**Released on behalf of UK Finance**
People are urged to be alert to a growing scam in which criminals pose as police officers and ask their victims to take part in a fake undercover operation.
Fraudsters are contacting members of the public, usually by phone, pretending to be from the police, or in some cases the fraud team from their bank. The criminal claims 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 victim is asked to visit the branch and withdraw a substantial sum, often thousands of pounds, of the supposedly counterfeit cash to hand over to the ‘police’ for ‘analysis’. They are 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.
The criminal instructs their victim not to discuss the case with anyone in the branch, giving them plausible explanations as to why they are withdrawing the money. As a result, despite being questioned by the bank staff, the victim takes out the cash, convinced that 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. However, the account is in fact controlled by the criminal.
People are reminded that the police and banks will 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.
Bryan Pye, of the Fraud Crime Team at Northamptonshire Police, said: “The fraudsters who commit these types of scam are sophisticated and very convincing in what they tell the victim in an attempt to get them to withdraw large amounts of cash from their bank or transfer it to a supposed safe bank account.
“Our advice is that if you receive such a request, or any call whereby you are asked to provide personal of financial information, is to take a few moments to reflect on the situation and stay calm. Never assume that a phone call is genuine, even if the caller knows basic details about you, such as your name and address.
“You should also know that criminals can make any telephone number appear on your phone handset, so even if the number shown seems authentic, never trust this.
“Under no circumstances would the police or banks ask you to withdraw money from your account, or transfer funds into another account for fraud reasons.
“If you receive a phone call of this type, have the confidence to end the call. A genuine organisation will never mind you taking the time to think things over or to contact them back on a number you have verified, for example from their website, or from your bank statement or payment card. Northamptonshire Police can be contacted on 101 and will be able to verify if a caller is a genuine police officer of member of staff.
“As fraudsters can keep telephone lines open for a while, the best advice is to use a separate line to make any subsequent phone calls. If you are using the same phone, wait at least five minutes after replacing the handset and call someone you know first to make sure the line is free.
“If you have vulnerable or elderly family members, please talk to them and share this advice so they understand how to protect themselves.”
Katy Worobec, Head of Fraud and Financial Crime Prevention, Cyber and Data Sharing at UK Finance 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.
Visit the Take Five to Stop Fraud website for more advice on how to stay safe from scams.
Notes to editors
UK Finance is a trade association which represents the finance and banking industry operating in the UK.