There has been a lot of scams reported recently, but the tricks used by fraudsters are getting more and more sophisticated.
A number of scams have hit the headlines recently – some of which have been around for years and some which are new.
1. The iTunes scam
Police are warning that fraudsters can call vulnerable people on the phone, claiming that the victim has an outstanding debt or balance to be paid, and saying that they will be arrested if they do not pay.
The victim is then told to go out and buy iTunes vouchers from a high street store, and call the fraudster back to give them the voucher codes to ‘settle their debt’.
Between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2018, 11,329 incidents involving iTunes vouchers have been reported nationally, resulting in £6,561,380 being lost to fraudsters.
Earlier this year, we reported the scam in the Staffordshire Moorlands . A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: “They tell you in order to pay or receive your award you need to buy iTunes vouchers – usually a large amount. This is not true – hang up your phone now.
“In order to reassure you that they are genuine they will even tell you of shops local to you where you can buy them from – This is a fraudster’s trick, they are expert in gaining your trust.
“They then ask you to reveal and read out the code on the back of the voucher for verification purposes. DO NOT give them the code. This gives them access to the voucher and you have lost any money you have paid for it.
“Once you have given the activation code over the phone – you will not hear from or see them again.
2. Police officer impersonation scam
This is a growing fraud in which criminals pose as police officers and ask their victims to take part in a fake undercover operation.
At the end of last year, seventeen offences were reported to Staffordshire Police with two losses totalling approximately £20,000. Four further reports were reported directly to Action Fraud and Cheshire Police have also reported a number of offences.
Fraudsters are contacting members of the public, usually by phone, claiming to be from the police, or in some cases their bank’s fraud team.
They claim they are investigating a fraud at a local bank branch where staff are suspected of being complicit, including issuing fake bank notes, and ask their target to help in the operation.
A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: “Fraudsters will use whatever way they can to get people to believe in them. Impersonating a bank official or a police officer reinforces that belief.
“It’s important to remember neither the bank nor the police will cold call you asking you to act on their behalf. Be vigilant, do not engage in conversation, put the phone down and tell someone you trust. If you have been a victim of such a fraud and you have handed money to someone, please contact 101 or Action Fraud.”
3. Bogus builders
Bogus workmen are some of the most common fraudsters you will hear about. They often target vulnerable members of the community and offer to do work on their properties which doesn’t actually need doing – often at an extortionate price.
One recent case saw an elderly Cheshire man in his 90s conned out of £200 by bogus builders, who called at his home and quoted him £4,000 for a roof repair.
Once again, police issued a number of pieces of advice on how to stay safe from this type of fraud, including never letting strangers into your house, asking cold callers for identification to prove where they say they are from, and checking they are genuine by calling the company they claim to be from.
4. PayPal Facebook scam
According to Somerset Live , scammers have reportedly been targeting potential victims through Facebook messenger, posing as the victims’ friends by hacking their Facebook account and asking for the details of the victims’ PayPal account.
The hacking of a friend’s account has the potential to fool Facebook users who don’t notice a difference in the language their friend uses, but if you are approached by a friend’s account asking for any personal details, let the friend know in person that their account may have been hacked, and do not part with any money.
5. Fortnite Vbucks scam
Fraudsters have been targeting children who play the popular online video game Fortnite, with Cheshire Police backing a recent warning aimed at parents of young gamers.
Scammers have been offering the lure of free Vbucks – the virtual currency used to pay for add-ons within the game – as a way of accessing people’s accounts, and similarly to the aforementioned iTunes scam they are asked to purchase Steam Cards in order to pay for the processing of tax refunds or rebates, PPI refunds, administrative costs for processing loans and for providing anti-virus software.
Director of Action Fraud Pauline Smith said: “It is vital that both parents and those playing games online are able to spot the signs of fraud, as fraudsters will go to great lengths to try to steal your money.
“If you are downloading or purchasing game add-ons, make sure you use the official website. You should never reveal your password or banking details to someone you don’t know, or be tempted to click on unknown links.”
6. Rogue traders
Like bogus workmen, rogue traders are a common type of fraudster, with con artists selling goods that seem too good to be true, or often suspiciously cheap. T he Manchester Evening News recently highlighted a case where a man was conned out of thousands of pounds by rogue traders who sold him two TVs out the back of a van on a retail park in Trafford, before following him home and demanding the TVs back, but not returning his money.
They said they would deliver two more TV sets the next day to replace them but they never returned, and the victim was instead bombarded with phone calls, saying he owed the company £4,000 to ‘release the TVs from a container in Holyhead’.
GMP Altrincham said following this case: “Trading Standards advice is NEVER to do business in this way and only ever to use reputable traders.”
7. Computer pop-up scams
Fraudsters have been conning people out of millions of pounds using computer pop-ups, by getting people to click on links to ‘fix’ the problem, before stealing their bank details.
The Manchester Evening News reported recently that Action Fraud said 22,000 victims have fallen for to the computer software service scam in the last year, with fraudsters netting a total of £21m.
Action Fraud have now launched a joint campaign alongside the City of London Police to advise people on how to protect themselves from scams like this.
City of London Police temporary Det Chief Insp, Lara Xenoudakis said: “These fraudsters prey on vulnerable victims, doing everything they can to convince them there is something wrong with their computer. They use this as a way to gain immediate and in some cases multiple payments from the victim.”
8. ‘Ghost broking’ car insurance scam
Drivers have been targeted by con artists in a scam centred around offers of dodgy car insurance.
According to the Liverpool Echo , these ‘ghost brokers’ have been known to approach victims through social media claiming they can negotiate better prices for car insurance, only for them to find out after an accident that their cover is actually illegitimate and therefore useless.
The fraudsters will often target young drivers and students, who are known to have higher insurance premiums on their cars, and a national awareness campaign has been launched to raise awareness of this type of fraud, led by the City of London Police and supported by Merseyside Police.
– A version of this story first appeared on CheshireLive.
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