Milverton, Somerset
21/06/2024

Courier fraud

Avon and Somerset Police are warning to look out for courier fraud.

A resident received a call from someone who claimed to be a London police officer working in Paddington station (which closed some time ago). Fortunately, the resident became suspicious and hung up, but we want to remind you to be wary of callers who claim to be a police officer working in a serious crime fraud unit in London or from another force.

They claim that your bank account has been compromised or that the bank card has been cloned. The purpose of these calls is to get people’s bank account details.

The offenders may also say that they are investigating your bank and need help to test the cash for counterfeit money. Victims are asked to withdraw a considerable amount of cash which will then be collected by a courier for “testing”. Of course it always fails and you never see the money again.

These criminals can be very convincing and will sometimes pass your call to another “department” which is another fraudster. They may also ask you to contact 101 or 999 to confirm their identity. In this case the culprit doesn’t hang up, so the line remains connected at their end, any other call you make is answered by them. If asked to do this, hang up and wait at least five minutes before making a call or ideally use another phone if possible.

It is important to note that the police do not accept Amazon vouchers or any other type of gift card as a form of payment, so if the offenders ask for these it WILL be a scam.

Report courier fraud online at Action Fraud or by calling 0300 123 2040

 

Shop safely online

Avon and Somerset Police are advising about shopping safely online this Christmas.

With Christmas around the corner, online shopping can save you time, effort and money. However, don’t be caught out by convincing fake online shopping websites or fraudulent listings on buy and sell platforms. Avon and Somerset Police would advise people to be extra cautious when considering purchasing items online such as concert tickets, phones, gaming devices and designer goods. Fraudsters will take advantage of lower stock levels of such items around Christmas time, and we see consumers searching for these in demand items often falling victim to fraud.

Don’t be lured onto a fraudulent website by clicking on a link you have been sent in a text or email. You can report suspicious emails by forwarding them to report@phishing.gov.uk and suspicious text messages by forwarding them to 7726.

  • Ensure your email and online shopping accounts are protected with strong passwords and you don’t use them anywhere else
  • Use the recommended payment method, or you may not be refunded for any losses to fraud. Pay securely and with payment protection (such as using a credit card)
  • When paying either by online payment service or payment card, ensure that the link is secure, in two ways:
  1. There should be a padlock symbol in the browser window frame, which appears when you attempt to log in or register. Be sure that the padlock is not on the page itself … this will probably indicate a fraudulent site.
  2. The web address should begin with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’. The above indicates only that the link between you and the website owner is secure, and not that the site itself is authentic. You need to do this by carefully checking the address for subtle misspellings, additional words and characters and other irregularities.
  • Check credit card and bank statements carefully after shopping to ensure that the correct amount has been debited, and also that no fraud has taken place as a result of the transaction
  • Avoid carrying out any financial transactions over unsecure connections, such as public wi-fi
  • Ensure you have effective and updated antivirus/antispyware software and firewall running before you go online
  • If you’re unsure about a link to a website don’t click on it. If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is

Do your research on a website and go with your instincts When using auction sites:

  • Remember that it’s easy to set up a fake profile
  • Stay on the website when communicating with the seller
  • Do your research on the seller to make sure they are genuine
  • Decline any requests to pay by bank transfer or virtual currency
  • If a seller asks for payment by PayPal Friends & Family, this will be so that they can avoid PayPal charges, but will deny you any payment protection which PayPal may otherwise provide

You also need to be wary as a seller. Criminals sometimes pose as buyers on auction sites, sending spoof emails as proof of payment transfer to the genuine seller. The payment fails to materialise, but the goods have already been sent.

There have also been cases where criminals have turned up at the victim’s home to collect an item and presented a fake banking app, showing that the funds have been sent. Always check your account online or ask your bank to make sure cleared funds have been received before sending or handing over any item.

If you are the victim of fraud, report it immediately to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting Action Fraud

 

Cold caller alert

On Thursday 8 April my wife and I were approached by a youngish male as we unloaded shopping at our front door. Rather rapidly flashing a piece of official-looking paper in front of my face but whipping it away with speed, he claimed to be a participant in some sort of scheme to get himself back on his feet after service in the Military. He claimed to have suffered from mental health problems. He also claimed to have received real support from Milverton’s Church of England Rector, Helene. We could not deal with this at the time, but he seemed to be reluctant to let us get on with our task and lingered, delivering his narrative. He claimed to be from Middlesbrough (he had a north-eastern accent certainly). I told him I would speak to him if he returned in half an hour. I saw a second man of a similar age lingering outside The Globe Inn and, ultimately, entering the main door.

I used that time to try to verify his story, being perfectly willing to help if it were true, but neither Helene nor Louise Fyne, community police officer, were available. When the man returned I told him I had not been able to verify any of his story and did not intend to pursue our conversation further. He became more insistent, claiming that he had made lots of sales up and down the street. I congratulated him on his success and closed the door. .

I reported this matter to the Avon and Somerset Constabulary via the 101 system. They called me back that evening, taking details of appearance and the story he gave us. They advised me that this should have been a 999 call. They fully supported the suggestion that I inform the community that this should be the procedure. Their advice is not to engage with the characters who cold-call and if they adopt an insistent attitude, such as that described above, call 999 so that they might be apprehended. The police, I was informed, regard these activities as acts of nuisance and as such they will be treated as a legitimate call for the emergency number.

A Milverton resident.

Avon and Somerset Police theft alert

An outbuilding/stables have been subject of an attempted theft between 3pm and 4pm on the 15 March in West Bagborough. The offenders gained entry and removed a quad bike into a yard, where it was later discovered abandoned nearby.

Any information please contact the Police on 101 quoting reference number: 5222062334 stating NHW release or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Thank you for your support.

 

Catalytic converter theft

  • There to help ‘clean’ the exhaust gas from vehicles, the metals catalytic converters are made of are becoming more and more valuable, some being more valuable than gold!
  • They’re easy to steal. Organised criminals have found ways to get under cars and steal converters in a matter of minutes, with cars parked up on curbs being the easiest targets.
  • They’re pretty small items, so once stolen they’re easy to move around to sell on the black market here in the UK or abroad.

Our campaign is here with support from @ourwatch to help you learn the signs to spot if it’s happening in your area, the best tips on how to protect your vehicle from becoming an easy target, and as always our charity is here to give you a 100 per cent anonymous way to speak up with any information you have that could put a stop to it. Call 0800 555 111 or head online to learn more at Crimestoppers.

Organised criminals can remove catalytic converters from under a vehicle in a matter of minutes.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals such as rhodium, platinum and palladium which ‘clean’ exhaust gases. The sharp rise in the value of these metals over recent years has driven up the rate of catalytic converter theft. Palladium is currently more valuable than gold, meaning that a catalytic converter can sell for more than £500 on the black market.

If you have information on those behind catalytic converter theft, contact us 100 per cent anonymously.

Catalytic converter theft is a crime and leaves drivers with an average replacement bill of £1,300. In some cases, the vehicle may even be written off by the damage caused by thieves sawing converters from the exhaust. This crime can also cause immense stress and anxiety to victims, with some drivers being repeatedly targeted.

If you are approached to buy catalytic converters which you suspect may be stolen, you can contact us 100 per cent anonymously to tell us what you know. We don’t need to know your name, just as much information as you can give us, such as the whereabouts of the criminals and who they are selling the metal to.

Avon and Somerset Police wanted alert

Police are appealing for information about the whereabouts of two men wanted in connection with an investigation into large-scale drugs supply, firearms offences, and money laundering in the south west.

Christopher Barbosa, 29, from Sea Mills in Bristol is charged with conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine and money laundering.

Billy Foster, 33, from Oldland Common in Bristol has been charged with seven offences, including conspiracy to sell or transfer two handguns, conspiracy to supply cocaine, and money laundering.

Barbosa failed to attend Bristol Magistrates Court on 31 March and Foster failed to attend a separate hearing on 27 April.

Both men were arrested as part of national Operation Venetic, the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of encrypted communications platform EncroChat.

Barbosa is described as a mixed race man, 6ft 2 inches tall, of medium build, with a black beard and moustache.

Foster is described as a white man, 5ft 10 inches tall, of medium build, with dark brown hair and possibly has a beard and moustache.

  • If you see Barbosa or Foster, who are not believed to be together, do not approach them, call 999
  • If you have any other information which may help to find them, call 101 quoting reference 5220116639
  • If you can help, please call 101 and give the call handler the reference number 5220116639

You can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers 100 per cent anonymously on 0800 555
111 or via their Anonymous Online Form.

No personal details are taken, information cannot be traced or recorded and you will not go to court or have to speak to police when contacting Crimestoppers.

Wanted men Billy Foster (left) and Christopher Barbosa (right)

Vaccine passport scams

Action Fraud has received over 700 reports from members of the public about fake emails purporting to be from the NHS. The emails claim to be able to provide people with a ‘digital passport’ that ‘proves you have been vaccinated against COVID-19’. These emails are fake, and the links within them lead to genuine-looking websites that steal your personal and financial information.

How to protect yourself

In the UK, coronavirus vaccines will only be available via the National Health Services of England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. You can be contacted by the NHS, your employer, a GP surgery or pharmacy local to you, to receive your vaccine. Remember, the vaccine is free of charge. At no point will you be asked to pay.

The NHS will never:

  • ask you for your bank account or card details
  • ask you for your PIN or banking passwords
  • arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine
  • ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips

Your vaccination status can be obtained for free through the official NHS app, NHS website,
or by calling the NHS on 119.

How to report scams

If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you are suspicious about an email you have received, you can report it by forwarding the email to: report@phishing.gov.uk. Suspicious text messages can also be reported by forwarding them to the number: 7726 (it’s free of charge).

If you believe you are the victim of a fraud, please report this to Action Fraud as soon as possible by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting Action Fraud.

Beware of Royal Mail scams

There are renewed warnings to be aware of delivery scams and phishing emails claiming to be from DPD and Royal Mail. Fraudsters are sending texts and emails that claim delivery drivers were “unable to deliver your parcel” as “you weren’t in or there was no safe place to leave it”, or that there is an outstanding charge on the package. The message then gives instructions on how to arrange another delivery, leading to websites that request a small payment to rearrange the delivery.

If payment is made the recipient, then receives a phone call within a few days from someone claiming to be from their bank to inform them about suspicious transactions on their account.

They are then instructed their bank account may be compromised and instructed to transfer their money to an ‘alternative secure account’ to prevent further losses.

Criminals carrying out this scam are able to use a tactic known as “spoofing” to make the call or text appear genuine by cloning the phone number, or sender ID, used by the bank.

If you receive a suspicious email, text message, telephone call or discover a Royal Mail branded website which you think is fraudulent, please report it to reportascam@royalmail.com.

For suspicious emails, forward the email to reportascam@royalmail.com, do not click on any links or attachments and then delete if from your inbox.

For suspicious text messages, please send Royal Mail a screenshot of the message to reportascam@royalmail.com.

For suspicious calls or websites, please include the phone number or website address in the body of the email.

You can report suspicious texts you have received but not acted upon, by forwarding the original message to 7726, which spells SPAM on your keypad.

If you have been the victim of a payment scam, you can get a crime reference number by reporting it to your local Police station.

If you have clicked on a link, provided any personal data like your bank account details on a website or over the phone or you’re concerned that you’ve been compromised, you should also report the scam to Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre.

Cold calling and suspicious behaviour

It has been noted that there has been an increase in cold calling, in particular fencing and gardening works. Do please remember that you are under no obligation to answer the door or invite anyone inside your property. Here are a few tips:

  • Did they put a leaflet through your door claiming to offer discounts for OAPs?
  • Do they offer discount for calling within a particular time scale of receiving your leaflet?
  • Do they offer a particular service and then claim to offer a host of other services seemingly unrelated?
  • Does it look like a professionally printed leaflet?
  • If you speak to an operator, do not be bullied into committing to their services or an appointment
  • If they are in your home, phone a friend and ask them to come round
  • You can ask them to leave at any point during their sales pitch
  • If you’re not sure, don’t open the door

Due also to an increase in thefts from out buildings and sheds, please ensure your property is secure at all times. Any larger items, lawn mowers and garden power tools can be secured with chains inside. Screw heads can be rounded off on hinges and security lighting is effective.

Clever gardening tips to deter burglars

As well as creating a lovely space for you and loved ones with a bit of careful planning, you can also deter burglars.

Follow our tips for a dangerously beautiful garden and keep thieves at bay:

  • Grow hedging to act as a barrier

Plants that have evolved over millions of years to protect themselves can also help protect our homes. Species with spiky leaves or thorns will make burglars think twice before trying to pass through or climb them. Berberis, Hawthorn or Blackthorn are ideal for this and there are evergreen variations available, providing protection all the year round.

  • Use your fruit or veg plots wisely

Fruit or veg plots can act as a secondary line of defence within your garden. Grow rows of spiky gooseberries or try exotic Szechuan pepper. They will make an exit route uncomfortable for anyone trying to make a quick escape.

  • Plant something spiky under your windows

Plant rose bushes under your windows; not only do they look pretty but they will also put off burglars trying to scope out what’s on offer inside your home.

  • Hide outbuildings with bushes and hedges

Hide small sheds or outbuildings containing valuables like bikes or electric garden tools so they don’t become a target. Evergreen hedges like laurel, escallonia and grisalinia grow quickly to form a covering, as well as adding more green to your garden.

  • Lock your gate and check fences are fully secure

Having your gate closed with a lock acts as a great psychological deterrent. It’s also important to check that fences aren’t broken, as they create a physical defence to anyone trying to gain entry to your garden. Make them doubly secure by adding a trellis to the top of the fence, which will make a loud noise if broken and alert you to any trespassers.

Securing your garden and outbuildings

  • Check for weak spots where a thief could get in – a low or weak fence or a back gate with a weak lock
  • Fences at the front of the property should be low to offer good visibility
  • Fit a strong, lockable high gate across any side passage to stop a thief getting to the back of the house where they can work undisturbed
  • Use thorny hedges and plants along boundaries, under ground-floor windows and up drainpipes to make it harder for thieves to gain access
  • Cut back any vegetation that might shield a thief from view and any trees that could give roof access
  • Consider fitting dusk ’til dawn security lights to the outside of your home at the front and back
  • Don’t leave ladders or tools outside, or if necessary chain them up, as they could be used to break into your property
  • Photograph valuable tools and unusual garden ornaments
  • Mark your tools with your postcode and house number, or the first two letters of your house name, then place the details on Immobilise, the UK national property register website

Sheds

  • Secure your garden shed, especially if you keep valuable items stored inside. Padlocks should be made of hardened steel. Buy the close-shackled variety to prevent hacksaws or bolt croppers being used
  • Shed windows should be screwed shut or have window locks. Consider fitting a metal grille
  • Chain tools, cycles and other valuable equipment together using a high security chain or cable and a padlock. Anchor the chain into the wall or floor
  • Alarms can be extended to garages and sheds. Alternatively, buy a battery- operated audible alarm

Garages

  • Most standard ‘up and over’ garage doors are easily overcome by a burglar. You can prevent this by drilling a hole through the channel above the wheels and fitting a padlock. Alternatively, fit a hasp and staple on each side of the door with a padlock or fit a specialist lock
  • If you have a door connecting your garage to your house, ensure the connecting door is secured with a mortice deadlock (BS 3621) and mortice bolts

Appeal after man assaulted

AW054

We’re seeking witnesses, dashcam and information after a man reported being assaulted in Wiveliscombe.

It happened in North Street, near to the Bear Inn, between 3pm and 4pm on Monday 31 May.

A member of the public found the 23-year-old man with facial injuries and called the emergency services. The injured man was treated at hospital for cuts, bruising and swelling as well as a knee injury.

He said the occupants of a red Peugeot car – a man, woman and two teenage boys – got out and punched and kicked him.

All were white, and described as a:

  • man in his 40s, about 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall, of medium build and with a local accent
  • woman in her 30s, 5ft 6ins (1.67m) tall, and skinny with brown hair and wearing a red jumper
  • young man in his mid-to-late teens, 5ft 7ins (1.70m) tall and skinny with black hair and with a ‘man bag’
  • slightly younger teenager, 6ft 2ins (1.87m) tall and slender with frizzy hair and wearing a black tracksuit

The neighbourhood team are targeting their patrols in the area following the incident.

If you saw the assault, have dashcam footage or any other information which could help, call 101 quoting reference 5221120021.

You can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers 100 per cent anonymously on 0800 555 111or via their Anonymous Online Form.

No personal details are taken, information cannot be traced or recorded and you will not go to court or have to speak to police when contacting Crimestoppers.