RESIDENTS are urged to remain vigilant against falling victim to 'courier fraud’ as the Metropolitan Police launches Courier Fraud Awareness Day today.

Gloucestershire Police are aiming to prevent elderly and vulnerable citizens being conned by this type of scam, despite significant progress in the last year to tackle the offence.

Over 2,500 courier fraud offences were reported to the Metropolitan Police Service over 12 months up to March this year.

Courier fraud, also known as social engineering or “vishing”, is a sophisticated con where scammers telephone a victim claiming to be from their bank, the police or other law enforcement agency.

They then dupe the person into revealing their PIN and handing over their credit or debit card to a courier or taxi driver, who may not even know they are caught up in the scam.

The victim may be asked to ring the number on the back of their card, thereby further convincing them the call is genuine – but in practice the scammer keeps the line open so that the victim is unknowingly through to another gang member posing as a bank employee.

The suspect will either use the card to withdraw cash, purchase online goods or buy high value goods in shops.

Successful scams have now reduced considerably, thanks in large part thanks to Ofcom and the telecomms industry slashing the time taken to disconnect a call, as well as increased public awareness.

But police are still warning people to be on their guard as criminals work ever harder to defraud their victims, and the crime continues to evolve.

Variations of the crime include:

* asking the victim to assist in a police investigation. The victim is requested to withdraw a large sum of cash and take it home, where it is then collected by a courier.

* Telling the victim there is a corrupt bank official and asking for help in identifying them. The victim is told to withdraw a large cash sum which will be ‘marked’, with the purpose of it being placed back into the banking system. A taxi driver is sent round to collect the cash.

Detective Inspector Andy Dangerfield, of Gloucestershire Police Protective Services, urged the county’s residents to be on their guard.

“Although we have been making strides in combating courier fraud in the county, with a number of convictions achieved, there have been some 20 cases in the last 12 months.

"It is vital people stay vigilant. Courier fraudsters are extremely persuasive, and put a huge amount of time and effort into being convincing because the pay-off is massive.

"We want people to challenge even genuine sounding calls and, most importantly, remember police and banks will never ask for your PIN or bank card, so you should never give these away.”

Key points to combat such scams are:

- Police and banks will never ask for your PIN or bank card (the most they will say is to cut up your card).

- Never give your PIN or bank card to anyone.

- If you are contacted by someone who asks for these, hang up.

- Use a different line, or the neighbour’s phone, to report the call to police on 101.

- Allow at least five minutes for the line to automatically clear.

- Use 1471 to obtain the caller’s number and pass this to the police.

- Call 999 if the crime is already under way.

- Download ‘The Little Book of Big Scams’ for further advice

Anyone with information about such fraud should contact police on 101.