Consumers have been warned of a growing scam where criminals pose as police officers and ask their victims to take part in a fake undercover operation to part them from their money.
UK Finance, the trade body which represents the finance and banking industry, has said fraudsters are now contacting members of the public, usually by phone, claiming to be from the police or in some cases the fraud team within their bank.
The criminal claims they are investigating a fraud at a local bank branch where staff are suspected of being complicit, including issuing fake bank notes, and asks the target to help in the operation.
As part of the scam, the person is asked to visit the branch and withdraw a substantial sum, often thousands of pounds, of the supposedly counterfeit cash to hand over to the ‘police’ for ‘analysis'.
The victim is assured that the money will be deposited back into their account after the operation is complete but once the money is passed over the fraudster disappears with the cash.
Katy Worobec, head of fraud and financial crime prevention, cyber and data sharing at UK Finance, said: "This is a particularly nasty scam as it plays on people’s public-spirited nature to assist the police.
"We are receiving a growing number of reports of it occurring, with people often losing large amounts of money, so it’s vital that everyone is aware. Remember, the police will never ask you to withdraw money and hand it over to them for safe-keeping."
According to UK Finance, the criminal instructs their victim not to discuss the case with anyone in the branch, giving them plausible explanations as to why they are withdrawing the money and as a result, despite being questioned by the bank staff, the victim takes out the cash, convinced that the staff are part of a fraud.
In another version of the scam, the criminal convinces the victim to transfer money to a so-called ‘safe account’ to protect their funds from the ‘corrupt’ bank staff but the account is in fact controlled by the criminal.
UK Finance has reminded consumers that the police and banks will never ask members of the public to become part of an anti-fraud operation or to transfer money to a ‘safe account’ for fraud reasons.
Consumers should also be wary of any calls, texts or emails purporting to be from the police asking for personal or financial details, or asking to transfer money.
Anyone approached by someone like this, or who feels something is suspicious, should hang up and report it to Action Fraud and their bank.