Fraudsters are posing as police officers in a bid to get their hands on substantial sums of cash from unsuspecting members of the public.
Cheshire police have teamed up with the UK Finance Office to warn people about the growing scam, in which crooks target victims usually by phone, purporting to be from the police or, in some cases, the fraud team at their bank.
The criminals claim 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 told to visit the branch and withdraw a substantial sum of money, often thousands of pounds of the supposedly counterfeit cash, to hand over to the ‘police’ for ‘analysis’.
The victim is then 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.
Police say the victims are instructed not to discuss the case with anyone in the branch, giving them plausible explanations as to why they are taking out the money and, as a result, despite being questioned by staff, the victim withdraws the cash, convinced 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, but the account is in fact controlled by the criminal.
Katy Worobec, head of Fraud and Financial Crime Prevention, Cyber and Data Sharing at UK Finance said customers should be reminded that the police and banks would 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.
She 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.”
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.