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Warning as courier fraud scammers trick people into handing over gold

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SCAMMERS are continuing to target people in new ways, with victims now being asked to buy gold to hand to a courier working for the police.

Last week an elderly woman in West Wales fell victim to courier fraud after being conned into believing she was working with police to prevent fraud. She was tricked into buying £25,000 of gold and handing it over to scammers.

DC Gareth Jordan, from Dyfed-Powys Police’s cybercrime team, said the recent crimes had seen victims called by someone purporting to be a police officer from Paddington Police Station.

DC Jordan added: “The fake police officer tells them about fraudulent activity on the persons bank card, or tells them that they need to transfer money to another account due to suspicious activity.

“It is the prelude to courier fraud, where someone comes to pick up the bank card, after extracting all the details such as PIN from the victim, or getting the person to go to the bank to withdraw money that can then be collected or sometimes transferred into other accounts.”

Since October the force has received complaints of 62 courier fraud calls. Thankfully 52 of the potential victims realised it was fraud, with a further five prevented when the bank intervened.

Sadly, five people fell victim to the criminals – two handed over gold, while three gave cash.

Their total losses were £63,000.

“We are working to make bank staff to look for the tell-tale signs of this, and contacting their branch managers to ensure staff are aware,” said DC Jordan.

“We are asking PCSOs to visit banks that are open on their patch and ask bank staff to inform any customers withdrawing money or transferring money about this scam.

“This scam is often aimed at the older generation, who have a respect for the police and may fall for the story that much more readily.

“What is worrying is that it can be just the start of further fraudulent activity including phoning the victim up stating they are the bank and getting the victim to transfer money to another account in the deceitful belief that their own account is now at risk due to fraudulent bank card use. The third part is investment fraud and gold purchases.”

The three phases of courier fraud

The scam begins with a person, usually male, phones the victim pretending to be a police officer. The bogus police officer explains that the victim’s bank accounts are under threat from fraudsters.

He convinces the victim to participate in a fictitious undercover police operation to catch the fraudsters and safeguard their funds.

They are told not to inform anyone, including their bank, as bank staff are equally under suspicion. Often the bogus police officer discloses private financial information about the victim, which is used to encourage the victim to trust them.

First phase: To influence the victim, the suspect asks about his/her bank account balances and overdraft facilities in place. The victim is then instructed to withdraw a small amount of cash (depending on victim’s bank balance). Victim is instructed to hand over the cash to a courier who must confirm a password/pin number provided by the suspect. Victim is later called on the phone and told most of the cash was identified as counterfeit.

Second phase: Once the victim trusts and believes the suspects’ instructions, he/she is provided with several bank account numbers (mule accounts). Victim is instructed to move a large amount of their money (often £100,000 to £300,000) into what is purported to be “safe” accounts, which are actually the mule accounts. Often the holders of the beneficiary accounts are third parties (patsy) who are unaware of the sources of the credit in their account. The money is quickly dissipated from the beneficiary accounts into accounts outside UK jurisdiction. Monies in the beneficiary account may simply be withdrawn from any UK ATM.

Third phase: Victims are instructed to either buy gold bars or high-valued watches. Again these items are handed to a courier who confirms a password given to the victim over the phone by the suspect.

DC Jordan said the order of the phases changes from victim to victim.

He said: “The suspects invest a considerable amount of time and effort in building a rapport with the victim.

“They usually instruct the victim not to divulge any details to anyone because the ‘operation’ must remain covert. Victims are coached with a cover story for bank staff, if their transactions (unusual) are flagged by the banks safety measures.”

Please remember – and tell others . . .

  • The police, or your bank, will never ask you to withdraw money or transfer it to a different account.
  • Your bank will never send a courier to your home
  • Your bank and the police will never collect your bank card
  • Your bank and the police will never ask you to reveal your full banking password or PIN
  • If you receive one of these calls, end it immediately
  • Do not click on links or attachments in unexpected or suspicious texts or emails.
  • Confirm requests are genuine by using a known number or email address to contact organisations directly.

If you think you, or someone you know, may have been targeted by scammers, please report it to us online: 

https://www.dyfed-powys.police.uk/en/contact-us/report-an-incident/, by email 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk or call 101.

Always call 999 if you feel you are in immediate harm or danger.

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Warning of serious disruption on M4 and M5 today due to fuel prices protest

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POLICE have warned of “serious disruption” to drivers using the M4 and M5 on Monday 4 July due to a planned protest.

Protesters intend to block the Prince of Wales Bridge from 7am until 7pm as part of a nationwide campaign against rising fuel prices.

The protest is due to start at the M4 Magor services at junction 23A eastbound and the Clevedon Interchange at junction 20 of the M5 westbound.

It is also expected to cause disruption to the M48 Severn Bridge and the M32.

Drivers are being urged to avoid the area or plan alternative routes.

Bristol Airport has issued a warning urging travellers to allow extra time if heading to or from the airport.

Police said additional officers will be brought in to ensure the protest is carried out legally.

Drivers have been advised by Gwent Police to work from home where possible and avoid the area between 7am and 7pm, with protestors planning to block parts of the road between M4 Magor services, junction 23A eastbound, and Junction 20 of the M4 between those hours.

Chief Superintendent Tom Harding said: “Gwent Police, and Avon and Somerset Police, are working jointly with neighbouring police forces and partner agencies to ensure emergency and critical services continue and to reduce disruption to both road users and local communities, however we are preparing for serious disruption throughout the day.

“I would encourage drivers to reconsider their journey, consider working from home and avoid the area where possible.

“The right to protest under UK law must be balanced with the rights of the wider community who may be affected. We have additional officers and support in place on Monday to ensure the protest is carried out in accordance with the law.”

The planned protest is thought to have been organised by the Facebook group Fuel Price Stand Against Tax, and has attracted both criticism and support online.

The latest travel disruption comes following the closure of the Severn Bridge for a second consecutive weekend, as well as the Severn Tunnel rain line which will be out of use until July 10 due to essential work. Motorists will be unable to cross the M48 Severn Bridge until 6am on Monday as it is undergoing essential work for eight months.

The bridge was first shut last weekend as painstaking work to repair and replace corroded suspension cables began. Traffic on the bridge is likely to be very heavy on Monday due to the fuel protest.

Police have told protesters banners must be tightly secured to vehicles and nobody should be walking around on the bridge during the demonstration. Protesters will stay inside their vehicles or stand beside them.

An organiser said: “We will now only be doing it on the Prince of Wales Bridge. We have to keep in mind everyone’s safety and if we block the bridge totally and there is an emergency there would be hell. Yes it means only one bridge but [due to the amount of traffic caused] there will still be a massive impact.”

Two weeks ago one of the initial M4 bridge protest organisers Ashley Fowler said : “We’re all car enthusiasts and we have all been worried about fuel prices and when I saw the post about blocking the bridges we began talking about it. Then people started asking me to make an event so we could update each other.

“I made the event because I run a car club in Cardiff which I started on social media during the pandemic lockdowns to help people’s mental health. When we can we go out to car parks and just meet up and have a chat but during the pandemic we weren’t able to do it so I made the group.

“Now we can’t meet up so much again because of the cost of fuel. I know some of them can’t drive so much because they need to feed their kids. It’s serious. People are getting really depressed about it. One of the boys in the group has actually sold his car due to fuel price rises.”

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Ascona Group announces new Car and Truck wash facilities

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Charlie's Truck Wash

ASCONA GROUP, one of the UK’s fastest-growing forecourt operators, is pleased to announce two new vehicle washing partnerships as part of improvements to its unique roadside retail proposition across its forecourt estate.

As part of a new partnership with the American based PDQ Manufacturing, a leader for in-bay automatic vehicle washing facilities, Ascona Group will be the first in the UK to install the ‘Laserwash 360 Plus’, a touchless car wash system for its customers.

The partnership will initially expand the wash options at the Hinton Service Station, with a view to roll out the system to other sites under the Ascona Group’s brand, ‘Charlie’s Express Car Wash’ later this year. The partnership is a significant investment for Ascona and demonstrates its commitment to ever improving the experience for customers.

Ascona Group is also delighted to announce a strategic partnership with WashTec UK that will see Ascona introduce a ‘First of its Kind’ truck washing facility at the Tenby Road site on the A40 Eastbound in Carmarthenshire, which offers the very best technology available to HGV drivers.

The truck wash employs a fully ‘closed loop’ total water recycling system, the first of its kind in Wales, which recovers all water used within the wash process, filtering it for reuse with little or no water entering the mains drainage system. This system ensures Ascona not only has the best commercial wash in South Wales, but also offers customers one of the more environmentally friendly approaches in operation.

Commenting on the announcement, CEO Darren Briggs said: “From the very beginning, we knew that our sites must present our customers with a unique and compelling offer which is why we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to improve our roadside retail facilities.

“These two new partnerships further demonstrate our focus on creating industry-leading propositions and we are really excited to be working with PDQ Manufacturing USA and WashTec UK. Together, we are keen to continue to build on the success of these new operations and we are actively reviewing multiple opportunities across the Ascona portfolio to roll out more units such as these.”

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Community

Nearly £50,000 of National Lottery funding for community groups in Carmarthenshire

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FIVE local community organisations across Carmarthenshire are celebrating after being awarded a share of £49,575 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund over the past month.

One successful project was MolTân Makers who will use their £9,820 grant to provide metal working workshops for people wishing to improve their mental health and well-being. The group will reach out to mental health groups and the wider community and also allow people to reconnect with the community following the pandemic.

One participant with MolTân Makers explained, “ The course was professionally run by four hard-working people who helped us with one to one tuition when needed. They were so welcoming and adaptable to individual needs and allowed me to attend the course at different hours due to health reasons.

“They were great company and created an interesting and positive atmosphere to help people with mental and physical health problems feel included and understood and we all took home what we made in the course.”

The Hangout received £10,000 and will help young people improve their mental health and wellbeing through structured outdoor activity programmes. The project will build on a previous pilot project that led to more young people becoming re-engaged in school following the pandemic and continuing to volunteer with the group after the initial sessions finished.

The Alternative Learning Company in Llanelli were awarded £9,955 and will recycle plastic bottles to build full size greenhouses. They will propagate plants for growing schemes in local schools and communities. The project will reduce the levels of plastic sent to landfill or polluting open spaces, and give young people an understanding of the impact of climate change.

Newcastle Emlyn Town Council will build an outdoor structure in collaboration with the community, to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee. This £10,000 grant will fund building and design materials, and a water harvesting kit.

Messy Projects will use their £9,800 grant to run the activities and events they missed due to the pandemic. Activities will include celebrating the Queens platinum jubilee, a BBQ, and a Bonfire party.

John Rose, Wales Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said “These groups play a vital role in supporting their communities and these grants will allow them to continue being there for people in future. 

 ”National Lottery players raise more than £30 million each week for good causes across the UK and the projects funded over the past month show the crucial difference players make through their tickets. I look forward to following all of their progress.”  

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