Millions Stolen in UK Courier Fraud

Elderly and vulnerable individuals in the United Kingdom have fallen victim to "courier fraud," resulting in a loss of more than 12.6 million pounds (US$15.62 million) in the past year, according to new data published by the City of London Police.

Old Person HandsCourier fraud is a devastating crime that preys on vulnerable and often older people. Millions of pounds of hard-earned pensions and savings are being stolen each year. (Photo: Pxfuel, License)Detective Chief Inspector Lee Parish, from the Fraud Operations team at City of London Police, described courier fraud as a “devastating crime” that specifically targets older and vulnerable people, resulting in the theft of hard-earned pensions and savings. He emphasized the urgent need to address this issue.

In courier fraud scams, perpetrators pose as authority figures, including police officers and bank officials, to gain the trust of their victims. They employ various tactics to manipulate victims, often initiating contact via email or phone calls.

Once trust is established, the fraudsters weave convincing narratives, falsely claiming fraudulent activity on the victims' bank accounts. They employ high-pressure tactics to create a sense of urgency and force victims to comply with their demands.

One prevalent tactic involves convincing victims to withdraw substantial sums of money from their bank accounts and place it in envelopes or bags. The fraudsters then dispatch couriers to collect the cash from the victims' homes.

In some instances, victims are coerced into using taxis or mini-cabs to visit jewelry stores and purchase high-value items. They are also directed to foreign exchange offices to electronically transfer money for alleged "safe-keeping."

Courier fraud may also involve tricking victims into surrendering their bank cards, PIN numbers, or other sensitive information, such as answers to security questions. The fraudsters claim they need this information to verify the legitimacy of the victims' accounts or assist with their investigation. Once armed with these details, the criminals gain unfettered access to the victims' funds and can carry out unauthorized transactions.

The typical targets of courier fraud are individuals over the age of 70, and fraudsters often seek them out in retirement and care homes, villages, and assisted living facilities.

Data from The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau further revealed that 37% of fraud reports were filed by men, while 63% were filed by women aged 70 or above.

Among these reports, there were 153 cases reported by individuals in their 90s, including one report from someone over 100 years old. Between May 2022 and May 2023, there were 1,587 reports of courier fraud by individuals over the age of 70, out of a total of 1,847 reports received across the U.K.