Courier fraud is increasingly being used by scammers to con people into handing over their money – and taxi drivers are unwittingly playing a crucial part in the deceit.
Reports of courier fraud increased by 50% in 2019, according to the Telegraph. Meanwhile, police say there have been 3,188 victims in the two years to 2020, totalling £12m in losses. Two thirds of the victims are women aged over 80, with criminals preying on their trusting nature.
But what exactly is courier fraud and how as a taxi driver can you protect yourself from playing a role in what police have described as a “despicable crime”?
When assessing your risks for your taxi insurance policy, you certainly wouldn’t have factored in a scam like courier fraud – but unfortunately, it’s something you need to be aware of as you go about your daily job.
So, first of all let’s look at how courier fraud works and then look at the advice for spotting the signs of a potential scam.
There are a number of different variations of courier fraud, all of which involve a driver, as the name suggests.
The most common method of courier fraud is when a scammer phones their victim claiming to be an official figure, either from their bank, a police officer or a member of law enforcement.
One way or another, the fraudster convinces the victim to reveal their PIN, then arranges for a taxi driver – who is often completely unaware of their role – to go and collect the credit or debit card from the victim, before it is then dropped off in the hands of the criminals.
Fraudsters will sell their victim a story in order to trick them into thinking they are legitimate and must comply with the demands.
For instance, they might say that a fraudulent payment has been spotted on the victim's card that needs sorting out, or that someone has been arrested using the victim’s card details.
Victims may sometimes be told to call their bank using the phone number on the back of their card. However, the scammer keeps the line open, so that when the victim makes the call, they’re unknowingly connected straight back to the fraudster.
Scams can be even more elaborate, the Citizens Advice explains. Fraudsters might even tell their victim that a corrupt member of staff at their bank, post office or bureau de change has been identified and the police are reliant on their help to identify them.
Scammers ask the victim to withdraw a large sum of money, which will be marked and put back into the banking system to reveal the ‘corruption’. Upon handing the cash over – through an intermediary, often a taxi driver – the scammers simply take it.
The advice from fraud prevention experts is to end cold calls quickly and speak to a trusted friend or member of the family for their advice on how to deal with the matter.
If a victim wants to call using the number on their bank cards, they should leave a bit of time before doing so and ensure there is a dialling tone.
Fraudsters will often act with urgency to make their victims panic and make decisions without thinking about it.
But what is the advice for taxi drivers, who can help stop a scam playing out successfully?
Innocent taxi drivers are used by criminals as a way of ‘distancing themselves’ from the crime while making it harder for police to find and detect them. Without their unknowing cooperation, criminals could find it much harder to carry out courier fraud.
The advice for taxi drivers from the police is fairly straightforward: “We would also appeal to taxi drivers who are asked to collect parcels – especially from elderly – to be vigilant and contact us if they are suspicious,” Avon and Somerset Police said recently as part of a national campaign to raise awareness of how to combat fraud.
If something doesn’t sit well with you when you’re asked to pick up a credit/debit card or a parcel from a private home, you should make your suspicions known – to your employer if you work form a taxi company, and to the police.
Indeed, there have been taxi drivers who have done just that – and stopped victims from potentially losing large sums of money.
In 2019, Donald Wilby, a driver for Nailsea and Backwell Taxis near Bristol raised the alarm when an 87-year-old passenger told him she was on her way to withdraw all her money from the bank as she was told there was an issue with her account.
The fare had been paid for via phone by someone with a foreign accent, Private Hire & Taxi Monthly reports. The caller requested a driver to pick up “his mother” and take her to the NatWest Bank in Clevedon from her home in Nailsea.
This didn’t sit well with the taxi driver who decided to tell staff when he arrived at the bank. The victim’s account was then frozen by the bank and police were called.
The police praised the driver’s “quick-thinking action” and said that in making the bank aware he potentially saved the victim from being duped out of her life savings.
There are other incidents, too, of taxi drivers intervening in courier fraud. They underline the important role that taxi drivers have to play in making it harder for criminals to carry out this crime.
Running a taxi business comes with its own risks and challenges – many of which can be covered by taxi insurance.
Here at Taxi Insurer, we can help you find third party, fire and theft cover, third party only cover or comprehensive cover. Public liability insurance and employers’ liability insurance can be added, too.
No claims bonus protection, cover for different vehicles such as minibuses and MPVs, and an extended claims management service is also available.
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Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.