Three eighteen-year-old men have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in a £1m nationwide fraud following raids on separate addresses in Tower Hamlets.
The dawn arrests on August 18 were part of a joint operation by Zephyr, the south-west regional organised crime unit and the Metropolitan Police.
It follows a three month investigation into a nationwide fraud operation worth £1m. More than 300 people in the south west alone are alleged to have parted with thousands of pounds of cash in a “courier scam” that has seen fraudsters target the elderly and vulnerable.
“Courier” or “vishing” scams are on the increase. They involves victims being duped into handing over cash or divulging bank details to criminals pretending to be police or bank staff.
Detective Chief Inspector Will White of Zephyr said: “Today’s arrests should provide some reassurance that we are working with colleagues in forces in the south west to tackle this despicable form of crime which preys in the main on the elderly and vulnerable.”
The fraudsters have approached victims in two ways with what the police have called “elaborate and convincing reasons” to hand over large amounts of money.
The first involves contacting potential victims by phone posing as police officers investigating a money crime. They are told to withdraw large sums of cash and courier it to London or make an electronic transfer into a fraudulent bank account. They claim that the money needs to be forensically examined as part of an investigation.
The other scam involves a call from someone claiming to be a London-based police officer, who informs the victim that two people have been arrested in the capital with their bank details.
They are given a reference number and told to call a special number duping the victim into thinking it is a legitimate investigation.
But the fraudster does not replace the receiver and when the victim calls the number, they are still connected. Under the impression they have reached a genuine police officer, the fraudster then encourage the victim to provide bank account details or withdraw cash amounts.
DCI White said: “The police and the banks will NEVER ask you for banking details or PIN numbers on the phone. Similarly, they would never send a so-called ‘courier’ to collect bank cards or money.”
Around nine out of 10 people contacted have been over the age of 60 and DCI White is appealing to family members, taxi drivers and counter staff at banks and buildings societies to keep alert to the elderly and vulnerable drawing out large amounts of cash. One individual was duped into handing over £40,000.
“The more we talk about this scam and the more people who are made aware of it, the less likely that they are to become victims” said DCI White. “We need people to spread the word.”
He added: “We hope it also sends a strong message that we will target those who prey on the elderly and vulnerable. We will find out who you are and come for you!”