Courier fraud, what it is and how to protect yourself

One of the drawbacks of our increasingly digital world is that there are an ever-expanding number of individuals looking to exploit it and us. Online crime and scams are on the rise with different methods emerging all the time. As consumers, we have to be on the ball and up to date with the current threats, in order to lessen our risk of becoming victims.

What is courier fraud?

Courier fraud is a specific type of fraud whereby a criminal calls a victim, pretending to be someone such as a police officer or an official working for their bank. When these attempts take place, the fraudster will often have information on the individual to hand, such as name, address, and of course, phone number. They quote this information to trick the person on the phone into believing that they are who they say they are. In some cases, they will even give the person a fake number, purporting to be that of the bank, to build trust even more. Once a rapport with the victim has been established, they will then proceed to ask the person to carry out certain activities for them, to the detriment of the individual.

Typically, the fraudster will suggest that money has been removed from their bank account wrongly by a branch member, or suspects of a crime have been arrested and need the money for evidence. They could also state that a business such as an exchange or jewelry shop is operating illegally, and they need the individual to help get evidence.

The criminal will then suggest that they cooperate in the operation or investigation by going to their bank, taking money out, or even buying an expensive item, before handing it over to an “officer.” This “officer,” who is actually a fraudster, will then disappear, leaving the victim out of pocket. It could also happen that they call, claiming to be from your bank and advising you there was a case of fraud on your card. They would ask you to confirm your details, read your card number and pin, or even provide information about accounts you hold elsewhere. Then, they pledge to send a courier to pick up the card they say has been breached. They then proceed to use the card to buy products or withdraw cash.

Of course, prior to handover, the victim is told they will definitely get their money, or the item back, or a new card will be issued, but this never occurs.

Other kinds of fraud

But courier fraud is just one of many kinds of fraud that plague consumers and members of the public today. In fact, details obtained by courier fraud can then be used to commit other kinds, such as identity theft and account takeover fraud.

Account takeover fraud is a particular kind that is on the increase as more and more people come online. It happens when a cybercriminal gains unauthorized access to a legitimate account without the initial knowledge of the owner. They proceed to change details, including the password, allowing them to take complete control of the account. They then use it to carry out illegal activity or to defraud the owner financially. For example, they could access a user’s PayPal account by guessing the password, then change the email and password to something only they know, and proceed to spend money or make transfers to another account to their benefit. Prevention for account takeover fraud can be tricky as users often don’t realize they have been targeted until it is too late. However, there are steps that can be taken, such as choosing secure passwords, constantly logging out of sessions, turning on 2FA if applicable, and making sure you have unique passwords for each different online account.

How to protect yourself

There are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself from courier fraud. For example, it is important to understand that your bank will never call you to ask for personal information such as PIN, security code, or social security number. Additionally, they will never send a courier to take your card or cash from you to bring to them. Likewise, the police will never call a citizen out of the blue to ask them to get involved in a police operation or help them secure evidence. If you receive any calls making requests like this, hang up immediately and take note of the number. You can then either check with your bank or the police to see if it is legitimate.

It is also important to understand that your debit or credit card belongs to you, and you should never let someone you don’t know take it off you. If you are to hand it over, this should only be done in your branch. Also, if the card needs to be canceled, then you should be the one to destroy it, not anyone else.

Spotting the signs

So how do you spot the signs of courier fraud? There are a number of red flags and giveaways that you can look out for.

  • Someone asking for your pin over the phone;
  • Someone claiming to be a police officer asking for your involvement in an investigation or operation;
  • Someone saying they need to collect your debit card or cash from you to take it to the bank;
  • Someone offering you a number to call and verify, but there is no ring tone;
  • Someone asking you to buy an expensive item as part of an operation or investigation;
  • Someone asking you to use a service or business as part of an operation or investigation.

What to do if you suspect it?

As Business Insider notes, if you suspect you have been a victim of courier fraud, identity theft, takeover fraud, or any other kind of criminal activity, you should contact the authorities immediately. In addition, you should seek to secure your sensitive information, such as login details, passwords, and pins, and even consider temporarily freezing your cards. It can also be a good idea to tell your bank or the company you have a certain kind of account with about your experience.

Fraud is not going anywhere as banks struggle to cope, so all we can do is arm ourselves with the knowledge and tools to fight back.

Huynh Nguyen

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