A new wave of crime called "courier theft" was highlighted at a talk by DC Jim Egley during his seminar talk at the London Watch Show yesterday.
A member of Operation Sterling, which is part of the fraud team at New Scotland Yard, DC Egley told the audience at his London Watch Show seminar about a new watch scam being flagged up by jewellery and watch crime intelligence-collecting and sharing service SaferGems. The scam, of which there has been 3,500 since January 2011, is targeting elderly and vulnerable victims.
The information about the crime comes from the Metropolitan Police and reveals that criminals are contacting their victims by telephone pretending to be from either the police or the victim’s bank or card issuer. The scammer talks their victim into helping them investigate criminal activity occurring in a specific watch retailer, which the criminal suggests is, for instance, relating to watches or money going missing.
To do this, the victim is asked to purchase a Rolex watch from the store using his or her own credit card. The scammer on the phone says the individual will be refunded after the watch is purchased.
The watch is then collected from the victim, using taxi firms or other courier services, which aren’t usually connected with the crime and of course the money goes unreturned.
DC Egley said: "Rolexes are a very tradable item and people always want to buy them, which makes them a popular choice for thefts."
DC Egley explained that although the victim’s willingness to purchase a Rolex with their own money on this basis does not necessarily make sense to most people, the chosen victims are often vulnerable and are persuaded that they are helping with an important cause and that they request is above board.
Both the police and SaferGems are circulating information and advice urging retailers to be vigilant if they are approached by someone who wants to purchase an expensive watch who does not match "the usual profile" of common purchasers.
The statement reads: "Many older persons, who have been the victims thus far of this scam, are not the normal people going into stores to buy watches. The age of the victims seen so far ranges from 56 to 91 years of age".
If the retailer does spot a watch purchase that raises their suspicions they are being asked to contact the police.