What is it?

You’re contacted by phone from someone purporting to be a police officer or someone from your bank. The caller might be able to confirm some easily obtainable information about you such as your full name and address.

They may offer a phone number for you to call which in some cases matches the number on the back of your bank card to give the impression that the call is genuine. The number offered is not genuine or, where a genuine number is suggested, the criminal will keep the line open and pass you to a different individual in order to validate the scam.

If the caller is from a bank, they may say their systems have spotted a fraudulent payment on your card or it is due to expire and needs to be replaced.

They may try to offer you peace of mind by having somebody pick up your card to save you the trouble of having to go to your bank or local police station.

They may offer to send a courier to collect your bank card and ask you to write down your PIN and place it in a separate envelope to that of your card. Criminals may even send couriers collect payments or your information multiple times.

How to spot a courier scam

  1. You’re convinced to co-operate in an investigation by attending your bank and withdrawing money to hand over to a police officer/courier which will be returned once the investigation is complete.
  2. You’re told not to tell anyone else about the investigation.
  3. You’re convinced to withdraw foreign currency from an exchange to aid an investigation with a promise of reimbursement.
  4. You’re told to purchase expensive items that you’ll be asked to hand to a courier for examination with a promise of a reimbursement once the investigation is complete.
  5. You’ll be told that some money has been removed from your bank account and that corrupt staff at your local bank branch are responsible.
  6. You’re advised that someone at the branch has already been arrested but the “police” need you to withdraw your money for evidence.
  7. You’re told that a business, such as a jeweller or currency exchange, is operating fraudulently and they require assistance to help secure evidence.

Examples of courier fraud

Detected fraudulent activity

Rita had been living on her own ever since her husband died a decade ago. She was about to grab her walking frame and tend to her garden when the phone rang. She noted it was the bank’s number so picked up instantly. The caller confirmed Rita’s full name and address before informing her of suspicious activity that had been detected on her account. She was asked to call back using the number on the back of her bank card to confirm the call was genuine. Clearly distressed, Rita rang back immediately, not realising that the criminal had kept the line open and she was now talking to his accomplice!

The caller told Rita that a courier would arrive outside her house shortly to pick up both her bank card and PIN, which she should place in separate envelopes, in order to spare her the trouble of walking to her local bank branch to resolve the issue. She could expect to receive a replacement card within the next couple of days.

An hour later, Rita heard a knock on the door and handed over both envelopes containing her bank card and her PIN to the courier.

Number spoofing is a tactic used by criminals to trick you into thinking you’re being contacted by your bank or a trusted organisation. Your caller ID may seem to be displaying the number from the back of your bank card, but this could be a scam. Criminals are able to spoof numbers by downloading software that allows them to make any outbound calls appear as the number they’ve chosen to spoof in an attempt to trick you into revealing your personal or financial information or to make payment.

Assistance with a police investigation into corruption

Ken’s reached for the phone as it rang continuously. He rarely received calls, so this was a surprise.  He heard the caller introduce himself as a police officer, who informed him of an investigation that was taking place into corrupt bank staff members and that his co-operation was paramount for an investigation at his local branch. All Ken had to do was to withdraw all of his money from his local bank branch, and hand it over to a courier who would be waiting outside the branch.  The money would be returned to him once the investigation was complete.

The policeman stressed to Ken the importance of not informing the bank staff members the reason for his large withdrawal for fear of tipping them off so provided Ken with a cover story to answer any questions that may be raised.

Ken headed to the bank straight away.  The branch staff asked lots of questions but he stuck to the story that he’d be told to provide and withdrew most of his life savings before handing it over to the courier that was waiting outside. It was only when Ken didn’t hear from the police officer for a few days, that he decided to call the bank, using the number from the back of his card, and was advised that he’d fallen for a cruel scam.

If you believe you’ve fallen for a scam, contact your bank immediately on a number you know to be correct, such as the one listed on your statement, their website or on the back of your debit or credit card.

Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk. If you are in Scotland, please report to Police Scotland directly by calling 101 or Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000.

Always remember

Your bank or the police will never call you to ask you to verify your personal details or PIN by phone or offer to pick up your card by courier. Hang up, wait a few minutes and call your bank on a number you know to be genuine, such as the one on the back of your card

The police will not contact you out of the blue to participate in an investigation in which you need to withdraw money from your bank or to purchase high value goods for safe keeping

Your bank will never send a courier to your home to collect your card and PIN therefore any requests to do so are a scam

Scam warning: Criminals may purport to be from Take Five, using our official branding on websites, social media posts, literature, on the phone or by text. Take Five doesn’t provide endorsement or approval for any products/services and would never call or text anyone.