Elderly people are being targeted by a telephone scam that the police say in some cases involves a fraudster allegedly pretending to be MoneySavingExpert's Martin Lewis. We NEVER make cold calls asking for your financial information – here's what's happened and what to watch out for.
Thames Valley Police say 13 incidents of 'courier fraud' in the Abingdon area in Oxfordshire have been reported to them since mid-December, with an estimated £150,000 stolen in total.
Courier fraud involves scammers phoning up pretending to be from organisations the victims trust – such as banks, the police, fraud investigation teams and in this case MoneySavingExpert. They then trick those targeted into handing over bank cards, cash and PINs to a courier who arrives at their home.
We never cold call anyone to ask for financial details or arrange any kind of courier collection – if you're concerned you may have been a victim of fraud, contact the police. For more on what to watch out for see our 30 Ways to Stop Scams guide.
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'Help us spot MSE imposters'
Martin Lewis, MoneySavingExpert.com founder, says: "I’m deeply offended that yet again scammers would try to besmirch the trust held in the work I and MoneySavingExpert.com do. Let’s be very plain – we are a consumer help site. We never call, knock on your door, take money or ask for your password.
"We try to give you information. Anyone purporting to be from MoneySavingExpert.com is a liar and you should immediately understand that you are talking to someone who is trying to scam, mislead or defraud you. We are very pleased the police have taken an interest.
"Sadly it’s not the first time – we’ve taken legal action before with people trying to misuse the name of the site and other companies trying to leech on to the work we do by pretending to be linked to us.
"If you spot a company or website that appears to be imitating or claiming to be either me or MoneySavingExpert.com in any way, shape or form, please let us know by emailing email@example.com.
"This way we can try to stop it happening in future."
How do courier scams work?
Although there are different variations of courier scam, they generally work like this:
- The victim is contacted on a landline by someone claiming to be from a company or organisation the victim trusts. They're told the organisation needs the victim’s help to investigate potentially fraudulent activity on an account.
- To reassure the victim the call is genuine, the caller suggests the victim hangs up and rings the bank/police back straightaway. However the caller DOESN'T disconnect the call, so when the victim dials the real phone number they still end up speaking to the fraudster.
- Having put the victim's mind at ease, the fraudster will then ask them for bank details or their PIN, and will send a courier to collect the bank cards from their victim.
What the police say
Thames Valley Police say they are investigating the 13 incidents and also creating 'prompt cards' with basic tips (see below) to help people in the area know what to watch out for.
Detective Inspector Paul Powell says: "This is a despicable crime in which a fraudster takes advantage of their victim’s trust to gain access to their life savings.
"We have created these prompt cards to help vulnerable and elderly people recognise courier fraud and to help stop them from becoming a victim.
"We’re asking family and friends to print out these prompt cards, drop them around to elderly friends, family and neighbours, and to take ten minutes to talk through these top tips."
What to watch out for
Here's what police say you can do to ensure you aren't scammed:
- Never deal with cold callers on the phone or in person, no matter how polite or friendly they are. Saying "no thank you" and shutting the door or hanging up the phone is not rude.
- Your bank, the police or anyone legitimate will never send a courier to your home to collect your money, your bank cards, and they will never ask for your PIN. Close the door, lock it and call 101 to speak to police.
- Keep a mobile phone next to your landline, and if you want to make a phone call immediately after hanging up the landline, always use the other phone.
- If you do hand over your bank details or cards, don’t panic. Call your bank immediately using another phone, explain what’s happened and cancel your cards.
- Legitimate callers will never try to rush you, scare you, or force you into anything. If you feel scared or pressured at any point, hang up or shut the door and tell someone what’s happened to you.
For more tips see our 30 Ways to Stop Scams guide.