Scams and Frauds
There are many variations on scams which often start with unsolicited mail sent by post, over the phone or via e-mail, but however they operate, they are all designed for the criminals to make money at your expense.
Scams may tell you that you are entitled to money (often through a lottery prize); or that you are the unexpected beneficiary of a will; or seek your help in moving money out of another country.
Scams often have similar features that may alert you to the fact that they are not genuine.
- If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
- You are asked for money up front to pay unexpected fees (such as customs) before your 'prize' can be released.
- You are asked to provide your bank account, credit card details or other sensitive personal information.
- You are put under pressure to reply immediately or the money will be given to someone else.
You are asked to keep the details secret.
Operation Podium warns Olympic tickets buyers to beware
As the 15th March draws near and the public can enter the London 2012 ticket ballot Operation Podium is spreading the word to make ticket buyers beware.
DCI Nick Downing, who is in charge of Operation Podium, said:
“The Olympic economy is potentially worth hundreds of thousands of pounds to organised criminals. Through conning you into buying fake tickets or by stealing your credit card details criminals can make a fortune at your expense and disappointment.
“Follow Podium’s advice and only buy from the official source and you will know that your ticket to the greatest sporting event in the world is genuine. Please read our advice and make sure you pass it on to your friends and family.”
Crime prevention advice:
- The London 2012 ticket ballot opens on 15th March. The only official to buy a ticket online is at www.tickets.london2012.com. You can get a paper application from any Lloyds TSB branch. You have until 26 April to apply for tickets through London2012 as it is not ‘first come first served.’;
- If you get a ticket for an event you can’t attend, you can return your ticket and get a refund through the London 2012 official ticket exchange. Your ticket will then be officially resold;
- If you try and buy a ticket from an unauthorised website or tout, you risk being scammed, sold a fake ticket or not getting a ticket at all. Some criminals may also steal your personal and credit card details to use in other crimes;
- There are only three official providers for Games Breaks and Hospitality Packages - these are:
- Thomas Cook - www.thomascooklondon2012.com
- Prestige Travel - www.prestigeticketing.london2012.com
- Jet Set Travel - www.jetsetsports.com
- Other websites or companies will not be authorised to sell you a ticket as part of a package. Always check the terms and conditions to see exactly what you are being sold.
If you find tickets for sale before the 15th March or any available from any unauthorised source at anytime, don’t buy them. They are not genuine. Report it to www.actionfraud.org.uk, London 2012 via firstname.lastname@example.org or your local police.
Identity theft occurs when someone else, without your knowledge uses your personal information. This can include your name, national insurance number, credit card number of any other financial information, without your permission to support criminal activity, which could involve fraud, deception, or obtaining benefits and services in your name. Including renting properties in your name, applying for a credit card or commencing a mobile phone contract.
You may not find out about the theft until you receive a credit card statement or report or you are contacted by debt collectors.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 people are affected by identity theft in the UK each year, costing the British economy over £1.3 billion annually.
As part of the government’s work on identity cards and identity fraud reduction, which often underpins serious and organised crime, information on how you can avoid becoming a victim of identity fraud is provided. Please view this site, http://www.identitytheft.org.uk/ for information on how you can help protect yourself, get advice on what to do if it happens to you and get details from where to get further help.
How do thieves steal an identity?
- Bin diving: they go through bins looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it
- Skimming: they steal credit or debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
- Phishing: They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
- Changing your address: They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
- Stealing: They may still your wallet, mail, cheques or any other personal information
- Pretexting: They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information (for example, a pretexter may call, claim he's from a research firm, and ask you for your name, address, birth date, and national insurance number)
To reduce the possibility of your identity being stolen, follow these simple but not exaustive steps:
- Regularly get a copy of your personal credit file from a credit reference agency
- Royal Mail offers a redirection service to help prevent identity fraud when you move house
- If you move house, tell your bank and credit card company immediately
- Cancel any lost or stolen cards as soon as possible
- Keep your personal documents in a safe place
- If your passport or driving licence has been lost or stolen contact the organisation that issued it
- Don't use the same password for more than one account and never use banking passwords on other websites. Avoid using your mother's maiden name or dates of birth as passwords.
- Shred personal information that you would not want to share with a stranger, including bank statements, utility bills, taxation notifications and mail received through the post.
- Don’t leave sensitive information out for prying eyes
- Office life can be busy with lots of people having access to your work area protect your personal information.
- Check your bank and credit card statements through when you receive them, if there’s anything unusal or suspicious, contact your bank immediately.
- If you are expecting correspondence from your bank and it doesn’t arrive contact your bank to advise them of your concerns.
To open a bank account is a fairly simple process and the high streets have a number of companies that will cash cheques for an individual willing to pay their commission. So if you are asked to have money paid into your bank account by a friend, acquaintance or colleague question why your account is needed.
- Don't place yourself in a compromising position
- To receive stolen funds is an offence and you may make yourself liable for prosecution, to retain a wrongful credit is an offence punishable by imprisonment
If in doubt don't allow your account to be used. Seek advice from your bank.
- Serious Fraud Office
- Office of Fair Trading
- Financial Service Authority
- British Bankers Association
- National Hi-Tech Crime Unit
- Bank Safe Online
- http://www.google.com Use the Google search engine. Type in 'phishing'. There is a wealth of information out there.
Advance Fee Fraud
As police and members of the public become aware of the different styles and methods used in these frauds, the fraudsters themselves have to invent new ways to sell an old theme, i.e. something for nothing which always ends up as nothing for something.
The current trend (as used in this instance) is for a victim to receive a letter from a bank or firm of lawyers to the effect that a previously unknown member of your family has been killed in a highway accident overseas (or some similar scenario).
You are the only other person left who may be related to the deceased, and you may be the sole inheritor of the millions of dollars left in an account. The person contacting you will have details of lawyers and genealogical research to show that, indeed, you are the one.
It doesn't matter what the scenario is, except that it will end in tears and a financial loss for whoever is tempted to respond to such a communication and gets sucked into a negotiation with these people.
If you would like more information regarding these types of fraud, here is a useful link: http://www.scambuster419.co.uk/index.html
A letter landed on your mat this morning with some great news for you - your numbers have come up! You’ve won a substantial sum of money in a lottery. All you have to do to claim the money is to pay an arrangement fee, usually between $3,000 to $5,000. You send the money, but no windfall follows.
High-yield investment scams
You’re told about an investment opportunity which promises very high returns on your money. Below are some of the common characteristics of these types of scam, which should set alarms bells ringing. The paperwork you’ll be given generally consists of complicated, legal-looking documents containing errors such as spelling mistakes and incorrect place names.
Here are some common phrases which fraudsters will use but which real banks won’t.
- Risk Free
- High Rate of Return
- "Secret” Offshore Trading
- Non-disclosure, non-circumvention
- Confidentiality agreement
- Non-solicitation agreement
- Letter of intent / proof of funds
- Good, clean, clear funds of non-criminal origin
If you check with the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), for example, you’ll find the ‘companies’ offering these investments aren’t licensed and the programmes they’re pushing are not available from legitimate brokerage firms.
Where there's a Will, there's a way
Imagine your surprise when you receive an email from a legal firm to tell you that you are the only known beneficiary of the will of "Joe Bloggs".
Joe died in an accident on the Kigali Highway and has left millions of dollars. After intense research, the law firm has discovered that you are the only known beneficiary. To confirm the point, they have sent you a copy of what looks like the will of Joe Bloggs, naming you as a beneficiary.
The fraudsters will even create a web site based around the name of a well known law firm where you can find more information and contact telephone numbers.
Be warned, you are being scammed.
Do not reply, even out of curiosity. If you do reply, you are only confirming that the email reached someone.
Boiler Room Fraud
Boiler room fraud is where victims are cold-called by fake stockbrokers and persuaded to buy shares in worthless, non-existent or near bankrupt companies.
Historically victims were usually middle aged men with previous experience of investments/share/stock dealings, who typically lost £20,000 each to the fraudsters. However, recently there has been a sharp rise in the number of women and younger men being targeted by this type of fraud. In the current economic climate, Boiler Room fraudsters are starting to target victims who have redundancy money or those who are not experienced investors.
Indeed the Boiler Rooms have developed new strategies to target victims such as a promise to recover monies lost to the original Boiler Room, in the format of a Recovery Room. In addition victims are being encouraged to sell previously highly regarded 'blue chip company shares', such as banks and financial institutions and to invest in green and new technology shares marketed by the Boiler Rooms.
The fraudsters are usually well spoken and knowledgeable. They are also persistent. They might call their victim several times with offers of research, discounts on stocks in small overseas companies, or shares in a firm that is about to float. Boiler rooms make their money in one of two ways. They might simply take your money and walk away. Or they might sell you shares, but at vastly inflated prices and with exorbitant dealing charges.
As always our advice is not to accept cold calls, however persistent. Always seek legal and independent financial advice.
Scams often have similar features that may alert you to the fact that they are not genuine:
- if it sounds too good to be true it probably is
- you are asked for money up front to pay unexpected fees (such as customs) before your 'prize' can be released
- you are asked to provide your bank account, credit card details or other sensitive personal information
- you are put under pressure to reply immediately or the money will be given to someone else
- you are asked to keep the details secret
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is warning people to check its website (http://www.fsa.gov.uk/) both for a list of boiler rooms and to find out if the so-called stockbroker is authorised in the UK. The regulator is unable to take action if the boiler room is not based or authorised in Britain, so victims are vulnerable as they will not be able to claim compensation from the FSA or the Financial Ombudsman Service if something goes wrong.
Other useful links at the FSA website:
- Money made clear
Contains general consumer information, such us 'staying safe' guides and boiler room information
- Unauthorised overseas firms operating in the UK
List of names of unauthorised overseas firms targeting UK investors
- Share scams
Advice on share scams, also known as boiler room scams
- On the phone
How to protect yourself from unsolicited or cold callers