How to recognise a police warrant card

At the beginning of this month, we added an item about thieves on the streets. The original story is here. This included advice from the Police to always ask to see identification from anybody claiming to be a Police officer.

The difficulty with this advice is that few of us have ever seen a Police officer’s identification, called a Warrant Card. That makes it difficult to know whether what we’re being shown is genuine.

One of the local Police Liaison Team members has provided some advice on how to identify a real Warrant Card. It will be the same size as a credit card, be made of plastic and have:

  • A blue bar across the top of the card with the word Police in white on the blue bar if it identifies a Police officer.
  • Below that, in red lettering, the words ‘POLICE OFFICER’.
  • The officer’s collar number and their photograph will be across the centre of the card.
  • Their name and rank will be below the photograph.

The officer may have their card in a leather wallet but this isn’t always the case.

Perhaps the key point is that if you’re not absolutely certain that the card you’re being shown is genuine, say you’re going to call the Police. If the person who has shown the card isn’t a real Police officer, they’re unlikely to hang around if they think you’re really going to phone up to make sure they’re genuine.

Mobile phones used for theft

A warning has been sent by the local Police team about mobile phones being used to steal money. The warning applies to old-style mobiles and to smart phones.

The scam starts when the victim receives a text message. The message appears to be from the victim’s bank or credit card company. It tells the victim that a transaction has been approved on their card. All the victim is asked to do is to text back ‘Y’ or ‘N’, depending on whether or not the transaction is genuine.

Inevitably, they will text ‘N’ because the transaction is never genuine. That tells the thief that this is a real mobile phone number.

The scam then moves on and ends up with the victim providing enough information for the thief to be able to steal money from their bank or to use their card to buy goods online.

The advice from the Police is:

  • Always check the validity of the text message by contacting your credit card provider or bank using the number on the back of the card or on the credit card/bank statement.
  • Beware of cold calls where the caller claims to be from a bank or credit card company.
  • If think the phone call might really be from your bank, hang up the phone and wait for 10 minutes before calling the bank back. Better still, use a different phone. This is because thieves have been able to keep a phone line open so when the victim has thought they were calling their bank, it was just the thief picking up the call. Again, use the phone number on the back of your card or on your bank statement in order to contact your bank.
  • If you have been a victim of fraud or cyber crime, please report it to Action Fraud here or alternatively by calling 0300 123 2040

Take care with email

The recent malware attacks that hit a variety of big organisations across the world have highlighted the need for care with online systems.

It seems unlikely that the original ransomware that hit so many big organisations was spread by email, but the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has warned that criminals are trying to cash in on the attack. Some are offering fixes and support services that allegedly will protect computers.

They’re fake.

Recent examples of this type of activity include:

  • Social media alerts that include links to fake security patches. Clicking the link is likely to install real malware on your computer.
  • Emails claiming to be from a telecoms provider and telling you that you’re about to be locked out of your account. You just need to click on the link in the email to verify a few details. If you click the link, you will be asked for enough information to allow the criminals to take over your account.
  • App stores offering ransomware ‘patches’ for mobiles although mobiles weren’t affected by the recent events. If you buy the app, you’ll be paying money for nothing.
  • Messages that pop up on your computer, claiming to be from Microsoft and warning that your computer has a virus. Typically the message includes a phone number. If you call it, you’ll eventually be sold some software that you can either get for nothing or that you don’t need.

In addition, criminals may try to steal your money by sending you an email and persuading you to open an attachment or click on a link. The message may:

  • Say your order is on its way, details are in an attached confirmation. You know you haven’t ordered anything so you’re tempted to open the attachment to find out what is being delivered. If you do that, you’ll likely end up providing information to thieves.
  • Say there’s been some unusual activity on your bank account or credit card and ask you to click on a link to confirm the details. If you click on the link you’ll be asked to provide enough details to enable thieves to take money from your bank account.
  • Claim that your eBay or PayPal account is about to be suspended. The email will include a link and ask you to confirm some details. Again, if you do, they will be able to take over your account.
  • Claim that you have a tax refund waiting. Again, there will be a link which will ask you to confirm bank details and, again, if you provide them, the thieves will be able to take money from your account.
  • Claim that an organisation such as a solicitor or builder that you’re due to pay money to has changed their bank account details. This usually means that their email account has been hacked and, if you use the new account details, you’ll be sending the money to thieves.

These are just a few of the scams that have been seen recently.

The NCSC and Action Fraud offer advice to help avoid these scams:

  • Never open an email attachment that you’re not expecting. Just delete the email.
  • Never click on a link in an email. If you think the message may really be from your bank or whatever, go to the relevant web page in the normal way or call the organisation that is supposed to have sent you the email. But don’t use any phone number in the email. Use the number you normally use.
  • Never allow anybody to have remote access to your computer. If you think you have a problem with your computer, take it to a reliable local repair company – don’t rely on somebody who phones you claiming that they can see you have a problem. Only thieves do this.
  • Never give anybody your password or PIN. Nobody from a trustworthy organisation will ever ask you for that information.
  • Don’t think it’s wrong to be rude to somebody calling and telling you there’s a problem with your computer. They’re thieves. Say nothing: just put the phone down.
  • If you’re buying a house or having work done that will involve paying substantial sums of money, agree with the solicitor or the builder on how they must tell you their bank details have changed. Don’t believe an email that comes out of the blue.

For more information, the Action Fraud website is here.

Thieves on the streets

Local Police officers have sent out a warning about a new way of carrying out thefts on the street.

The first member of a gang approaches somebody they think is a stranger to an area. They start a conversation under the pretext of asking for directions, recommendations for a restaurant or some other reasonable question.

Once the conversation has started, other members of the gang arrive. They claim to be Police officers. Sometimes they show fake identification. They might ask to see the first fraudster’s identification but they may just give an excuse to examine the victim’s bag, purse or wallet.

Once whatever they’re inspecting is handed back, everybody goes on their way. It’s only later the victim realises that money, bank cards or valuables have been taken from whatever the thieves ‘examined’.

The advice from the Police is that if anybody claims to be a Police officer, especially one in plain clothes, we should always ask to see identification.

Apart from that, it’s worth remembering:

  • Never, ever, give your passwords or the PIN for your bank cards to anybody. No genuine Police officer will ask for those.
  • No Police officer will ever ask you to withdraw money from a bank account.
  • No Police officer will ever ask you to transfer money to what they describe as a ‘safe’ bank account.

It’s often older people who are at risk of these sorts of crimes because they have grown up in a society where fraud was less frequent. It’s important to help everybody understand that there are thieves who are very good at convincing us that they’re from a trustworthy organisation.

It’s a sad reflection on today’s society, but it’s necessary to adopt an attitude of ‘trust nobody until they’re proven to be trustworthy’.

Preventing vehicle crime

There has been a recent spate of thefts from cars and thefts of cars in Kings Heath and Moseley. The Police suggested a few precautions that we can take to reduce the risk of these sorts of crimes:

Break-ins to cars in Moseley involved thieves smashing windows to get at electronic equipment left in the cars overnight. The advice is never to leave satnavs, mobile phones, laptops or anything else of value in your car overnight.

You may also have heard about a couple of instances where cars were taken by force from their owners (carjackings). Advice has also been offered to minimise the risk of being the victim of this sort of crime. When you’ve parked your car and you’re going back to it, be aware of who is in the area as you approach it. Have the key ready in your hand so that you can open the door and get in quickly. Once in, lock the doors.

Overall, reported crime is reducing but these are things we can all do to help bring it down further.

Preventing burglaries

A recent meeting involving residents and representatives from West Midlands Police heard that the rate of burglaries in Kings Heath has fallen over the past month or so. However, residents were advised of the need to take action to protect themselves and their property:

  • If you’re going out for the evening, leave at least one light on. If possible, leave several lights on timers so they can be seen being switched on and off.
  • Don’t leave keys – especially car keys – within reach of your front door. Thieves have used long hooks to reach keys out of houses through letterboxes.
  • When you go out, make sure all doors and windows are secured. Criminals look for unoccupied homes with open windows and it’s amazing to see how small a window can be used by an adult to get into a house.
  • Think about how easy it is to get to the back of your house. If you have a side gate, put a bolt on it.
  • If you have tools in your garden shed, make sure the shed is locked when the tools aren’t being used. A spade or a fork can be used to break into a house.
  • Think about registering valuable items (wide-screen televisions, computers, jewellery, etc.) with the UK National Property Register.
  • If you’ve got foliage that screens your front doors or windows from the street, think about cutting it back so that anybody at the front of your house can be seen easily.
  • Think about outside security lighting so that anybody approaching your house will be very noticeable from the street.

If you do see anything suspicious, call 101 and tell the Police.

If a crime is actually in progress, call 999 immediately.