Dorset Police has intensified its telephone money scams awareness campaign after it has been revealed that residents in the county have lost over a million pounds to fraudsters.
The Force is calling on residents to heighten their vigilance to potential fraud threats after a significant number of incidents in the county over the past year.
The message ‘Hang Up On Fraudsters’ is being spread throughout Dorset and the South West in response to a spate of offences within the last 12 months. Victim losses within the region are in excess of two million, with 700 reported crimes, and potentially many more unreported.
A range of resources, including posters and fliers, have been utilised in Dorset to warn the public. Local businesses, including post offices, hospitals and GP surgeries have also been displaying the advice. Social media platforms have been positively targeted with the hashtag #HangUpOnFraudsters and local radio stations have helped to spread awareness. Safer Neighbourhood Teams in Weymouth, Poole and Purbeck have attended supermarkets and community events to offer crime prevention advice to the public.
The campaign has had positive results, with many members of the public coming forward with information and refusing to hand over money. However, officers are still concerned as the offences continue in certain areas.
Residents in Poole, Dorchester and Weymouth have been targeted by the offenders, who call the victims and tell them that their bank accounts have been compromised in some way. The callers have a variety of sophisticated methods, including pretending to be police officers or banking advisors, to convince victims that they are legitimate. On many occasions they have persuaded them to transfer or hand over large sums of cash.
Two people were arrested, in relation to a number of alleged telephone money scams within the Poole area, on 2 March and have been released on bail pending further enquiries.
On 10 March two men were sentenced at Bristol Crown Court for defrauding vulnerable people in Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall out of over £88,000.
Abdul Shafee and Rahim Choudhury, both 19 and from London, were sentenced to 15 months and 38 months in prison respectively.
Call data analysis showed the mobile phones used to commit the frauds made a total of 510 landline calls over the period of 28 March 2014 to 4 April 2014, and 29 April 2014 to 13 May 2014. During these, 367 different landlines numbers were contacted in the south west region, which represents around 72 per cent of all calls made.
Detective Chief Inspector Jez Noyce, of Dorset Police’s Serious Crime Investigations Department, said: “We are making consistent progress with our ongoing investigations but I would urge the public to be highly aware of these types of crimes.
“In particular, we ask family members and friends to ensure that elderly and vulnerable people have been warned about these offences.
“I am also appealing to anyone who has experienced a similar call to those mentioned to report it to the police on 101.”
Dorset Police are committed to tackling organised crime.
DCI Noyce continued: “We are working alongside law enforcement partners across the region and are considering all investigative lines of enquiry and all options as to where this money is going.”
Dorset Police is issuing the following advice:
We would urge:
- Children, grandchildren, relatives and friends of the elderly and vulnerable to warn them of the scam.
- Taxi company owners and drivers to be vigilant, especially if approached or asked to courier small packages to London on behalf of elderly people.
- Banks and other financial institutions, in particular counter staff, to be suspicious if elderly customers uncharacteristically draw large amounts of cash and to query this.
Anyone who receives a suspicious call is urged to:
- Hang up immediately, dial 1471 and note the number that called you.
- If you need to use the same phone, wait five minutes, as the fraudsters could still be on the line or use another phone on a different line.
- Report the call to your local police on 101.
Simple guidelines to help you to prevent yourself becoming a victim of courier fraud are:
- NEVER give your PIN or bank details out over the phone
- NEVER withdraw cash and send it anywhere via a courier or taxi
- NEVER send bank cards anywhere via a courier or taxi
- NEITHER the police nor your bank will ever ask for you to do any of the above.
Anyone with information about such scams should call us on 101. Alternatively, call the free and anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111 where mobile phone tariffs may apply.