Warnings have been issued about a new scam where fraudsters are posing as undercover police officers and bank staff supposedly investigating financial crimes.
Criminals contact people, usually by phone, and say they are the police. In some cases, they say that they're the fraud team from your bank.
They then say they are investigating a fraud at a local bank branch and suspect that the staff at the bank are complicit in the crime, including issuing fake bank notes.
Then they ask you to help them with their investigation. You are asked to go to your local branch and withdraw a large amount of money – often thousands of pounds – and hand it over to them for analysis so they can see if it is indeed counterfeit.
The fraudsters tell you that the money will be put back in your bank account after the police investigation is complete. However, if you hand over that money you will never see it again.
A 'nasty scam'
“This is a particularly nasty scam as it plays on people’s public-spirited nature to assist the police,” says Katy Worobec, head of fraud and financial crime prevention, cyber and data sharing at industry body UK Finance.
“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.”
The scammers operating this con are smart enough to get around bank checks too. They tell their victims not to discuss the case with anyone in branch – often saying that they think the staff may be in on the crime.
They also give you plausible excuses to explain why you are withdrawing such large amounts of money. This means that even if bank staff suspect something is wrong and question the victim about why they are taking out the cash, the victim doesn’t trust them and uses the excuses they’ve been given by the con artists.
Variations on a theme
In a slightly different version of this con people are again contacted by fraudsters pretending to be the police, but rather than ask you to withdraw cash from your local branch they convince you to transfer money to a so-called ‘safe account’ to protect your money from ‘corrupt’ bank staff.
However, the account is run by the criminals and, once you’ve transferred your life savings, they disappear with your money.
How to avoid becoming a victim
- The police or your bank will never ask members of the public to become involved in an anti-fraud operation or transfer money to a ‘safe account’;
- The police will also never ask you to withdraw money and hand it to them for safe-keeping;
- Be wary of any calls, texts or emails supposedly from the police asking you for personal or financial details, or for you to transfer money;
- If you do think you’ve been contacted by a con artist hang up the phone, or don’t reply to the texts or emails;
- Report anything suspicious directly to your bank, either via a telephone number you have on official bank paperwork or via their website – making sure don’t use a telephone number or website that you’ve been given by the criminals.