FRAUDSTERS are using calls to target residents in the borough, and the crime is on the rise, confirmed Thames Valley Police.
Posing as representatives from the police, banks and other reputable organisations, criminals have used lockdown to their advantage by targeting vulnerable and elderly citizens whose reliance on telephone contact has grown during recent months.
It is often the case that the criminals ring their victims to obtain cash, cards or bank details, and in some instances will offer to send a courier or taxi to collect such items from their households.
Thames Valley Police has responded to more than 80 reports of courier fraud this year.
Detective inspector Duncan Wynn from the Economic Crime Unit told Wokingham.Today: “This is a serious and complex crime which we are seeing far too many cases of this year.
“The most common form of courier fraud is people claiming to be from their victims’ banks and alerting them of a fraudulent transaction which they need their card details to resolve.
“The fraudsters tend to target elderly people via their landlines as this method is harder to trace than texts, letters or emails, is anonymous, and puts the victim under direct pressure to disclose their details.
“They often have an air of secrecy about them and ask the victim not to inform anyone else of the call. This is a huge red flag.
“It’s likely that these criminals are working as part of large groups and frequently on the move.”
Police are currently working on Operation Radium, a programme aimed at combating courier fraud in collaboration with the City of London Police.
The operation has two aims; prevention and awareness. This involves delivering clear messages about crime prevention for the public to use and pass on to vulnerable friends and relatives, and educating people about the threat.
Thames Valley Police has also issued a series of advice for potential victims including what signs to look out for and how to respond to suspicious calls.
Detective inspector Wynn said: “Our advice is simple and can be remembered as stop, challenge, protect.
“Stop and take a moment to think before parting with your money or information
“Challenge and question whether the call could be fake. It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests and hang up. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
“Protect yourself and your money and contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam and make a report to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.”
He added: “A real bank or police organisation would never ask you to hand over any personal information over the phone in this way, and definitely wouldn’t send anyone to collect cards, cash or jewellery from your house.”
“If you are repeatedly receiving these calls, the best thing to do is to call your telephone service provider and request a telephone preference service.
“This will require any caller to announce who they are before proceeding with the call.”
For more information, visit the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre: actionfraud.police.uk