Their numbers are likely to soar during the Olympics as police revealed they had intelligence to suggest hordes of pickpockets and conmen from Eastern Europe and as far as away as South America will flock to London to prey on visitors.
European criminal gangs are already targeting tourists in the capital
by posing as plain-clothes officers and issuing bogus fines.
A number of suspects have been
arrested recently around tourist attractions after forcing victims to
march to cashpoints or hand over their bank card and PIN numbers for
so-called security checks.
their broken English and lack of police uniform, some visitors have
been taken in by fake warrant cards and have provided their name,
address, bank details or even handed over their wallet on being asked to
verify their identity.
of tourists have been stopped by the bogus bobbies around attractions
such as Trafalgar Square, Oxford Circus and areas such as Kensington,
Chelsea and Camden.
favourite trick is to rifle through the pockets of the unsuspecting
victim swiping valuables and cash cards, while claiming to perform a
routine drugs search.
ruse used by the gangs is to seize bank cards and demand to know the
accompanying PIN numbers, saying they need the information to confirm
the victim’s identity and that they have permission to be in Britain.
Yesterday Scotland Yard revealed it
had received intelligence suggesting gangs from South America and
Eastern Europe were planning to target the Games.
Superintendent Nick Downing, who is leading the fight against
Olympics-related crime, said: ‘There is intelligence to suggest a number
of people from Eastern Europe and South America are coming to London to
target the Olympics and the London economy.’
He said officers had already seen a rise in pickpockets and offenders acting as bogus policemen.
‘Tourists are being duped into giving their PIN numbers over.
‘They are preying on people who maybe don’t understand what a plain-clothes police officer looks like or might do.
‘They are preying on the vulnerability of tourists in London.’
people have been sucked in by the scam because of language difficulties
and they hail from cultures which have a strong respect for people in
authority, Mr Downing said.
It is theft’, he added. ‘No officer will make any demand for money.
‘They would not take you to a cashpoint and ask you to take your money out.
do not need to know your PIN number.’ Police also revealed that dozens
of people across the world had been fleeced by online Olympic ticket
than 50 sports fans who spent thousands of pounds on fake tickets have
been traced so far, but police believe scores more may have fallen
victim to the multi-million pound black market trade ahead of the Games.
Mr Downing said 35 unauthorised and fraudulent websites offering tickets and accommodation packages had been suspended.
Scotland Yard has only managed to shut down a small number of websites
suspected of selling fake Olympic tickets, as many sites in America and
Holland are beyond their reach.
a separate case, a multimillion pound international ticketing company
has been summoned to appear before magistrates next month charged with
22 offences linked to the illegal sale of Olympic tickets.
are also seeking a European Arrest Warrant for a Dutch suspect who fled
Merseyside after his fraudulent Olympic ticket website was uncovered.
a Metropolitan Police spokesman said: ‘Criminals posing as police
officers in order to dupe unsuspecting members of the public into
handing over valuables, cash card details or money have been an ongoing
problem in Central London and we have, unfortunately, seen a recent
increase in this type of crime.
Podium has been working with borough colleagues and other central
assets to target these criminals and a number of arrests have been made
in recent weeks.’