Jewellers urged to play their part in preventing courier fraud scams
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City of London Police is urging jewellers to be vigilant and help spot customers who may have fallen victim to a scam, after an increase in courier frauds against vulnerable people.
Criminals are targeting elderly and other vulnerable people by pretending to be police officers and asking them to purchase high value items such as prestige watches or gold bullion. The fraudsters then get the victims to hand over the purchased items as part of a fictitious “police operation”.
The victims of these crimes are losing significant amounts of money and on some occasions, it amounts to their life savings. In one line of enquiry alone by City of London Police, it is estimated that over £1 million has been lost by victims as a result of these scams, but officers believe this is a very small fraction of the overall losses attributed to this type of fraud, as many cases go unreported.
The usual way jewellers can help to spot a victim of this type of fraud is if the person purchasing a high-value item is not their typical customer.
Detective Constable James Wilkinson, from City of London Police’s Economic Crime Department, said:
“The message to retailers is simple: take a moment and think about the person in front of you and whether the reason they say they are buying the item seems genuine.
“Many of the victims may ask to purchase a watch of a certain value, but may not ask to look at it, have no interest in its features or are 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.
“The victims in these crimes are also often given 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.”
In 2020 alone, it is estimated that £13,112,715 was lost to courier fraud scams across the UK.
So far this year, ActionFraud has received 57 crime reports relating to gold-based courier fraud, with losses to individual victims reaching up to £300,000.
City of London Police is increasing daily patrols across the City and issuing all jewellers within the Square Mile with written guidance on how to spot victims of this type of courier fraud.
Any jewellers who believe a customer may be the victim of a fraud in progress should call the police immediately on 999.
Reports of fraud attempts should also be made to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.