Latest Scam Alerts from Fraud Victim Support Officer Malcolm Phillips

Most of us these days have fallen for a scam, or know someone who has. When I fell for a facebook messenger/PayPal scam, Citizens Advice West Berkshire directed me to Malcolm Phillips, our local Fraud Victim Support Officer (see interview with Malcolm below).

Only 5% scams are reported, usually because the victim feels foolish, and scammers rely on this. To help the police it is important to report fraud to www.actionfraud.police.uk

Here are recent alerts from Malcolm and Neighbourhood Watch.

Ukraine Appeal Scams

Scammers will either pretend to be a legitimate charity or they will pretend to be someone affected by war. Scammers will be cold-calling, direct messaging and creating fake websites and pages on social media to raise funds.  

They may also try to lure you into unwittingly downloading malware onto your device or take you to a fake website to steal your money and personal information. This is called phishing.

Malcolm’s advice: 

As always, avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments in unsolicited emails, texts or social media messages.

Do not donate via fundraising pages on platforms that do not verify the legitimacy of the fundraiser or that do not guarantee your money will be returned if the page is determined to be fraudulent.

If you think you have made a donation to a fraudster instead of real charity please notify your bank and see the advice here: actionfraud.police.uk/charities

To check whether a charity is legitimate, you can search for them on the Fundraising Preference Service (which allows you to stop charities contacting you directly – but you don’t have to this if you don’t want to).

 

Lost Phone Scams

Scammers are sending text and email messages purporting to be from friend or family member who are using a friend’s phone because they have lost or broken their and need money sent to their friends account (as they cant access their own account as they have no phone). 

This scam started by email but scammers know use texts as well. Pretty much the same way scammers can insert a text into a conversation thread that you have had with your bank.

Malcom’s advice:

I’m afraid to say you can’t trust technology any longer. Always check that a person is who they say they are by asking them a question only the real person would know, like a specific incident in their life. If it’s the real person they will know the answer and maybe think you are being a bit strange but it’s better that than losing £6000 or more.

Fake Emails from West Berkshire Council

There are bank scam and emails claiming to be from West Berks Council claiming residents owe council tax.

Malcolm’s advice:

There are three truths to remember:   

1. The Police will never ask you to help them investigate a fraud at your bank or ask you to withdraw money from your account      

2. The bank will not advise/tell you to move money to a safe account. 

3. The local authority will not email you to pay outstanding council tax bill

If you receive one of these emails and want advice please contact tsadvice@westberks.gov.uk If you receive a similar scam email from a different council, contact that council directly.

Romance Scams

Online romance scams in RG postcodes are increasing with 29 reported cases from January to December last year. The victims’ collective total loss was £215, 546.  Scammers take advantage of people looking for romantic partners, often via dating websites, apps or social media. They create a fake online profile to pretend to be prospective companions and play on emotional triggers to persuade their victim to provide money, gifts or personal details, often at great cost, both financial and emotional, to their victims.

Malcom’s advice:

1. When you find someone you like online, check very carefully if their profile is fake before responding to them. Clues for spotting a fake profile include:

  • their picture does not match their personal profile description
  • the partner they are looking for is much older than them
  • their personal messages do not reflect their profile educational achievements
  • the type of relationship they are looking for is wide and varied

2. Never with agree with any request to communicate privately eg by phone, email or instant messaging.

3. Be suspicious of anyone who becomes affectionate and expresses strong emotions very quickly

4. Do not respond to any requests for money, gifts or financial information however plausible the sob story, for instance they say they have an ill relative or need an operation

Fake Call from BT or Open Reach

Local residents have reported receiving a call on their landline from a woman with an English accent purporting to be from BT who claims the resident’s computer will be closed down in 24 hrs for a new line to be installed.

The ‘BT’ woman then says to press 1 to speak to an engineer who will explain what was going to happen. This gentleman asks what downloads you do and if you shop online  Because the line was being changed all the passwords would have to be changed and he would help with this…

Malcolm’s advice:

1. If you receive one of these calls you should just hang up and report to Action Fraud or call them on 0300 123 2040.

2. Never, ever give anyone password information over the phone.

Fake Call from Metropolitan Police

Scammers call residents claiming to be from a particular police force (eg Essex, Metropolitan Police etc.) Sometimes they pretend that they have persons in custody who have laundered money through the resident’s account and they need it back. They also state that the local police should not be involved as they believe that they are a part of the criminality as are the bank staff. They convince the resident to withdraw about £5,000 telling them to pretend it’s for a holiday or similar if asked. They tell the resident not to hang the phone up. A courier then goes to the resident’s home to collect the money

Malcolm’s advice:

1. The Police will never ask you to withdraw money from your account to give to them.

2. The Police would not ask you to lie. (If you did lie to your bank then you would be unable to claim the loss back as the bank would have complied with the banking protocol.)

4. If there were a genuine money laundering situation, the local police would visit the resident at home to discuss.

5. There is no reason not to hang up the phone. The scammers ask you to do this so they can listen in to any conversation you have at the other end, noone else can call you and you can’t call someone else to clarify the truth

6. If you receive one of these calls you should just hang up and report to Action Fraud online or call them on 0300 123 2040. Or if you are confident enough, ask the caller for their shoulder number, tell them you will call them back, then hang up. Use another phone (or wait 20 mins and check for a dialling tone before ringing out on the same line) and call 101. Listen to the options when prompted ask for the police force that the caller said they were from and when prompted if you know the officer you want to speak to, dial in the shoulder number (usually four digits) you were given. And then report to Action Fraud.

Fake TV License Renewal Email

Residents receive an email stating that their TV Licence is due for renewal. The email looks convincingly like the real website but is a phishing website (designed to collect your personal details). By clicking through the links your financial data will be harvested and you stand to lose significant amount of money from your account.

Malcolm’s advice:

1. Always question unsolicited requests for your personal or financial information in case it’s a scam. If it’s out of the blue, it’s not for you!

2. Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected email or text.

3. As usual my advice is to check any email thoroughly by hovering over any linked text to check the URL (the name of the webpage the text is linked to). Depending on what computer you’re on, the URL will display near the linked text or in the toolbar at the bottom of your screen. You would expect the URL to be similar to the text that is linked eg if the text is about TV licensing you would expect the URL to begin www.tvlicensing.co.uk  If the URL bears no relation to the text then it’s very possibly a dangerous site that a fraudster is trying to con you to visit. 

4. To double check whether your TV License has in fact expired, go to: www.tvlicensing.co.uk/cs/update/your-licence/index.app

5. If you receive one of these fake emails you should delete it and report it to Action Fraud online or call them on 0300 123 2040.

 

Interview with Malcolm Philipps

Apparently we are the only area to have a dedicated Fraud Victim Support Officer so I was keen to ask Malcolm about his role and how he can help victims of fraud and help prevent people from falling for scams.

For more help contact:

Malcom.Phillips@westberks.gov.uk
01635 519930

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