West Midlands Police have issued a plea to the taxi trade to join forces in combating a fraudulent activity that specifically targets elderly and vulnerable individuals throughout UK communities.
The police force has recently seen a surge in incidents where members of the West Midlands community fell victim to this form of fraud.
According to police sources, in these cases criminals typically make fraudulent phone calls assuming the identity of a police officer or another authoritative figure. These criminals persuade their victims, often elderly individuals, to withdraw large sums of money or purchase high-value items, such as gold bullion or Rolex watches. Notably, victims tend to rely on local taxi services for transportation to and from banks or jewellers during these transactions. The fraudsters then dispatch couriers, who are instructed to collect the money or valuables.
In instances in the West Midlands, couriers travel from London via train and engage local taxi firms to reach their designated target's residence. Upon arrival, the courier guides the taxi to the victim's address and requests that the driver waits in the vehicle while they approach the front door. Within a few minutes, the courier returns, occasionally carrying a package, and swiftly heads back to the train station to catch the next train bound for London.
Previously, victims were commonly coerced into visiting their local high-street bank; however, due to the success of the Banking Protocol and the closure of numerous branches, fraudsters have increasingly directed victims to withdraw money from Money Service Bureaus (MSBs) like Bureau de Chance and Post Offices. Staff at MSBs often possess less awareness of courier fraud and are therefore more likely to dispense cash without alerting the police.
The impact of such offenses is particularly severe as it disproportionately targets the elderly and vulnerable individuals. Victims may be manipulated into travelling long distances to withdraw money or obtain goods. They are often monitored closely by the fraudsters, resulting in significant financial and psychological distress. This type of fraud is not confined to a specific region but is rather a nationwide concern.
Taxi drivers occasionally unwittingly become accomplices in these crimes, similarly to couriers who transport perpetrators to victims, assist in their transportation, and collect goods or money. Recognising the gravity of the situation, efforts are being made to engage and educate taxi drivers, as well as other public, in the fight against this alarming trend.
West Midlands Police have issued specific requests to the taxi driver community in light of these incidents:
Stay alert and acquainted with this crime type.
If requested to transport an elderly or vulnerable passenger to a bank or jewellery store, be cautious as they may have been targeted. In such cases, dial 999 and report a potential courier fraud victim as your passenger.
Exercise vigilance when transporting individuals to and from local train stations, as they may be couriers. If you suspect you have a courier in your taxi, immediately call 999 to report the situation. Provide details such as your taxi vehicle index, location, and destination.
Taxi drivers may also contact Crime Stoppers, an anonymous charity that facilitates the submission of reports that do not reveal the informant's identity.
By working collectively, the taxi driver community and law enforcement authorities aim to eliminate this type of fraud and safeguard the well-being of vulnerable individuals not only in the West Midlands region, but across the UK.
Police spokesperson, Shannon Oliver, said: “As the West Midlands Regional Fraud Development Officer, my focus is ensuring both law enforcement and the public take fraud seriously and ensure victims of fraud are safeguarded.
“Fraud has often been perceived as a low-risk crime with limited consequences despite the mounting evidence that fraud is used by Organised Crime Gangs to fund firearms, terrorism and illicit substances. Furthermore, victims are regularly groomed and manipulated, often resulting in them being financially and psychologically abused.
“It is therefore time for us to recognise fraud, including Courier Fraud, as the high-risk crime it is due to the devastating impact it can have on our communities both financially, psychologically and emotionally. With Fraud accounting for more than 40% of all crime in England and Wales, the West Midlands Region (consisting of West Midlands, West Mercia, Warwickshire and Staffordshire Police) are dedicated to tackling Fraud. Our focus is reducing offending and safeguarding vulnerable victims.”