Every week we update you on the latest scams and advise you on how to protect yourself
Cashpoint scam update
Watch out for distraction thieves who have been operating at the cashpoints on the High Road N2. According to the East Finchley Safer Neighbourhood Scheme, two males have been targeting older people, distracting them by speaking to them and putting a newspaper in front of their face and taking the cash as it is dispensed by the machine
The men are both light skinned mixed race one of them stays in a silver Honda, the male who distracts them is 6`2" slim build, dark smart casual dress and always wears a baseball cap.
Fake fine allegatiuons
In another cashpoint scam, the men tell the victims that their car is wrongly parked and it will be cheaper to pay a fine now, leading them to a cashpoint. Then either the card and PIN number is swallowed by a device on the machine or by sleight of hand the card is taken and the victim tells them the PIN number.
Offers of help
There have been reports of people being approached at the cash points, being offered help in retrieving their card from the machine. "Help" is usually getting you to put your PIN in again. The slot on the machine now has the card and the PIN number.
Do look carefully at the slot area on cash machines and if it doesn`t look right do not use it and call police on 101.
As we do not have any internal cash points on East Finchley High Road any longer, a safer way to get money is to ask for cash back when you do your supermarket shop, buy petrol etc.
Number plate theft
If you have one of the following makes of car you are more likely to be targeted for a number plate theft. Criminals use them to swap between same make vehicles to try to prevent detection in case a witness gets a vehicle registration number.
The vehicles most at risk are BMW, Audi & Mercedes especially black/dark ones.
Halfords stores sell anti theft bolts for number plates, which cost around are £6. You can get them on line too.
Contactless card fraud
According to Experian.co.uk, every card payment is fully traceable, right through to the recipient account, meaning if fraud is reported, the recipient is easily identifiable. It is theoretically possible that someone could use a registered terminal that is connected to a retail account, but it would be easy to track the thief down.
How to avoid contactless card fraud
There are now over 108.4 million contactless payment cards in circulation in the United Kingdom, with over 416.3 million transactions carried out each month. By removing the need for a PIN code, contactless cards do offer a fast and convenient way to pay, however, they may also offer criminals the opportunity to commit fraud. Here are some facts behind contactless cards, how fraudsters can take advantage and the best ways to avoid becoming of a victim of credit card fraud.
How do contactless cards work?
Contactless cards contain both a chip and an antenna that is used to carry out the transaction. When you hold your card on or near a card reader, the reader sends out a signal which is picked up by the antenna. The chip inside contains information about your account and using this information, the reader can process its payment. Payments are currently limited to a maximum of £30 and are used for small retail purchases.
Contactless card fraud facts
It may seem like contactless technology allows fraudsters an easy way to access your money without a PIN. However, contactless card fraud is relatively low in reality.
A 2015 test by the consumer group Which? found that it was possible to steal details from contactless cards using an easy-to-buy card reader and free software. They were able to extract a card number and expiry date from 10 different contactless cards, but not the name or CVV code on the back. This would not be enough information to make a purchase online from most online retailers.
Another method that fraudsters could use is to actually process payments by standing near someone on a train or in another crowded public place and reading their contactless card through their clothes.
When you consider that metal objects near the card would block the signal, the proximity required and the potential for card clash, the chances of successfully processing a payment are reduced.
How to protect yourself from fraud
There are steps you can take to protect yourself from contactless card fraud:
- ensure you don’t leave cards in easily accessible pockets or bags
- keep your cards in your front pocket rather than rear pocket.
- line your wallet or cardholder with tinfoil to block any signals from reaching your card or purchase a low priced product on the market containing metal inserts that do the same job.
There is a limit on how many times you can use a contactless card before requiring a PIN, which stops criminals from carrying out a large volume of small transactions.
If your card is lost or stolen, make sure to report it to your bank or card issuer as soon as possible so it can be cancelled. You should also keep a close eye on bank statements and your credit report to look for any unusual activity.
Bogus TPS (Telephone Preference Service) & Scams
We are aware of a number of organisations that call people claiming to be the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and try to charge consumers for registration. It is FREE to sign up to the TPS register. We will never contact you requesting payments or credit card details. Once an individual's telephone number is on the TPS, it will remain on it and there is no need to update your registration.
If you suspect that you have been contacted by a fraudulent organisation, then you can contact Action Fraud to report your concerns. http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/
Already registered with an alternative TPS service?
If you have already signed up and paid for a commercial alternative to TPS by mistake, don’t worry you can still take action.
You have the right to cancel your order from the moment you place your order until 14 working days from the day after you enter into the contract for the provision of the service or from the day you receive your goods. Businesses are required by law to comply with this right to cancel.
For more help and advice or if you have trouble obtaining a refund, please contact your local Trading Standards office.
Be a ScamSmart investor
Organisations that run investment scams will ignore the fact that you are registered with the TPS. They will cold call you, offering you investment opportunities with high rates of return. Be very cautious if you are approached in this way. For more information on investment scams, and the steps you can take to avoid them, visit https://www.fca.org.uk/consumers/avoid-scams-unauthorised-firms.
Supplement scammers caught!
The Government has closed down 9 firms who were selling overpriced supplements to older people, cheating around 36,000 people out of an extimated £10.6 million. For the full story click here
Parking Ticket Scam
This has been raised during our Scams Awareness talks in the borough and seems to be continuing. On TUESDAY 5th JUNE 2018 an elderly gentleman parked his car in the High Road. When he returned a minute later a male told him that a parking warden had taken a photo of his car. He didn’t notice at this stage that there was no ticket on his window, and the man said that he would show him how to use the parking ticket machines. The male told him to put his card in the machine He did so, and the man told him to enter his card pin number and press the green button to get the card back. he put in his pin number and the green button so that the cards would come back. When he did this they did not.
The male said that they must be faulty and the council will send him the cards when they open up the machine. VIW1 then went home. The next day he contacted the council and they advised that this is not how they operate. On checking with this bank a sale for £1200 had been made from his account
It would appear that the unknown male had somehow tampered with the card machine and watched the gentleman put his pin number in the machine.
There has been an increase in burglaries on the homes of our elderly residents including two incidents where the victims awoke in the night to burglars in their home. Fortunately no one was harmed and very little taken.
If you or a family member does not have an ALARM we would strongly recommend fitting one. Nearly all burglaries we have attended in East Finchley did not have an alarm or did not have the alarm engaged. Go to www.which.co.uk for excellent independent reviews on different types of alarm including doorbell technology alarms. An introductory one month membership costs just £1.
Check bank statements and know the difference between a direct debit and a CPA
A Continuous Payment Authority is a type of regular automatic payment where an individual gives a vendor permission to take money from a credit or debit account whenever the vendor feels money is owed. They are often used by payday lenders, free trial websites internet service providers, payday loan providers, gyms and subscription sites such as those for magazines. Continuous Payment Authorities should not be confused with Direct Debit arrangements or standing orders. The difference between a CPA and a direct debit is that a CPA gives the company you are paying permission to take payments whenever they want, and take payments for different amounts, without consulting you beforehand. Often there is no written record of them, and the payer can cancel them by contacting the vendor or their bank. Concerns have been raised about abuse of CPAs by companies to withdraw money from the accounts of unsuspecting customers, who often do not realise the terms and conditions associated with them. Keep a close eye on your bank statement to ensure that all payments match your expectations.
You can cancel a continuous payment authority either by telling the company, or by telling your bank.
Distraction burglars/ bogus callers in East Finchley
Three males are posing as BUILDERS/PLUMBERS/METER READERS. Only one will come to the door, gain entry and then allow the others in .
DO NOT LET ANY STRANGER IN TO YOUR HOME, NO MATTER HOW CONVINCING THEY ARE.
They are targeting the vulnerable IF YOU HAVE A VULNERABLE RELATIVE, FRIEND OR NEIGHBOUR PLEASE WARN THEM.
We are also experiencing an increase in residential burglaries throughout the ward, please make sure you lock up well and use any alarms.
Go to www.met.police.uk for burglary prevention.
Hot Weather & burglaries:
Remember, during this hot period, make sure any windows you have open to keep you cool are locked when you leave. We have had a number of burglaries over the weekend where the burglar has climbed through windows left open
Below is a burglary self-assessment survey to see how secure your home is against the burglar
Panic Buttons: A company called Argenti now have the contract for Barnet assist Call centre and to supply panic buttons for Barnet
Phone scams are on the rise with criminals targeting households across the UK to try and defraud people out of their money.
Typically fraudsters try to cold call members of the public pretending to be from a trusted organisation – like your bank, the police, a utility provider or a computer company. While the criminals’ tactics can vary, the aim is the same. They want to get your personal or financial information, encourage you to hand over your cards or cash, or trick into transferring money into accounts they control.
Don’t fall for their tricks.
Read on to find out about the scams and what you can do to stay safe.
How the scams work
- One of the most common methods we see involves a fraudster posing as your bank or the police. They claim there’s been fraud on your bank account and you need to act quickly to protect your money.
- Their solution is for you to transfer your money to a so-called ‘safe account’. But the account is actually controlled by the fraudster and when you move the money, they steal it.
- In a twist on this scam, the criminal asks you to assist in a police investigation of supposedly corrupt staff in a bank or foreign money exchange, who they claim are issuing fake currency.
- You’re then asked to visit the branch and withdraw a large amount of cash and take it home, where it is collected by a fraudster posing as a policeman or a courier.
- To make their call appear genuine, fraudsters often use a tactic called ‘number spoofing’. This enables them to alter the phone number from which they are calling so that it matches your bank’s number. Then they ask you to check your handset display in an attempt to convince you it’s a real call.
Other common phone scams include:
- being told that your computer has a virus or that your internet connection is running slow. The fraudster then takes control of your computer to ‘fix’ the problem, but instead actually installs software which steals your data. They may also watch you as you’re asked to log into your online banking account.
- claiming that you’re due a refund or compensation for poor service, such as for your internet connection. They get your bank details, but then say they have accidentally sent thousands of pounds, rather than hundreds, an error which will cost them their job. They then ask for the difference to be refunded via a wire transfer.
How to stay safe
- Fraudsters can sound extremely professional and will do all they can to convince you that their call is genuine.
- But there are some simple steps you can take to keep safe.
- It’s really important to be wary of any unsolicited phone calls, especially when they ask for your personal or financial details.
Remember – your bank or the police will never:
- Ask you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons, even if they say it is in your name.
- Phone you to ask for your 4-digit card PIN or your online banking password, even by tapping them into the telephone keypad.
- Ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them for safe-keeping.
- Send someone to your home to collect your cash, PIN, payment card or cheque book if you are a victim of fraud.
- Ask you to purchase goods using your card and then hand them over for safe-keeping.
- If you are given any of these instructions, it is a fraudulent approach.
- Hang up the phone, wait five minutes, then call your bank or card issuer on a number you trust – such as the one on their website or on the back of your bank card.
- Your bank will also never ask you to check the number showing on your phone’s display matches their registered phone number.
- Criminals may already have some information about you, for example your name and address. So don’t assume that a call is genuine just because they have these details or because they claim to represent a legitimate organisation you use or a person that you know.
- Never feel pressurised into making a quick response; scammers will sometimes try to hurry you into taking action. A genuine organisation will always give you the time you need to make an informed decision.
- If you’re ever at all suspicious about a call, then just hang up the phone.
- The UK banks, building societies and card issuers, with the support of the police, have published a Joint Declaration which clearly explains those requests they will NEVER ask of you on the phone.
Doorstep charity activity
We have been notified that there will be authorised charity door to door activity in the N2 Post code during 16-22nd April. They will be represented on badges by CAPLL Ltd and selling lottery tickets on behalf of the RSPCA.
We would recommend treating any caller at the door that you do not personally know or expect with caution and not let them in your home.
Please share this message with any elderly or vulnerable person you know.
Martin lewis used as fake endorsement for fraudulent cryptocurrency investments
Fraudulent websites alleging to offer cryptocurrency investments are dishonestly using the image of Martin Lewis, the founder and editor for moneysavingexpert.com, as an endorsement for their companies.
The adverts using Martin Lewis to promote illicit schemes can be found on social media and other websites. Clicking on the advert takes you to the full article where Martin Lewis image is presented along with fake quotes recommending investments in bitcoin and other digital currencies with the fraudulent “company”. Alternatively clicking on the advert will take you to a page where you are required to input your contact details, the suspect company then phones you and encourages you to invest.
Martin Lewis has published a warning to the public saying “I don’t do adverts. If you ever see one with my face or name on it, it is without my permission, and usually a scam”. The full article can be found here; https://blog.moneysavingexpert.com/2018/03/13/martin-lewis-spread-word-dont-believe-scam-bitcoin-code-bitcoin-trading-ads/?_.
Similarly these fraudulent websites are also misusing images and fabricating recommendations from the investors on Dragons Den. These adverts also claim the investors on the panel trade in cryptocurrencies using their services to try and legitimise their company.
What you need to do
- Don’t assume it’s authentic: Professional-looking websites, adverts or social media posts don’t indicate that an investment opportunity is genuine. Criminals can exploit the names of well-known brands or individuals to make their scams appear legitimate.
- Don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision: A genuine bank or financial organisation won’t force you to make a financial transaction on the spot. Always be wary if you’re pressured to invest quickly or promised returns that sound too good to be true.
- Stay in control: Avoid unsolicited investment offers, especially those over cold calls. If you’re thinking about making an investment, get impartial advice from an independent financial adviser – never use an adviser from the company that contacted you, as this may be part of the scam.
- Visit Take Five (takefive-stopfraud.org.uk/advice/) and Cyber Aware (cyberaware.gov.uk) for more information about how to protect yourself online.
Legal firms - recently issued scam alerts
When a firm's or individual's identity has been copied exactly (or cloned), due diligence is necessary. If you receive correspondence claiming to be from the below firm(s) or individual(s), or information of a similar nature to that described, you should conduct your own due diligence by checking the authenticity of the correspondence by contacting the law firm directly by reliable and established means. You can contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) http://www.sra.org.uk/home/home.page to find out if individuals or firms are regulated and authorised by the SRA and verify an individual's or firm's practising details. Other verification methods, such as checking public records (e.g. telephone directories and company records) may be required in other circumstances.
29 March 2018 – Correspondence has been sent, and a website is operating, falsely claiming to be for a firm of solicitors called “Peter Lynch Solicitors”.
29 March 2018 – The websites www․aafsolicitors․com and www․aaf-solicitors․com are operating, which falsely claim to be for a firm of solicitors.
29 March 2018 – The SRA has been informed that members of the public have received emails misusing the name "Taylor Walton Solicitors".
28 March 2018 – Emails have been sent, falsely claiming to be from Vinaya Jigajinni of Sintons LLP.
28 March 2018 – Faxed letters have been sent, and a website is operating, misusing the details of Royds Withy King.
28 March 2018 – The website “www.davidmgllp.com” is operating, which falsely misuses the address of a genuine firm of solicitors.
27 March 2018 – Emails have been sent, falsely claiming to be from Francesca Cappa of MFB Solicitors, in relation to unpaid payments.
26 March 2018 – An email has been sent, falsely claiming to be from Osborne Clarke LLP, in relation to an unclaimed inheritance.
23 March 2018 – Members of the public have been contacted via emails and social media by individuals purporting to be employees of “Mill-Reeve” and Mills & Reeve LLP.
23 March 2018 – A letter has been sent referring to an unclaimed life insurance policy, claiming to be from a London based law firm called “Caputo & Partners LLP”.
22 March 2018 – The website "www․djwachtelsolicitors․uk" is operating, which falsely misuses the name and address of a genuine firm of solicitors.
22 March 2018 – Emails have been sent falsely claiming to be from "Poorvi Chothani" of LawQuest.
20 March 2018 – A member of the public has received a telephone call falsely claiming to be calling on behalf of Your Law.
20 March 2018 – Faxed letters have been sent referring to an unclaimed inheritance, misusing the name Browne Jacobson LLP.
19 March 2018 – The website “www.birchmanpllp.com” is operating, which falsely claims to be for a regulated firm.
19 March 2018 – Members of the public have been contacted by a company, which has falsely stated that it is associated with “Sarah Waddington Solicitors”.
16 March 2018 – Emails have been sent which falsely claim to be from JMW Solicitors LLP in relation to conveyancing matters.
15 March 2018 – Emails have been sent, claiming to relate to an inheritance matter and falsely claiming to be from "William Ryan LLP".
15 March 2018 – An email and website regarding “Accident Claims Guys” falsely claims to be linked to “Solomons Solicitors LLP”.
15 March 2018 – The website “www.sgesolicitors.com” is operating, which falsely claims to be for a regulated firm.
8 March 2018 – An email has been sent, claiming to relate to a property conveyance, falsely claiming to be from "Jane Russel" of "Elliots Bond & Banbury".
6 March 2018 – An email has been sent, claiming to relate to a property conveyance, falsely claiming to be from "Kamal Giwa" of "Atlantic Solicitors".
6 March 2018 – Emails have been sent which falsely claim to be from GHW Solicitors LLP in relation to a memorandum of sale.
5 March 2018 – The website "www․hilldickinsonlaw․com" is operating, which falsely claims to be for a regulated legal firm.
1 March 2018 – An email has been sent falsely claiming to be from “Harden & Co Solicitors LLP” and Roseblade & Co Solicitors in relation to a memorandum of sale.
31 January 2018 – Emails have been sent which falsely claim to be from Hine Downing Solicitors.
22 August 2017 – Members of the public have received emails falsely claiming to be from David Berridge of "Bray & Bray Solicitors", regarding an "abandoned investment".
28 February 2018 – A letter has been sent falsely claiming to be from Howell Jones Solicitors, regarding an alleged refund involving binary options.
23 February 2018 – Letters have been sent regarding an unclaimed inheritance, which falsely claim to be from "Stuart Bennett" of "Alpine Law Solicitors Limited".
23 February 2018 – Letters have been sent to members of the public, which claim to be from "Tony Roland" of "Tony Roland & Partners".
23 February 2018 – Emails have been sent to law firms and members of the public claiming to be from "Harden & Co” in relation to a property sale.
22 February 2018 – The SRA has been informed that a faxed letter has been sent concerning an unclaimed inheritance which has misused the details of a closed law firm.
22 February 2018 – The website "www.harbottlewis.com" is operating, which falsely claims to be for a law firm based in London.
21 February 2018 – An email has been sent purporting to be from "Malcolm Harper of Fast Service Solicitors", in relation to an employment law dispute.
21 February 2018 – A letter has been sent falsely claiming to be from Sookias & Sookias Solicitors, in relation to an outstanding invoice.
21 February 2018 – Members of the public have received telephone calls falsely claiming to be calling on behalf of Bott & Co.
21 February 2018 – Letters have been sent to members of the public, which falsely claim to be from "Thiago F. Acosta" of "Acosta Solicitors LLP".
20 February 2018 – The SRA has been informed that cloned emails which misuse the details of the Evans and Greaves Solicitors have been sent to over 2000 members of the public.
8 February 2018 – The SRA has been informed that a letter has been sent in the name "Birchman & Partners LLP", in relation to an unclaimed inheritance.
7 February 2018 – Social media profiles misusing the name “Hickman and Rose Solicitors”.
5 February 2018 – A website “www.andrewdening.com” is operating for “Andrew Denning”, and claims to be for a law firm based in London.
5 February 2018 – An email has been sent relating to a property transaction which falsely claims to be from "Rita Odenells" of "Reynolds & Co Solicitors LLP".
1 February 2018 – Emails misusing the details of Clyde & Co LLP have been sent to members of the public regarding an unclaimed inheritance.
1 February 2018 – Emails have been sent, falsely claiming to be from David Battiscombe, in relation to an unclaimed inheritance.
1 February 2018 – Letters have been sent, claiming to relate to an inheritance matter and falsely claiming to be from "Morgan Elis Solicitors".
New website from trading standards
A new website advises people of the variety scams & what to look out for:https://www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/
Man caught for local cashpoint distraction thefts
A male has been charged with 42 fraud offences. He used the bank cards he had stolen to withdraw cash and make other purchases totalling £16,000. Police want to thank the vigilant members of the public who saw the police’s original warning and advice on the matter, and sent invaluable photos of a suspicious male to police.
If you have been a victim of this type of distraction theft, please report this to Police online at www.met.police.uk or by calling 101.
Fraud alert-Safe Account
If someone calls you and asks for your PINsentry codes, passcodes or passwords, never disclose them – even if they claim to be from your bank
- No genuine bank would ask you to transfer money to a ‘safe account’
- Text messages asking you to urgently call your bank could also be fake
- If you suspect fraud, before taking any action, call using the number on the back of your bank card
False claims of Telephone Preference Service
Fraudsters are cold-calling victims, falsely stating that they are calling from one of the well-known UK telecommunication service providers. They call victims claiming to provide a ‘Telephone Preference Service’ – a call-barring service
The fraudsters ask victims to confirm/provide their bank account details, informing them that there is a one-off charge for the service. Victims instead see monthly debits deducted from their accounts, which they have not authorised. The fraudsters often target elderly victims.
On occasions when victims attempted to call back, the telephone number provided by the fraudster was either unable to be reached or the victim’s direct debit cancellation request was refused.
If you have been affected by this, or any other type of fraud, report it to Action Fraud by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040
Email accounts: contain more than just your emails.
Email accounts contain a wealth of sensitive information. Criminals can use your email to reset passwords or obtain personal and financial information, such as your bank details, full address or DOB, leaving you vulnerable to identity theft and fraud.
Secure your email account with two simple steps…
1 - Use a strong, separate password
2 - Enable two-factor authentication
There has been a spike in vehicle crime across Barnet: the advice is simple, always lock the car, do not leave items visible, remove items from the vehicle, even small change. Recent crime figures for the Borough of Barnet show that Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter vans have been targeted for goods within, especially powers tools. In addition there have been a number of thefts involving number plates. Please consider extra safety precautions.
• Fit theft resistant number plate fittings – stolen number plates are commonly used to hide the identity of stolen vehicles. Use one way clutch head screws and adhesive to secure the plate.
• When out and about - try to park your vehicle in an area that is overlooked and well lit
• Thieves are using sophisticated methods to steal vehicles with electronic keys - a scanner is used to locate the signal from the key. To prevent this, always keep the electronic key in a security pouch when not in use.
• Leaving items on show is an invitation – power leads, SatNavs and mounts, stereo front panels, coins, sunglasses, tools, clothing and bags should be removed from the vehicle or placed out of sight.
• Keys and ignition fobs should kept safe and out of sight and reach – the most common ways to steal a car or van is to take the keys or ignition fob, either when left in the vehicle or from your home through burglary. Try not to keep your keys in an obvious place such as the hallway or kitchen.
• Always lock and close the windows of your vehicle when unattended – on the drive, the petrol station forecourt or when parking an unlocked vehicle is the easiest to steal or steal from.
• Fit an alarm or immobiliser if your vehicle does not have one.
• Set the steering wheel lock if your vehicle is fitted with one. If not, use a bar type steering lock each time you leave your vehicle.
• Also consider using a gear stick lock.
There has been a recent increase in distraction thefts at ATMs in Barnet Borough. With this in mind, please be aware of anyone standing close by and always check the machine to see if it’s been tampered with before you use it.
Tell-tale signs of ATM fraud
Things to look out for are devices attached to the machine – some are more obvious than others. If you do see something suspicious contact the police and the bank.
Remember, if it doesn’t look or feel right then steer clear and, if possible, go inside the bank where it will be safer. And always keep a regular check on your transactions.
We know it’s not always easy but please be aware of your surroundings when you’re at an ATM. Thieves will try to watch as you key in your PIN or distract you while you’re withdrawing cash. Be vigilant. Cover your PIN and keep an eye on your card at all times, especially if someone taps you on the shoulder or tries to speak to you.
When you have left the ATM, put your card away immediately.
Finally, be careful with contactless cards. You can obtain a card holder to prevent your card details from being inadvertently read.
We don’t want you to be paranoid, but being aware of your surroundings and not being distracted makes it harder for people to take advantage and less likely that they’ll try to
A firm called Taylor & Clark (T&C) is calling about investing in a lithium-mining venture. T&C asks for copies of a passport and a utility bill to be sent to the mining company. You will receive a contract to sign and return and then hear no more. Calls to T&C just get cut off.
A fraudster called at the address of an 83 year old stating that she was a neighbour, had locked herself out and needed to borrow some money for a taxi. The victim invited her in and lent her £40 from her purse. It is believed that when victim then went into another room the suspect stole the purse from her handbag. It was not until the next day the victim discovered her purse was missing and then received a phone call from her bank informing her that her cards had been used.
Flight ticket fraud
Fraudsters are attempting to entice victims who are looking for cheap flights abroad. Victims have reported booking tickets via websites or a “popular” ticket broker, only to discover that after payment via bank transfer or electronic wire transfer, the tickets/booking references received are counterfeit. In some cases, all communications between the company or broker and the victim have been severed. Fraudsters are targeting individuals who are seeking to travel to African nations and the Middle East, particularly those wishing to travel in time for popular public and religious holidays.
- Pay safe: Be cautious if you're asked to pay directly into a private individual’s bank account. Paying by direct bank transfer is like paying by cash – the money is very difficult to trace and is not refundable. Wherever possible, pay by credit card or a debit card.
- Conduct research on any company you’re considering purchasing tickets from; for example, are there any negative reviews or forum posts by previous customers online? Don’t just rely on one review - do a thorough online search to check the company’s credentials.
- Check any company website thoroughly; does it look professional? Are there any spelling mistakes or irregularities? There should be a valid landline phone number and a full postal address so that the company can be contacted. Avoid using the site if there is only a PO Box address and mobile phone number, as it could be difficult to get in touch after you buy tickets. PO Box addresses and mobile phone numbers are easy to change and difficult to trace.
- Be aware that purchasing tickets from a third party, particularly when initial contact has been made via a social media platform can be incredibly risky.
- If tickets to your intended destination appear cheaper than any other vendor, always consider this; if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!
- Look for the logo: Check whether the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA or ATOL. You can verify membership of ABTA online, at www.abta.com.
- If you have been affected by this, or any other type of fraud, report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040, or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.
Phantom debt fraud
Action Fraud has recently experienced an increase in the number of calls to members of the public by fraudsters requesting payments for a “phantom” debt. The fraud involves being cold-called by someone purporting to be a debt collector, bailiff or other type of enforcement agent. The fraudster may claim to be working under instruction of a court, business or other body and suggest they are recovering funds for a non-existent debt.
The fraudsters are requesting payment, sometimes by bank transfer and if refused, they threaten to visit homes or workplaces in order to recover the supposed debt that is owed. In some cases, the victim is also threatened with arrest. From the reports Action Fraud has received, this type of fraud is presently occurring throughout the UK.
To learn more, please take a look at some of the helpful information and links on the Step Change Debt Charity website; https://www.stepchange.org/debt-info/debt-collection/bailiffs-and-debt-collectors-differences.aspx
- Make vigorous checks if you ever get a cold call. Bailiffs for example, should always be able to provide you with a case number and warrant number, along with their name and the court they are calling from; make a note of all details provided to you.
- If you receive a visit from a bailiff, they must always identify themselves as a Court Bailiff at the earliest possible opportunity. Ask to see their identity card which they must carry to prove who they are, this card shows their photograph and identity number. They will also carry the physical warrant showing the debt and endorsed with a court seal.
- If you work for a business and receive a call or visit, be sure to speak with your manager or business owner first. Never pay the debts yourself on behalf of the business you work for; some fraudsters have suggested employees make payment suggesting they can then be reimbursed by their employer when in reality the debt is non-existent.
- Exercise caution believing someone is genuine because you’ve found something on the internet; fraudsters could easily create fake online profiles to make you believe them.
- Double check with the court, company or public body they claim to work for to confirm whether the call is legitimate; if you use a landline make sure you hear the dialling tone prior to dialling as the caller could still be on the line and you could potentially speak to the fraudster(s) to confirm the non-existent debt. Also be sure to independently search for a telephone number to call; never use a number provided by the caller without carrying out your own research.
- Do not feel rushed or intimidated to make a decision based on a phone call. Take five and listen to your instincts.
- If you know you have a debt, keep in regular contact with your creditor and be sure to establish the debt type at the earliest opportunity if you are not aware. This will help you to understand who might be in contact with you regarding any repayments or arrears.
You can report suspicious calls like these to Action Fraud by visiting www.actionfaud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
How to spot a scam
Common scams and how to spot them
• STOP – Never do anything you don’t want to or make any decisions on the spot
• CHECK – Always check their credentials
• ASK – Always ask someone you trust for a second opinion
• MINE – Do not give away personal information
• SHARE – Share your experience with others to lower their risk of being scammed