The incident occurred on Friday, 29 January when two elderly woman were approached in the street near to the Stratford Centre, E15 by a man who claimed to be a police officer.
He told them they had breached Covid regulations and escorted them to a cash point, where he asked for £500 as a fine for breaching the regulations.
Thankfully the incident was observed by officers who arrested the man. He was subsequently charged with blackmail and impersonating a police officer.
Detective Inspector Vince Fedder, from the Met’s North East Criminal Investigation Unit, said:
“Thankfully officers were on scene and quickly dealt with this incident. However the public need to be aware that some people may well see the current emergency as an opportunity to exploit others.
“I appreciate that these are frightening and lonely times for many people and we want to be careful not to cause further distress or worry. However, a general conversation on how to spot a bogus officer may stop someone falling victim to these scams. If you think that you, or anyone you know, has been the victim of such a fraud, then please contact police on 101.”
In the event a police officer needs to speak with you, if they are not in uniform they will identify themselves clearly by showing you their warrant card. This is proof of their identity and authority. If you want to verify their identity, you can ask for their warrant number and then phone 101 to check they are who they claim to be. A genuine warrant card will have a hologram and the signature of the Commissioner – not the holder.
A police officer will never ask you for remote access to your computer, or ask you to click on a hyperlink in order to participate in an investigation. They will also never send you unsolicited emails with attached files, especially zip or macro enabled Microsoft Office files, or ask you for any login credentials or passwords.
When an officer contacts you by telephone it’s obviously more difficult to verify a police officer’s identity. But there a number of things however that a police officer would never do. They will never ask you for your bank details or PIN, or ask you to transfer funds to another account. They will also never ask you to hand over cash or bank cards to a courier. You will never be asked to pay a fine or a fee to them or a third party in person, over the phone or online. They will never state you are committing a crime by not complying. If you’re in any doubt as to the identity of a police officer, please call 101. If you suspect the caller was a bogus officer, we recommend that after hanging up you wait for five minutes before calling police. There have been cases of fraudsters keeping the telephone line open after a victim had hung up. Leaving several minutes between calls will ensure that the call has closed.