It is easy to dismiss scams as something which happen to other people; most notably we consider the elderly to be vulnerable to the despicable wiles of the conman, or maybe we think only those considered ‘less than worldly’ will be duped. However, recent reports show that none of us are immune to the attentions of such tricksters, with professional individuals and even some major companies falling victim to tricksters. Many types of scams are in operation and, sad to say, clever crooks are never beyond devising more ways to part the unsuspecting from their money. However, a little knowledge can increase our ability to be aware of these crimes and following some basic points can help to protect us from their impact.
Although we may consider ourselves to be secure as we electronically encode and encrypt our finances, in truth we are only as strong as the weakest link in our defences. A phone call from fraudsters claiming to be ‘your bank’ may persuade you that your account is under threat from unscrupulous individuals and encourage you to disclose information in order to protect your interests. Some may be caught out at this point and give details enabling the con artist to access funds, but others may insist that they phone the bank back to establish its true identity. Unfortunately, this is not the water-tight solution it might be considered; if the victim hangs up and the fraudster doesn’t, the link between the two parties will remain in place when the phone is picked up again, allowing the fraudster to continue with the victim who is under the false impression that they have telephoned their own bank. A solicitor taken in by a scam of this nature leading to the loss of thousands of pounds worth of clients’ funds (referred to as vishing), is now bankrupt and has been suspended from her career. Similar tactics were employed by criminals posing as the police who stole thousands of pounds from mainly elderly people in the London area over a ten week period; they have since been jailed. It is worth remembering that banks and the police will never ask for PIN numbers or passwords, and if you need to telephone a bank or police department to confirm their identity, use a different phone line or mobile to make the call.
Being a victim of a scam often leads the victim feeling hurt and humiliated; this is especially true when it relates to a particularly personal situation such as online dating. This increasingly popular method of meeting others is unfortunately readily exploited by criminals. For example, in July 2015, a conman who posed as a U.S. soldier on a dating site, scamming more than £250,000 out of two women, was sentenced for four and a half years. Security groups, including the police, suggest that those using dating sites refrain from sharing too much personal information and never divulge bank details. They recommend that users are vigilant regarding contacts who readily give them a pet nickname (it’s a one-name-fits-all tactic that will keep things simple when duping a string of individuals). They also stress the need to be wary of those with ‘supermodel’ looks who quickly try to guide individuals away from the website towards a more private (and less scrutinized) method of contact.
Fake ID Scams and Impersonation Fraud
Jewellers were also targeted in a crime spree where personal identities were stolen and used to secure finance deals relating to prestigious watches. The thieves were apprehended by security staff and arrested by the police. This is yet another reminder to be vigilant in the use and disposal of personal information; even the humble utility bill is a way in for the criminally-minded. Surelock Global Investigators and Security Consultants have a dedicated surveillance team who supply vital information to the authorities which assists in identifying premises targeted in numerous enforcements.
Another case of impersonation involving computer hackers pretending to be from Microsoft was reported by the Gloucestershire Echo. Eleven incidents (in Gloucestershire alone) were reported to police in the 12 months leading up to July 2014. The fraudsters cold-called their victims, maintaining that there was a serious problem with their computer. This led to the victims paying large sums of money or giving the criminals access to their computers and bank accounts.
A couple escaped losing their savings when they became suspicious about a company who approached them regarding their pension plan after they had searched for information about pensions online. The bogus company claimed to be representatives of the Government’s Pension Wise scheme. A spokesman from Pension Wise stressed that they would never cold-call anyone, and would only respond to a direct inquiry. Suffice to say, it is sensible to never disclose personal information to callers on the phone, via email or in person.
Bogus Refund Fraud
A clever scam whereby a fraudster bought items twice from different branches of a store, returning them on both occasions, but only presenting the receipts on the second occasion (claiming loss of receipts on the first), thus being refunded twice, took place between May 2013 and December 2014. Bogus Refund fraud can also take the form of claiming ownership of a more expensive item and swapping for a lower priced item (with the difference being refunded), but where the highest priced item has actually just been stolen. Here is an example case to illustrate this. This is a warning to store managers and shop assistants who should be made aware of such tactics.
The Cheap Carbon Credits Scam
Examples are continually cropping up of carbon credits forming the basis of increasingly devious scams. These scams involve passing off cheap carbon credit certificates as high-values ones. The fraudsters try and justify the high prices (sometimes thousands of pounds) by claiming they are linked to environmentally friendly projects.
Courier scam starts off being similar to vishing (as reported above) whereby criminals contact victims claiming their bank accounts have been subject to fraud, but they go on to persuade the victim to key in or read out their PIN number. This then escalates into sending a taxi or courier around (hence the name of the scam) to collect the bank card and thus gaining full access to the victim’s money. The Evening Standard reported on two “cruel and cunning” fraudsters who used the courier scam tactic, conning elderly people out of large sums of money, even going as far as to scam an elderly person attending a funeral.
The public are becoming increasingly wary of many kinds of scam. Luckily, organisations such as Action Fraud exist to whom crimes can be reported and also serve to inform the general public. However, on the other side of the coin, criminals remain at large and changes in technology give rise to new types of scam being devised, albeit that technology also advances in unison with that to provide protection. It is also a well-known fact that cyber-crime is becoming increasingly a significant threat, especially to businesses and organisations.
Surelock Global Investigators and Security Consultants are well positioned to advise, investigate and protect in respect of all kinds of threats and fraud