Royal Mail has launched an investigation after dozens of bank cards addressed to residents on a single street went missing in the post.
Thirty residents on a road in Crystal Palace, London, said their credit and debit cards failed to arrive after being dispatched by their bank, including replacement cards and PINs.
At least six of the victims were defrauded.
One victim said criminals spent £1,000 on her debit card, and applied for another using her personal details, prompting fears of identity theft as well as fraud.
Residents said they received confirmation that the cards had been dispatched by their bank.
The victims, who asked for their street not to be named, discovered the extent of the problem after one messaged the community WhatsApp group to query a missing letter. They later discovered the first incident occurred “up to a year ago”.
One Royal Mail postal worker told The Telegraph he had previously been offered thousands of pounds to intercept bank cards on his route, specifically letters containing sensitive financial information.
The whistleblower, who works in a town in Leicestershire, said he was offered a cut of £30,000 – the amount the gang claimed they would typically make from withdrawing cash and buying expensive goods.
Criminals stole over £1.4m by intercepting posted bank cards in the first six months of this year, data from trade association UK Finance shows.
Parcel theft – also known as “porch piracy” – has shot up by more than 500pc since 2019, with 11pc of UK households reporting a parcel theft in the last year, freedom of information requests by technology company Quadient revealed.
A total of £206m in stolen goods was lost to criminals over that period.
‘The bank said there was no other way to send a card’
One of the street’s inhabitants, Anna Claydon, 35, lost £1,000 after fraudsters intercepted her replacement credit card.
The day after the card was due for delivery she received a text from her bank, Barclays, verifying two suspicious payments.
A fraudster had used Ms Claydon’s card to purchase goods from A One Beauty Supplies, a Jamaica-based firm.
Ms Claydon said: “I had an inkling the card wouldn’t arrive because of all the messages on the street WhatsApp group.
“I flagged it as fraud. Barclays said they would send out a new card but I explained the issue is the replacement card won’t get to me because this is so rife on the street.
“They said they’d send it signed-for, which I don’t think they did. It didn’t turn up either.
“The bank said there was no other way to send a card, not even to a branch.”
Barclays later refunded the £1,000 payment, however, fraudsters also applied for a credit card in her name with another bank. The fraudsters knew Ms Claydon’s name, address and date of birth.
“It’s really frustrating. My credit score has now dropped by 50 points.
“Initially we raised it with the local police but they suggested contacting Action Fraud or the Met. It feels like you have to jump through hoops to get anyone to listen.
“It’s clearly an endemic issue. It feels like we’re falling between the cracks. And I still haven’t got my card.”
Her husband, Alex Savage, 36, had two replacement bank cards fail to arrive. Despite no money having yet been taken, he is now concerned about using Royal Mail.
He said: “It makes you worry about getting other valuable items sent through Royal Mail. Do we need to think twice? My parents were going to send me a birthday card with some cash in it – do we need to avoid that?
“It’s just a massive hassle that you would rather not have to think about.”
‘I was offered a cut of £30,000 to intercept bank cards and PINs’
Paul, a Royal Mail postal worker who wished to remain anonymous, said a criminal gang tried to recruit him to intercept bank cards in 2019.
He said: “I was out on delivery one day and a driver from another company pulled up in a white van and started a conversation.
“We started chatting normally and then he said: ‘Do you want to make some extra money?’”
The delivery man said he was part of a group that wanted the names and addresses of a dozen customers on Paul’s route.
“They would apply for bank cards, and then it was up to me to intercept those cards before they were delivered and the PIN number the next day.”
The driver told the Royal Mail employee they would usually target a small area for a very short period before moving on, and would use the cards to withdraw cash and buy expensive goods.
Paul, who has worked as a postman for 15 years, said he was offered a 5pc cut of the £30,000 that the fraudsters hoped to make per card.
He said he was “shocked” by the offer, adding: “It was insulting. I love my job, I love talking to customers, so it hurts for anyone to undermine it like that.
“I think postmen get enough stick. We’re a very proud workforce and we seem to be being knocked all the time at the moment.”
Paul reported the incident to the Royal Mail manager at his depot in a Leicestershire town, including a description of the driver and the van’s registration number.
“They weren’t concerned and didn’t seem to be taking it very seriously,” he said.
“They said they’d pass it on to the Royal Mail fraud office but I didn’t hear anything after that.”
Royal Mail chaos could be masking a more sinister phenomenon
There were 1,759 Royal Mail workers convicted of theft between 2007 and 2011. Royal Mail, which has its own internal prosecutions team, would not comment on how many of its workers had been charged for stealing mail since the postal service was privatised in 2013.
‘Someone has been seduced by the promise of riches’
Debbie, another Crystal Palace resident, who preferred not to be identified, was contacted by her bank after fraudsters attempted to make a £826 payment on a replacement bank card that had been sent out in the post but never arrived.
She was alerted to the payment to another Jamaica-based beauty firm by text and told her bank to block the transaction.
She said: “I spoke to the fraud department of the bank and asked them if they would be chasing it, but they said as the payment hadn’t gone through they didn’t have any further details. They weren’t interested in pursuing it.”
Debbie has since sent a “comprehensive list” of the 35 residents affected to Royal Mail’s security department. The postal service said it is investigating the matter.
She said: “It’s really frustrating. I don’t want to think badly of anybody as our post staff are really lovely, but it has to be someone who is able to access a very specific area’s post, and that happens at a more local level. You have to wonder.
“My daughter and her partner are travelling at the moment and trying to get new cards.
“We’re having to organise them going to different addresses as we’re nervous about them coming here,” she said.
“We’ve lived here 30 years and this is the first time I’ve known it to happen – and it’s happened on such a large scale.
“Clearly someone along the line has been seduced by a promise of riches and are quite happy to screw over whoever they need to to do it.”
Fiona Nicholson, another resident, said two replacement debit cards from her bank have gone missing since a replacement card was first dispatched in January.
She said: “The third [card] was meant to be sent out by signed-for delivery, which it was, but the postman just stuck it through the door with no signature.
“Pretty much every resident on the street has had at least one disappear in the last year, if not two.
“[One neighbour] had an account’s overdraft of £750 emptied, another had two cards intercepted and attempts of £100-200 made on both and another had £400 taken.
“We’ve reported it to Royal Mail and the police.”
She said the series of disappearances makes her worry that she may be defrauded.
“My husband and I are checking every day on our accounts. But just because money hasn’t been taken doesn’t mean someone hasn’t stolen my identity using the card. Once they have my debit card they have proof, and they can do what they like.”
Royal Mail has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years over its performance.
The service was fined £5.6m by the press regulator Ofcom in November after failing to deliver more than a quarter of first-class post on time.
It delivered just 73.7pc of first-class mail within a day in the 2022 to 2023 financial year, and less than 50pc in many areas, far short of its 93pc target.
Even after adjusting Royal Mail’s performance to take into account the impact of strikes, extreme weather and the closure of the runway at Stansted airport, its first and second-class post performance still fell short of the targets, Ofcom said.
The company also lost its 360-year-old monopoly on delivering parcels from Post Office branches last month, after concerns about poor quality of service persuaded the postal service to sign deals with rivals Evri and DPD in the run-up to Christmas.
Royal Mail said it has launched an investigation into the allegations of fraud and theft.
A spokesman said: “The safety and security of mail is of the utmost importance and we take any reports of criminal activity very seriously.
“We are aware of the complaints [in Crystal Palace] and have an investigation ongoing. This includes engagement with the police.”
Action Fraud confirmed that Ms Claydon’s case was being assessed by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau at the City of London Police, but refused to comment further.
A Metropolitan Police statement said: “Police were contacted after a number of residents in the same street in Crystal Palace and Anerley reported that bank cards they had ordered had not arrived.
“It was unclear whether the cards had gone missing due to a distribution error. The residents had contacted Royal Mail and their banks. They were also advised to contact Action Fraud.
“The crime report has been closed pending anything further coming to light.”
A Barclays spokesman said: “We have no higher priority than the protection of our customers’ funds and data.
“To ensure customer security, we do not use branded packaging when issuing new debit or credit cards. Cards and PINs are sent separately, with the option to send via courier and require a signature upon delivery.”
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