DETECTIVES from Wiltshire swooped to make dawn arrests in London on Monday as part of an investigation into a £1m courier fraud investigation.
The operation was mounted by Zephyr, the south west regional organised crime unit, following a three month investigation into the nationwide scam which included assistance from Wiltshire Police.
More than 300 people – mainly those who are vulnerable and elderly - have been victims of the elaborate fraud, having been duped out of up to £1m by the scammers.
Officers executed search warrants at three separate properties in the Tower Hamlets area of East London.
Three men, all aged 18, have been arrested on suspicion of fraud offences.
The number of people who have been victims of courier fraud in the south west region has topped 300 but it is possible many more victims may not have reported incidents to the police.
Around nine out of 10 people contacted have been aged over 60 and have been duped out of various cash sums, including one individual who handed over £40,000.
DCI Will White, of Zephyr, said: “Today’s arrests should provide some reassurance that we are working with colleagues in forces in the south west to tackle this despicable form of crime which preys in the main on the elderly and vulnerable.
“We hope it also sends a strong message that we will target those who prey on the elderly and vulnerable. We will find out who you are and come for you.”
The perpetrators contact potential victims – who are normally elderly - by telephone, purporting to be a police officer.
They are then encouraged by the fraudster, who uses elaborate and convincing reasons to get them to withdraw large sums of cash, which they are then asked to send to London by taxi, courier, or by electronic transfer of large amounts to a fraudulent bank account.
The culprit claims the money is potential evidence for an investigation and that it is needed so it can be forensically examined.
DCI White said: “The police and the banks will never ask you for banking details or PIN numbers on the phone.
“Similarly, they would never send a so-called ‘courier’ to collect bank cards or money.
“In previous incidents the victims did the right thing when they became suspicious of callers. They hung up the phone and called the police.
“They waited until they could hear a dialling tone or used a different phone to call us, ensuring that the scammers weren’t still connected to the line.”