tactics to coerce victims and we have been working closely with our local communities and Wiltshire jewellers to raise awareness of the dangers of this type of offence.”

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