From Detective Chief Inspector Tracy Edwards, Operation Signature, Sussex Police –
Scams are fraud and fraud is crime, report it – this is our message for Sussex residents.
Each month, we see fraudsters targeting people across the county by phone, email and face to face in an attempt to defraud them. These ‘scammers’ are criminals who chose to prey on some of our most vulnerable. Operation Signature is our answer, working together with our partners to prevent fraud and identify and support our most vulnerable victims.
In this newsletter we share the latest warnings about recent frauds, and also examples of new initiatives to prevent these crimes.
By its very nature, fraud is constantly evolving and taking on new forms. But be assured that, by following our tips at the bottom of this newsletter and encouraging family, friends and colleagues to do so too, you will reduce the risk of becoming a victim.
Are you wise to computer service fraud?
We continue to receive reports of Sussex residents being targeted for computer service fraud. This is when a cold caller contacts you posing to be from a legitimate company such as Microsoft, and tells you there’s a problem with your computer. They may say you have a virus on your computer or there’s a problem with your internet connection, and that they will fix it for a fee.
These fraudsters may ask you to visit a particular website or install some software so that they can gain remote access to your computer. This may then allow them to access your personal information, such as online banking. If you receive a call like this, do not give out your payment details and call Sussex Police or Action Fraud with the details.
Further guidance is available here: https://www.getsafeonline.org/blog/do-you-really-know-what-computer-service-fraud-is/
Students should be wary of accommodation fraud and ‘money mules’
As the autumn term approaches, we are warning students to be vigilant as they could be targeted for two fraud types. Students should look out for fraudulent accommodation adverts, in which a deposit is taken for non-existent accommodation. We are also aware they can be targeted as ‘money mules’ – when criminals ask them to hold money in their accounts for a fee, making them unwittingly complicit in the crime. More information is available here: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/fraud-az-money-muling.
Fraudulent cold callers offering government payments
Cold callers have been telephoning Sussex residents offering false government payments to pensioners or those with illnesses. Victims are asked to give callers their bank details and to make a payment in iTunes vouchers in order to receive the non-existent grant of thousands of pounds. Some fraudsters have even requested further payments amounting to hundreds of pounds for ‘insurance’ purposes.
Top tips to foil these fraudsters:
- Treat cold callers with suspicion. If in doubt, hang up and phone a relative, someone you trust or the police after waiting 10 minutes for the line to clear.
- The government will never ask for upfront payment in return for benefits or grants.
- Never give out your personal details to a cold caller.
Warning of bogus council tax refund fraud
Sussex Police has seen a rise in reports of Council Tax refund fraud. This is where fraudsters telephone or appear personally at your door offering to help you reduce your Council Tax bill, with the real aim of getting you to part with your money.
Anyone can have their band checked free of charge by contacting the Valuation Office Agency. Details are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/contacting-your-regional-valuation-office
If you doubt that a caller is genuine, contact Sussex Police or your local council.
Remember: banks and police will NEVER call and ask you to transfer funds to a new account, NEVER collect your cards from your home, NEVER ask you to buy high value goods and NEVER ask you to hand over cards or money.
Keep your money safe with these tips:
- Check people are who they say they are. Not sure? Don’t open the door!
- Never send or give money to people you don’t know or trust
- Remember to protect your identity – don’t share your personal information with unexpected callers
- Beware of email and computer scams. Treat all emails from unknown senders with suspicion and never click on links within them
- Never share your PIN number or enter your PIN into a telephone
- If in doubt, phone a relative, friend or someone you know personally
- Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it could be fraud.
If you suspect someone you know may be vulnerable to fraud, please share this newsletter with them and encourage them to look at the ‘Little Book of Scams’, available on the following link: http://tinyurl.com/z8khtgh.
If you or someone you know is vulnerable and has been a victim of fraud call Sussex Police on 101 or visit www.sussex.police.uk
If you need to a report fraud or attempted fraud, you can do so by contacting Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud or by calling 0300 123 2040. You can also read the latest Action Fraud alerts at www.actionfraud.police.uk/news or by following @actionfrauduk on Twitter.
Help us keep Sussex safe
Alternatively you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111, or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.