POLICE officers in Cheshire have thanked banks and building societies for their assistance with tackling courier fraud scams.

In December alone, fraudsters took almost £100,000 from victims in the east of the county. There have also been incidents in the Warrington and Halton areas.

To target courier fraud, officers have been working with banks and building societies to help combat the increase in this type of offence.

74 banks have readily engaged with police to ensure potentially vulnerable customers are fully aware of the nature and implications of courier fraud.

Many of the banks are displaying Cheshire Police posters in their public areas to remind customers that police officers will never ask people to withdraw money.

Jim Day, financial abuse safeguarding and prevention officer, said: “I would personally like to thank the bank and building society managers in Cheshire who are being extremely proactive in helping us tackle courier fraud.

“Those who perpetrate this type of crime are preying on, primarily, the older members of society by purporting to be from the police or a financial institution. They coerce the victim to withdraw large amounts of cash to ‘assist them in an ongoing investigation’ and then disappear with the money.

“The impact of these scams can be both financially and emotionally devastating but, with the work that our frontline officers are doing with the support of our banks and building societies, we are able to prevent more of this type of crime being committed.

“The campaign has already started to pay dividends following an incident in the east of the county where an elderly man raised concerns after seeing one of the posters in his local bank.”

Another measure being taken is the activation of the Banking Protocol, a joint partnership between the banking industry and police forces.

Customer-facing bank staff are being trained to identify signs that a customer may be about to fall victim to fraud and will contact the police if they suspect a scam is in progress.

Police officers will then go to the bank, accompany the potential victim back to their home and arrest the courier in the act of collecting the cash.

Courier frauds are mainly committed by organised crime groups.

A member of the OCG, known as the ‘victim communicator’ makes phone calls to vulnerable potential victims, usually the more elderly members of the community, telling them they are a police officer or work at the bank.

They persuade the victim to cooperate with an operation designed to gather evidence or identify offenders responsible for a fictional offence.

The victims are asked to withdraw money from their bank, purchase an expensive item and/or provide their bank details or card to assist with the operation.

The money, item or documents are handed over to another member of the gang, the ‘courier’, who attends the victim’s address on the promise that the money or item will be returned or compensation provided.