A HUSBAND-and-wife-run taxi firm has helped foil a fraud that would have cost an elderly man £5,000.
Mohammed and Jamila Abbas and other Oxford taxi companies have been warned by police about criminals trying to trick older people into handing over their life savings.
The courier fraud scam sees cold-callers ring their victims pretending to be police investigating a fraud. The caller then tells the victim to withdraw all the money from their account and send it via taxi to London. Since January police have said 11 victims have been conned out of about £39,500 in Oxford.
Thames Valley Police has now recruited all Oxford taxi firms in a bid to stop any suspect packages leaving the city.
Mr and Mrs Abbas, owners of Elite Cars in Osney Mead, called the police on Wednesday last week when a man called up asking for a package to be picked up from Headington and taken to London.
Mr Abbas, 47, drove his Mercedes to the Shell petrol station in London Road to wait for the police. But Mrs Abbas, 43, said the fraudster kept on calling up demanding to know where the cab was.
She said: “A few times he kept changing his accent. I was feeling more and more that something was not right.”
When the police arrived, father-of-four Mr Abbas drove to the victim’s house and picked up the package and delivery fee.
The box was opened by police and £5,000 in cash was found. Officers then told the elderly man he had been scammed and handed the cash back.
Mr Abbas said: “When I did it I felt I had done a good job for our community – especially the older people.”
Detective Sergeant Maria Banks, who is leading the Oxford investigation into courier fraud, said following the foiled scam the same victim had been talked in to taking £10,000 to London in a taxi himself, but the driver he flagged down spotted the fraud and drove him home.
And she said in January, 001 Taxis called the force reporting the same scam in Summertown. Police joined the driver and managed to intercept £9,000 in cash and return it to an elderly couple.
DS Banks said taxi drivers had been warned in January as they had been playing an unwitting role in the crime.
She said: “They do not know what they are doing. They are literally going to an address to pick up a parcel and being paid money to take it to the criminals.”
And she said the crime could be cut by raising awareness about the scam.
She said: “These criminals are working everywhere. We are not dealing with one gang, we are dealing with several gangs. It is a good crime for them but awful for the victims.”
DS Banks said the Oxford team’s focus was currently on disrupting the scams rather than putting the taxi drivers under any risk by trying to trace the fraudsters.
Niaz Mohammed, manager of Royal Cars based in Ferry Hinksey Road, said one of his drivers had delivered a package from Summertown to London earlier this year.
But he said all suspicious calls were now refused and added: “We report it to the police straight away.
“Everyone is a target. If they don’t get anywhere with us they will try another company.”
Mark Green, owner of 001 Taxis, said they were vigilant to any potential scams. He said: “We have a very good system in place to know when somebody is paying with a fake credit card which is what these scammers were doing.
“It took four of us a morning’s work but it resulted in the victim getting the money back so it was worth it.”
City councillor and taxi driver Saj Malik said: “The message has got across and people have stopped doing these package deliveries.”