Woman tells how gang tried to take her savings in a fake police scam

Nearly £20,000 has so far been defrauded from local pensioners this year after a gang of conmen began targeting the two towns using a scam that has become known as the ‘courier con’ or ‘bogus Hammersmith Police fraud’.

Fraudsters have targeted people up and down the country using the scam, with pensioners in London, Reading and Northants also falling victim.

It is not known if this is the same criminal gang responsible, or a number of different groups using the same ruse.

In all cases, the conmen adopt the same approach; first phoning the victim claiming to be from Hammersmith Police, and after an elaborate story about bank account fraud, ask the victims to hand over money to a courier to aid the ‘police investigation’.

One woman has told the Times how the gang attempted to defraud her and her husband of more than £12,000.

The business woman, who is in her 60s and from Tunbridge Wells, said: “They called saying they were from Hammersmith Police and said that people had cloned our bank cards, which they found in a police arrest.

“They then said they were going to put us through to somebody at the ‘Special Crime Unit’ at Barclays Bank to explain what has happened because there had been some suspicious activity on our accounts.”

The woman, who has asked not to be named, said by coincidence the fraudsters just happened to phone after the couple had received news of a death in the family.

“We were in shock and I suppose vulnerable, which is why we believed them at first.”

However, things started to ring alarm bells for the couple when nobody at the ‘bank’ asked them any identification questions.

“The person on the phone said that large amounts of cash had been withdrawn and then repaid into our bank accounts, claiming that the money paid back in was counterfeit.”

She added that the person implied a teller at the bank was under suspicion and the couple were immediately transferred back to the ‘police’.

After later being called back, they were then ordered to withdraw the money from the bank ‘in order to catch the counterfeiters but to stay on the phone as they travelled to the bank.

“I assume this was so they could keep control of where we were going and what we were doing.”

Smelling a rat, the couple contacted the police on another phone, and after pretending to go to the bank, told the fraudsters they had withdrawn the requested money, around £12,000.

In reality, they had a fake bundle of cash wrapped up in a carrier bag, while a real police officer waited in their home with them.

“A ‘courier’ turned up in about ten minutes, but ran off as soon as he saw the police officer,” the woman said.

“He couldn’t have been older than 15 and was wearing a hoodie. I think the police were more worried something would happen to us, which is why they showed their hand a bit too early.”

Not all of those targeted have been so lucky…

In January, a 93-year-old woman was conned out of £1,000 by the gang, and four weeks ago, in Tonbridge, a ‘vulnerable’ man handed over £12,000 after a phone call from somebody claiming to be from Hammersmith Police.

And on March 14, an 82-year-old man received a phone call from a man also claiming to be an officer from Hammersmith Police and was told to withdraw money from his accounts.

The man is said to have handed over a total of £4,500.

Kent Police have confirmed that the bogus Hammersmith Police station frauds have been carried out both in parts of Kent as well as other areas of the UK and have asked for people with vulnerable relatives to be vigilant.

Tunbridge Wells Chief Inspector Pete Steenhuis said: “Sadly, there have been a number of recent incidents in the Tunbridge Wells area where elderly victims have been deliberately targeted and it is likely these crimes are being committed by the same offenders.”

He said Kent Police’s dedicated fraud team are investigating the crimes in the hope of identifying the perpetrators.

Chief Insp Steenhuis added: “If you receive one of these calls end it immediately and wait at least five minutes before using your telephone in order to clear your line from the scammer. A police officer will also never ask for any money, or other items, to be handed over to a courier.”

Three men have been arrested by Kent Police in connection with the frauds, but all have been released on bail pending further enquiries.

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