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Detective Constable Amanda Carver of Wiltshire police, who first became aware of the scale of the problem after a series of frauds two years ago, now has regular contact from businesses affected and constantly works with officers in other areas to tackle the problem.

"I am concerned that there is a lot more going on at the moment," she said, "not as much as 2010 when they were going virtually every day to auction houses and sometimes twice a day, but it is a very, very similar method of working."

Four people who were due to appear at Swindon Crown Court on April 20 charged with fraud over those 2010 offences will now appear this month.

But DC Carver said such credit card frauds - affecting 'card not present' transactions - are still coming to her attention all the time, including from March this year. Many of them seem to be originating from the London area and target gold, silver and jewellery.

"These are coming to light due to the charge-back letters coming through from the credit card companies after the legitimate user has realised the fraudulent use of their cards," she added.

"Invariably the name and address given will match that shown for voters and the phone number given will be answered. It would appear that jewellery is again their goal. The names and addresses vary each time but the modus operandi is common to all.

"The ones I've dealt with are very, very organised to the extent of creating false identities for themselves and gaining access to houses that were empty at the time, for sale."

She reiterated her message that auction houses and dealers need to be aware of the risks.

"I would urge the antiques trade, both retail and auction, to only accept payment by credit/debit card if the buyer is known to them, or if not known to only release the goods once the card used for payment is presented and the pin number used through the PDQ/Streamline machine to confirm payment.

"This way the business will be safeguarded if the transaction is unlawful.

"From my extensive investigation the cards themselves are not with the 'buyer' when the details are given over the phone, and where businesses have insisted on the above procedure the goods have not been collected, which tends to confirm the 'buyer' is unable to produce the card."

She said that another scam involves 'buyers' saying that cash will be deposited straight into the business account of the seller. This transfer can show instantly, but until it has fully cleared it can easily be clawed back by the 'buyer' once the goods have been released.

DC Carver also warned that caution is needed even if goods are to be collected by a reputable courier/delivery service.

"These have been used on many occasions to add a feeling of security to the selling business. The courier has then been contacted by phone and met by the 'buyer' at a differing location from that given to the auction house - often the courier company is also the victim of fraud."

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