This page covers details of scams and fraud. The vehicle of much of this crime is via email, so examples of SPAM and Phishing is also included.

Remember, this is NOT a definitive list of scams and fraud. This page only provides an example of what is going on.

Note : Some of the information provided is from ActionFraud Alerts, in the past they have been included on the NEWS pages. From September 2015 they will appear on this page.


(Interim, up to 20th September)

(Good Housekeeping, dated October 2019 author Ella Dove) [Option 1]

No one thinks they'll be taken in by fraud. We have an inherent belief that it won't happen to us; that we will somehow outsmart the criminal and beat them at their own game. Unfortunately, even for the smartest people, this is often not the case. And the potential damage can be even greater if you have fallen in love with the person out to defraud you.

Romance fraudsters seek lonely men and women, playing on their emotions to try to persuade them to part with money. According to Action Fraud, the average age of people losing money through romance fraud is 50, and it's a crime that's on the rise. In 2018, a staggering £50.7m was lost. That's an average of just under £11,000 per victim; a 27% increase on 2017.

Lisa Mills, senior fraud manager at Victim Support, has seen the upset and embarrassment first-hand and helps victims to navigate both the financial and emotional loss. 'Almost daily, I hear people say, "I'm such an idiot,"' she says. 'I want to reiterate that this is nothing to do with intelligence. These criminals are cunning and sophisticated; skilled at manipulation. It really could happen to anyone.'

DCI Gary Miles, who specialises in fraud for the Metropolitan Police, agrees: 'People are very reluctant to come forward, because they feel that, culturally, people see them as stupid or desperate. Fraud is under-reported by about 80%, and a lot of this is due to public perception. However, the social engineering that these criminals deploy makes them very credible.'

Fraud is still regarded as a serious offence and carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. But technology has made it easier for criminals. 'It costs nothing to send 1,000 emails, and if someone puts a profile on dating websites, criminals can wait for victims to come to them,' says DCI Miles. 'There is also a lack of understanding about the online world. We're all aware of the physical security to adopt if meeting someone in person, and yet the same principles are not applied online; people are more trusting.'

Internet dating sites have security settings, so the first thing a fraudster will try to do is lure you on to platforms such as Whatsapp or Skype. 'On average, it takes about two or three days before they ask you to move off the site and about 30 days before they make their first request for funds,' says DCI Miles. 'They will try to pull on your heartstrings. I've seen stories of lonely ex-servicemen and women looking for companionship, someone whose child has been hurt in an accident and has urgent medical expenses, or people who work abroad and something goes wrong. There's always the promise that providing them with the funds they require will speed up the process of them being able to see the victim, and that they desperately want them to be together.'

'The fraudsters can be very patient,' adds Lisa. 'Some people I've helped say they weren't asked for money for a few months. Individuals want to feel special, but organised gangs contact multiple victims at the same time and, if they're not getting money from one person in the UK, they might be getting it from someone elsewhere, so that's why they are prepared to wait,' says Lisa.

'In that time, the perpetrator will worm into people's lives and flatter them, saying the things we all want to hear. They go to very elaborate measures: for instance, if they tell you they have a child in hospital, they might even send you a picture of somebody's leg in a cast. Very often, people are in a bubble. They're on a high because they are so convinced it is genuine.'


"Fraudsters will ask lots of questions, and take an interest in everything about a person : their life, their experiences and hobbies," says DCI Miles. "But they are unlikely to reveal much about themselves in return".

Asking them questions and looking out for discrepancies in their stories will enable you to remain alert and vigilant.


- Communicate via a dating website. Be wary of anyone who tries to quickly move your conversation to Whatsapp, Skype, email or any other platform. Dating sites have in-built anti-fraud systems, which monitor suspicious users.

- Do not give too much away.Never divulge too much information, send compromising photos or gie money to someone you haven't met.

- Use Google's Reverse image search tool. On Google Images, there's a camera icon next to the search box. Click this to upload a picture and Google with search the internet to see if it matches other images. If it brings up a profile of someone with a different name, you can prove the fraudster is not who they say they are.

- Google phrases from their profile. "Does the text appear  with different information, such as a different photo, ae or location ? asks frud expert Dan Winchester, of anti-fraud database Scamalytics. Does it appear on anti-scammer sites and forums.

- If you are suspicious, report it; even if you haven't lost money. "Speak to someone you trust first," says DCI Miles. "If they are worried, too, contact Action Fraud. The more reports we receive, the more we can see the methodology that's being used. If it goves under-reported, fewer police resources will be dedicated to it in future, so its imperative members of the public come forward.


- Action Fraud is the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime,run by the City of London Police alongside the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
Call 0300 123 2040
Visit :

- Victim Support offers confidential and free help to victims and their families.
England and Wales, call : 0808 168 9111
Scotland, call : 0800 160 1985
Visit :

- Get Safe Online provides information to help protect against online fraud and abuse.
Visit :

- Scamalytics maintains the largest shared anti-fraud database dedicated to the online dating industry.
Visit :

(20th September 2019)

(Daily Post, dated 20th September 2019 author Jaymelouise Hudspith)

Full article [Option 1]:

Police are warning about a new phone scan where callers receive automated messages telling them money has been taken out of their account.

The automated call tells victims £600 has been stolen from them and prompts victims to press the a digit for assistance.

They're then connected to a scammer, where an 'operator' will ask the victim to confirm their personal details.

North Wales Police are asking the public to be aware of the phone scam, after a "significant rise" in the number of reported calls over the last few weeks.

It has also been reported that fraudsters will advise victims they need to transfer their funds to another account to prevent further money from being removed from their account.

Once the money is transferred, victims have very little chance of getting it back.

Financial abuse safeguarding officer DC Rachel Roberts said: "The people committing these types of fraud are insistent and often don't give victims time to think.

"They are very persuasive and may have some of the victim's personal details which make the fraudsters appear genuine."

"These criminals will target the most vulnerable people in our communities to scam them out of large sums of money, and I would ask that people remain vigilant and to warn relatives and neighbours."

How to avoid a telephone scam

North Wales Police are advising locals to beware of cold calls, even when the person calling has your personal details and feels trustworthy.

Do not give personal details to anyone you do not know either in person, over the telephone or email, or on social media as these details can be used to steal your identity.

If you receive an automated message claiming there is fraudulent activity on your account hang up immediately. If you are concerned call your bank on a trusted and registered number.

If a caller asks you to move money or to have money at your address ready for collection end the call immediately.

They added that people should never be afraid to put the phone down if they feel unsure.

Residents are asked to report these calls to Action Fraud ( or call on 0300 123 2040.

(20th September 2019)

Good Housekeeping, dated 20th September 2019 author Kalpana Fitzpatrick)

Full article [Option 1]:

You may have noticed recently that you're having to tap in your pin more often when using your contactless bank card.

That's because of new fraud prevention rules which came into play this month (14 September 2019), which require you to enter your pin for one in every five contactless payments.

We make around 700 million contactless card transactions in the UK, but around £108 million is said to be lost to fraud. And according to TotallyMoney, 1 in 12 people admit they wouldn't spot a rogue £20 entry on their statement!

So, if you've forgotten your pin, now is the time to dig it out; the Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) means your payments will otherwise be blocked until you pay using your pin.

Contactless payments are also blocked when the number of payments add up to more than €100 within five payments. The move will stop thieves going on a spending spree with your money.

What are the exceptions?

If you're using your contactless to travel on public transport, your payment won't be blocked.

If you make a payments via Apple or Google Pay, you won't have to re-enter your pin for one in five contactless transactions.

Stay Safe

Check bank statements regularly

Check your accounts daily. The best way to keep track of your money is to download the banking apps for your accounts and set alerts for spending notifications.

If you see unexpected payments that have been taken from your account, contact your bank immediately. Contactless fraud is treated like any other kind of fraud, so you should get your money back, as long as you can prove you haven't been negligent.

If you think you've been a victim of fraud, you should also report it to Action Fraud, using its online reporting tool, or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Hold on to receipts

It's easy to forget where you spend when you're tapping away with contactless, so keep hold of those receipts so you can check them against your statements.

Check your credit report

Keeps tabs on your credit report to spot any fraudulent activity - if someone uses your credit card or opens a bank account using your name, it will show.

You can check your credit report for free at the main credit reference agencies -

Experian :
Equifax :
TransUnion :

(20th September 2019)

(This is Money, dated 20th September 2019 author George Nixon)

Full article [Option 1]:

More eBay sellers have revealed how they've fallen victim to a scam which saw fraudsters siphon off £70,000 in total to copycat PayPal accounts.

The five victims, who run businesses that sell everything from cosmetics, to items for ponds, and workwear, told This is Money that scammers had changed PayPal addresses to near identical fraudulent ones, where buyers then sent money for legitimate goods they had bought on eBay.

In one case, the victim luckily caught the scam after just a day, while in the case of another the scam ran for an entire year and cost him £32,000 from sales on the online platform.

While the fraudsters managed to steal large sums in total, the key to their success was in siphoning the money off in small amounts - and that they could change paypal addresses without the sellers being notified.

One business owner said the scam was so subtle that it took his business a week to work out exactly what had happened.

All five wrote to This is Money after we published the story last month of Richard Crisp, who was scammed more than 11,000 times and lost nearly £54,000 over a period of 17 months to fraudsters.

They changed the PayPal addresses on a number of his eBay listings to accounts set up purely for the purposes of fraud, which were almost identical to his legitimate PayPal address ''. The fake accounts used by the fraudsters had changed the 'l' to an upper case 'i' or an 'f', or removed a letter.

The scam ran for over a year and began with scammers diverting four orders totalling £11.30, and targeting 'predominately low-value, fast-moving lines', which is why he didn't notice.

More importantly, he was never notified that details on his account had been changed.

I lost £14,000 in six months

Those who got in touch after we reported Richard's case told us much the same story.

Tom Fletcher, 34, the managing director of West Yorkshire-based family business TAFS Health & Beauty, told This is Money he lost £14,000 to the scam over a six month period.

The business, which Tom runs with his wife Abby, sells health, beauty and medical supplies and smaller items costing £1.50 or more, including scalpels, nail clippers and skin creams. He said he tends to sell 50-100 items every day.

During the six month period he said the fraudster changed the PayPal payment address of the 'highest performing listing on my entire store' from, to, removing the 'i'.

Tom said: 'The hacker that got us would log on every few days change the email address then log back on a few days later and change it back to the real email address, so it became even more confusing.

'We only realised when PayPal actually called us to tell us that there was an email address that looked exactly like ours transacting money from our linked eBay account.

'It hit our business so hard and the loss of earnings nearly ended us. Luckily we've picked back up now but it's been very stressful on myself and my family.'

The fight to get money back

We have heard from six sellers now who have fallen victim to this scam, but according to Chris Dawson, the editor of online merchant website Tamebay, more than 20 people are understood to have been affected.

However, it is likely that the number of victims is much higher, and Chris told This is Money Richard's initial case was likely 'the tip of the iceberg'.

While some, like Mark, were lucky in that they were able to cover their own costs and received refunds on seller fees, others have had a harder time trying to claw back their money, or even find out who was to blame.

Chris Chedgzoy, 59, who runs online printers Beanprint in the West Midlands, said eBay 'refused to acknowledge there was an issue'. He added he had been trying to get hold of a list of sales affected by the fraud since 15 July, and only received it at the end of August.

He said: 'I believe eBay themselves have been the subject of an attack and usernames and passwords stolen, I have tried as hard as I can to get them to admit this but they keep blaming myself for giving someone our password and that we should use two-factor authentication.'

Thomas Shearing, meanwhile, had much the same problem as Richard Crisp did, with both eBay and PayPal blaming each other.

He said: 'eBay just apologised, they then blamed PayPal saying they should have picked up the fact that the owner of these accounts weren't linked to my eBay account, so they shouldn't have processed the payments.

'PayPal said that as the hack that led to the changes to payment information happened on eBay it was their fault.'

Some other sellers were asked to go to extraordinary lengths in a bid for compensation.

Tom Fletcher told us: 'PayPal openly said they would send the fraudulent PayPal account £14,000 into the red to get my money back to me.

'But the way they asked me to do this was to email every one of the 2,500 customers affected and ask them to open PayPal claims for that particular transaction.

'I started doing this, and got lots of grief from customers claiming I was a crook, but all PayPal then did was side with the fraudulent account because there was tracking information attached to the transactions.

'I spoke to PayPal to say they were rejecting the claims and that's when they closed the door on me, they just then kept sending me back to eBay, Action Fraud or the Financial Ombudsman Service.'

But while those who wrote to us have described how the scam and the monetary loss has put them through real difficulties, some are also reluctant to push back too hard and upset the e-commerce giant.

One seller, who lost £14,000 between last November and this August and wanted to remain anonymous, was pondering just how far to push things. He said: 'We sell 200,000 orders a year through eBay, do you really rock the boat?'

Meanwhile another of the sellers who contacted This is Money said: 'I cannot afford to lose any of the revenue eBay generates; too many people rely on our company to provide for them, and the turnover accounts for 50 per cent of our total revenue.'

He added: 'We have no beef with eBay at all. If we can make more people aware, and prevent the scammers from putting hard working people out of business, that would be the prime objective.'

An eBay spokesperson said: 'Millions of people use eBay safely every day and cases like this are extremely rare. We invest heavily in measures to protect our users from privacy and security threats, including investment in teams dedicated to safety, customer service and law enforcement liaison.

'Fraudsters use very sophisticated methods to try and circumvent trusted website security and we continuously enhance and update our security infrastructure to tackle new fraud trends.

'From enabling two-step verification, to regularly changing your password, we encourage all members to take precautions that will improve the level of security protection on their accounts.

'We have reimbursed the fees of the sellers referenced by This is Money as a goodwill gesture.'

PayPal told This is Money: 'PayPal takes these matters seriously and we are employing a range of sophisticated detection methods to determine the validity of transactions being linked to potentially compromised partner accounts.

'We will continue to proactively work to support eBay's investigation of this issue and to ensure the ongoing security of PayPal customer accounts.'

(20th September 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 14th September 2019 author Jemma Carr)

Full article [Option 1]:

An 85-year-old pensioner who was conned by rogue traders lost another £15,000 when fraudsters posing as police pretended to help her prosecute them.

The woman was cold called in July by a man claiming to be from the police after she lost money to rogue traders.

The fraudster told the victim, from Gillingham, Kent, that she needed to pay court fees in order to prosecute the crooks.

The pensioner went to multiple banks and post offices within a four-mile radius in Chatham Strood and Hempstead Valley with a 'courier' where she withdrew £15,000 cash and handed it over.

Kent Police officers are investigating the fraud and have issued an image of a man they wish to speak to in relation to the case.

A Kent police spokesman said: 'The victim, an 85-year-old woman from Gillingham had lost money to rogue traders previously and was then cold called in July 2019 from a man claiming to be from the police and told that she needed to pay court fees in order to prosecute the suspects.

'On 19 July, she went to various banks and post offices in Chatham, Strood and Hempstead Valley, accompanied by a 'courier' where she withdrew money totalling £15,000 and handed it over.

'Officers would like to speak to the man in the image as he may have information about the incident.'

Investigating officer DS Marc Cananur said: 'A police officer will never ask you to hand money over to them to support an investigation or ask you to transfer money to a safe account for fraud reasons.

If a person knocks on your door or rings and claims to be a police officer, do not allow them into your home if you do not think they are genuine.

'Instead, take their details and contact 101 or 999.

'A genuine police officer will not mind calling back or visiting at a later date when you have had a chance to verify who they are.'

What should you do if you think you have been scammed?
Source : Money Saving Expert

1. Contact the company or person who took your money - this could be fruitless if it's a scam, but it should be your first port of call.

2. If you bought something costing £100 or more on a credit card, you may be able to claim it back under a little-known law: Section 75. Once you've paid using a credit card, the card provider and retailer are locked into a legally binding contract, so if the retailer can't or won't refund you, you can raise the dispute with your card provider.

3. If you can't claim the money back via Section 75 you could try using the chargeback scheme. It's a voluntary agreement by your debit or charge card provider to stand in your corner if anything goes wrong.

4. Unfortunately, if you've transferred the money using sites such as Moneygram, Western Union or PayPal, you generally can't get your money back once you've handed it over.

(20th September 2019)

(This is Money, dated 14th September 2019 author Laura Shannon)

Full article [Option 1]:

More than 150 people a week are being lured into a 'money mule' scam epidemic that leaves them facing prison and unable to use a bank account for up to six years.

Students and middle-aged workers in need of cash are among the most sought-after targets for crooks, who dupe them into accepting deposits into their bank accounts and then instruct them to forward the cash to another account as a way of laundering 'dirty' money.

The 'mules' are typically given small cash sums in exchange for doing this. They are recruited in person on university campus or via dodgy job adverts online claiming that good money can be made for a little easy work from home.

Experts say people between the ages of 40 and 60 are increasingly being targeted because crooks believe this age group is less likely to attract attention as 'mules' after years of running clean bank accounts.

Today, The Mail on Sunday lays bare the breathtaking scale of the fraud, the tricks being used to lure people into acting as money mules - and the devastating consequences of falling for these scams.

As well as your bank accounts being frozen for up to six years, your career and credit record can be ruined, leaving you dependent on friends or family for a cash lifeline.

No mobile phone contracts will be granted to a mule, who will also struggle to obtain credit cards or a mortgage in future. In the worst cases mules face a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

The latest figures from fraud prevention service Cifas show there were 40,139 money mule accounts in 2018, a 26 per cent rise compared with the year before.

That indicates that more than 150 additional accounts a week are being used for the money laundering scheme. It is not known how many of the account-holders are aware that they are engaging in criminal activity.

But with university costs spiralling, the temptation can be huge for students to fall for a crook's offer of easy money. And many view it wrongly as a victimless crime - unaware of the sinister source of the cash.

Money laundering throughout the UK's financial system is now estimated to be in excess of £90 billion a year - some of which is used to fund serious crimes like terrorism and people trafficking.

This month, reality struck for three university students in their 20s who all received prison terms of between ten and 16 months for their roles as money mules.

The presiding judge in the case, heard in Carlisle, referred to money mule fraud as an 'epidemic'.

Bilal Afzal, Mohammad Khan and Nikhil Reedye were encouraged to offer up their bank accounts as a home for deposits sent by the fraudsters, in return for modest cash sums. But it emerged in court that their accounts were used to hide £64,500 defrauded from a woman in her 80s. This included £30,000 of insurance money received after her home was flooded.

Two conmen - who have not been caught - posed as employees from the woman's bank over the phone and used the excuse of a security compromise on her account to persuade her to transfer savings into a 'safe account'.

The conmen quickly sent the money to the students' accounts, who were expected to either forward the sums on to another account or convert the money into a foreign currency.

One of the mules, fourth-year medical undergraduate Bilal Afzal, was sentenced to ten months in jail - leaving his dreams of becoming a doctor in tatters.

His defence barrister described him as being 'traumatised' upon learning how he aided the fraud and of the impact it had on the victim, who got back just £20,000.

It was reported that the student had never appreciated the seriousness of his actions and his family were said to be 'horrified'. A change in law two years ago granted the authorities the permission to freeze bank accounts and seize crime funds in cases such as these.

These are known as 'account freezing orders'.

In February of this year alone, such orders were placed on 95 UK bank accounts holding a combined £3.6 million of suspected illegal funds, according to the National Crime Agency.

But the true masterminds behind the crimes usually escape scot-free, leaving ordinary, unsuspecting people to take the rap.

Pleading ignorance won't always soften the punishment. And even if they escape the long arm of the law, mules will be punished in other ways that can ruin their financial lives.


Crooks advertise quick and cheap loans on social media or post dubious job adverts on recruitment websites, in spam emails, on instant messenger or in newspapers.

Job posts declare opportunities for earning from the comfort of the home, with short hours and no experience necessary - the holy grail of employment for many people.

Unwitting people fall for the trick and ask for a job, only to be told they need to use their own bank accounts for 'processing payments'. Grateful for the easy work, they agree, dutifully following instructions to move the money deposited, minus their own reward for doing the job, into another specified account.

Those who think they are getting a loan might find they receive more than they asked for.

It is explained by the fraudsters as an 'administrative error' and mules are asked to send the overpayment to a different account from the one that originally sent the loan.

Moving this money through different accounts is effectively cleaning the crime money and making it hard for fraud investigators to trace on behalf of original victims.

Fraudsters need money mules with clean records because strict anti-money laundering rules block them from opening their own accounts.

Even schoolchildren need to be vigilant about this crime, with schools as well as universities being fertile hunting ground for criminal gangs.

Earlier this year, a young teenager was sentenced to a 12-month community order for playing mule in a wider £200,000 scam - facilitated in part by a former NatWest bank employee.

But it is not only the young who need to be wary. The steepest rise in mule cases involve people aged between 40 and 60.

This demographic is more likely to be recruited by fake job adverts and are seen as perfect 'marks' by fraudsters.

This is because older people with no criminal history are least likely to raise suspicions with banks, especially when large sums of money are being paid in and out.


ONE man, known only as 'H', spoke to The Mail on Sunday about how he became involved. It is rare for money mules to speak out - as many are full of anger and embarrassment at being duped.

Three months ago, the 29-year-old welder from Kent needed to buy furniture for a rented flat he and his partner had just moved into. But he did not have enough cash and needed a loan.

A friend suggested a 'hashtag' on social media website Instagram that could help. A hashtag is a catchy phrase preceded by a '#', used as a shorthand by social media users to convey a quick message. Examples of hashtags for fake loan services being used to snare new money mules include #Moneyflipsuk and #RealMoneyTransfers.

When someone clicks on a hashtag, it leads to a web page that could be an advert or story. In H's case, it led to an individual person's webpage on Instagram - someone who was happy to provide a quick and cheap loan.

H says: 'I asked whether I could borrow £3,000. He agreed and said I could pay it back at a rate of £100 a fortnight. He asked for my bank details, which I gave him. But then I saw that he transferred £10,000 to my account rather than £3,000.'

The mysterious lender said the overpayment was a mistake and asked for the excess to be repaid in cash. Though H was wary of this arrangement, he agreed and met the man in an upmarket town in Kent to repay the money. But he gave him back the full £10,000, no longer wanting the agreed loan.

H thought that was the end of it. But little did he know that he had become a 'mule' - and a victim of a money launderer.

Worse news was to come. 'My bank account has now been shut down,' he told The Mail on Sunday. This means he cannot get his wages paid in by his employer. He is also unlikely to be allowed a new bank account for six years.

Fortunately, H has a friend who agreed to have his wages paid in to his bank account instead - and then give H the cash. H says: 'It made me feel terrible that I can't get a bank account. It's not easy to top up my Oyster travel card and I'm not allowed to set up a mobile phone contract.'

He adds: 'I didn't even get the loan I needed - and now I don't have a bank account either.'

Poacher turned gamekeeper Tony Sales, once described as 'Britain's greatest fraudster', also spoke to The Mail on Sunday about this growing problem.

He started his life of crime as a child and is thought to have made up to £30 million from swindling his victims over decades as a career criminal. A stretch in prison after six years on the run helped reform the ex-fraudster - especially when he realised the impact crime has on children. 'I realised I wanted to see my five-year-old son grow up,' he says.

Sales now works with financial companies on how to detect fraud. With Santander bank, he is helping to highlight the latest scams and researched the social media hashtags promising easy loans with street language to entice the young.

Sales says: 'I have seen 16-year- old kids caught up in these scams simply because they want cash for a new pair of trainers - to keep up with the Joneses.'

Santander's research also shows the vast majority of people - some 70 per cent - don't know what a money mule is.

Sales says criminal kingpins are rarely caught, but the low hanging fruit money mules lose out because they are easier to track down.

They end up with no bank account and have to live with being classed as criminals themselves. More details about the fraud can be found at


ANY offer of cash or rewards for the use of a bank account. A 15-year-old boy from Leicestershire was recruited outside his school and paid just £50 for the use of his account.

SOCIAL media hashtags promoting easy ways of getting cash, such as #Moneyflipsuk, #legitmoneyflips, #PayPalFlip and #EasyMoney.

JOB offers for 'money transfer agents' or 'local processors' that promise the chance to work from home, for high sums, little work and with no experience necessary. Mules are later told their accounts are needed to process payments.

A PANICKED request for the refund of a 'mistaken overpayment'. This could happen to someone who thinks they are getting a loan, or money for an item they are selling online. When an honest person repays the money into a different account, they could effectively be laundering money from crime.

A SOB story from a new online 'friend'. A lot of effort goes into winning the trust of a victim, who is led to believe that they are dating someone online, but are actually being groomed as a money mule.

The new friend may use a fake picture of an attractive person and make up reasons why they are never free to meet - such as a heroic job that takes them overseas.

Eventually, they ask for financial help in a fake crisis - receiving and transferring money from one account to another.

It all sounds plausible to the victim at the time, but it all points to money laundering.

(20th September 2019)

(Telegraph, dated 6th September 2019 author Greg Wilford)

Full article [Option 1]:

Up to fifty per cent of five star reviews for some of the highest-ranking hotels on TripAdvisor are "suspicious", a Which? investigation has found.

The latest investigation by Which? Travel analysed almost 250,000 reviews for the top 10 ranked hotels in 10 popular tourist destinations around the world, finding that one in seven of these 100 hotels had reviews which carried the hallmarks of fake reviews, while others raised serious concerns.

Fifteen of the worst cases had been promoted with fake positive reviews last year, raising concerns that repeat offenders are being allowed to abuse the ratings system.

Researchers focused on hotels which had a large proportion of five-star reviews left by users who made no other posts on the site.

Nearly 80 per cent of the five-star reviews for one highly-ranked hotel in Cairo at the time of the study were left by first-time reviewers.

After Which? reported its findings, TripAdvisor amended its listing not longer citing the hotel as the 'best in Cairo'.

In Las Vegas, two of the 10 highest ranked hotels received almost half (48% and 41%) of their hundreds of five-star ratings from first-time reviewers who had never made any other TripAdvisor contributions before or since - raising suspicions that the reviews could be fake.

Which? said it also found a "hugely suspicious" pattern of reviews for a highly-ranked hotel in Jordan.

TripAdvisor has since removed 730 of the hotel's five-star reviews, though the hotel denies any wrongdoing.

Naomi Leach from Which? Travel said: "TripAdvisor's failure to stop fake reviews and take strong action against hotels that abuse the system risks misleading millions of travellers and potentially ruining their holidays.

"Sites like TripAdvisor must do more to ensure the information on their platforms is reliable and if they continue to fall short, they should be compelled to make changes so holidaymakers are no longer at risk of being duped by a flood of fake reviews."

The findings emerged as reviews are being bought and sold in their thousands on Amazon, TripAdvisor, Yelp and Google Maps - written by robots, hackers and enterprising gig workers.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is currently working to tackle the increasing problem.

A spokeswoman said: "We're already cracking down on fake reviews and have recently urged Facebook and eBay to act to stop the sale of fake reviews through their sites. 

"As part of our ongoing work, we are planning to examine the role of sites where reviews are posted."

TripAdvisor currently posts red warning badges on the pages of properties that have manipulated their ratings with fake reviews.

Campaigners say that reviews should be verified so the ratings system cannot be abused.

Fake reviews could potentially be classed as a misleading or unfair practice under consumer protection laws, but a judge would have to rule on the matter in a civil case before any damages could be awarded.

TripAdvisor said the analysis by Which? "is based on a flawed understanding of fake review patterns and is reliant on too many assumptions, and too little data".

"It is far too simplistic to assume all first-time reviewers are suspicious," a spokesman added.

The spokesman said TripAdvisor has an "industry-leading team of fraud investigators who work tirelessly to protect the site from fake reviews".

He added: "We are confident our approach works, and is one of the reasons we continue to retain the trust of many millions of consumers worldwide."


- Repetition: TripAdvisor's 'Travellers Talk about' section highlights phrases used repeatedly by reviewers. If you see the same phrasing or language repeated, it might indicate that a template is being used for fake reviews.
- Strange Timing: A flood of five-star reviews after some bad reviews could indicate a concerted "push" of positive reviews has been coordinated.
- Low scores elsewhere: Check reviews on other sites. The hotels that had the most suspicious reviews tended to have lower scores on other review sites such as Yelp and Expedia.
- Although TripAdvisor strongly disputes its methods, this fake review analyser correctly gave its lowest reliability rating to the hotel that had 730 reviews removed.

uaware comment

A few years ago a colleague and I had to go to an early meeting in Central London so we booked a hotel for the night before. As the meeting was arranged at the last minute we looked at the various online booking services and found that Expedia had the best choice (at that time).
We found four star hotel near the meetings location that had two rooms available at £140 each. So arriving at Kings Cross we took a taxi to the hotel. Expecting some form of high rise we were surprised to find it was a terraced Edwardian House. The place looked ok from the outside. The reception area looked "boutique". The receptionist politely welcomed us and then apologised. The power on our floor had a fault which caused a safety issue so we could not stay there. The receptionist continued by saying that two rooms had been booked at their Sister hotel and a taxi was on its way to take us there.

Well the taxi arrived; and seemed to drive forever around the backstreets of London. We arrived at another Edwardian styled house, but in a less solubrious area. The reception area was dowdy and when we got to our rooms, well, can I say it was less than hostel standard.

We had been duped. The original hotel was a 4 star guest house at best; as for the second establishment, you could not categorise it.

We stated our thoughts to the hostels receptionist and stated we would claim a refund from Expedia.

Luckily enough we were both "card members" of a well known US hotel chain and managed to book rooms with them, but miles from where we wanted to be.

We did get a refund from Expedia.

Can you imagine a young tourist visiting London for the first time experiencing this; or a young member of your family travelling abroad experiencing this ?

Arranging our own travel on the internet has become commonplace and we rely on customer grading websites integrity in making our decisions. The problem is that these website don't appear to vet their entries.

As suggestion, if you do travel to somewhere of which you have little knowledge investigate an alternative hotel. Just in case !

(20th September 2019)

(Express, dated 6th September 2019 author Jess Sheldon)

Full article [Option 1]:

SCAMS can be a worrying prospect, both on the internet and offline. Now, a reformed scam artist has issued a warning about a way in which some people could see their bank details end up in the wrong hands.

While many people may consider themselves to be aware of scam warning signs, that's not to say that there's zero risk of them falling into difficulty. In fact, a former fraudster has explained that there is a very easy way for criminals to get hold of a person's bank details. And, the method in which they do it may not seem out of the ordinary for some online users. Tony Sales is one of very few people to have experience working at both the summit of organised crime, and the pinnacle of fraud and loss prevention, and has shared the warning.

The former scam artist now provides advice to some of the world's leading brands on fraud and loss prevention strategies, and is Strategic Development Director at We Fight Fraud - an organisation addressing security risks for both business and individuals.

The fraud expert has now warned consumers about sharing their bank details while providing tips on how to avoid becoming a money mule.

It comes as there is an increase of money mules by 26 per cent in the last year alone - with 49 per cent of these people being under 25 years old, according to the CIFAS report Fraudscape 2019.

The Fraudscape 2019 report defines a money mule as an individual who allows their "bank account to be used to move criminal funds - money laundering".

The crime can result in a criminal record and prison sentence of up to 14 years, but, according to new research released by Santander, 70 per cent of people are unaware of what a money mule is.

He said: "Fraudsters looking for money mules also operate on auction-style websites such as eBay, targeting victims by claiming they have paid twice for an item by accident and requesting that the money is transferred into a different bank account.

"No mistake, just another ploy to get hold of your bank details."

Mr Sales also wanted that, in order to avoid becoming a money mule, it could be important to take extra care at what one perceives online.

He said: "Be wary of accounts belonging to apparently glitzy users, offering an equally glamorous lifestyle at just a drop of a hat.

"Don't be fooled; life behind bars is anything but glam."

Emotional extortion is another thing to watch out for, the fraud expert advised.

"Fraudsters prey on your emotions, luring you in with everything from the promise of money to help with a family emergency, to a means to fund your latest trainer obsession. Be on your guard," he said.

"It's not charity, it's just another way to scam you.

Taking extra care to ensure that things such as job adverts are legitimate could be important for protecting one's bank details too, Mr Sales said.

"Verify the vacancy: a job that looks too good to be true probably is - so play detective and double check.

"Always take a look at the company's website to ensure they exist.

"Fake job adverts advertising 'mystery shoppers' or 'payment processing agents', are just more ways that money launderers get hold of your bank details."

Mr Sales also highlighted that it's not just online where fraudsters can operate.

"Fraudsters don't only prey online under the auspices of anonymous social media handles.

"They also recruit in person, such as waiting outside school gates offering children the promise of free food or goods in exchange for bank details. Stay alert and report any suspicions you might have."

(20th September 2019)

(Huffington Post, dated 6th September 2019 author Natasha Hinde)

Full article [Option 1]:

Helen Skelton has revealed her devastation after she fell victim to a bank call scam, which cost her £70,000 in life savings.

The TV presenter received a phone call from what she thought was her bank and was told something "dodgy" had gone on with her account. A week later £70,000 - which she says was all of her life savings - had disappeared.

Skelton appeared on ITV's Lorraine earlier this week, issuing a warning to viewers so they don't fall victim to the same trap.

She said all it took was her answering "a few questions" over the phone for her money to disappear entirely. "It happens every day of the week and to everyone," she warned. "We are not talking about little old ladies who are victims and don't understand the internet."

Skelton did not reveal if, or when, she got the £70,000 back.

In the first half of 2018, data from UK Finance revealed more than £500m had been stolen from customers of British banks in scams.

In July this year, it warned consumers to be wary of automated phone calls pretending to be from a bank or card company. With this particular scam, customers would receive an automated call claiming that a suspicious transaction had occurred on their account and needed to be verified. The customer was then prompted to press a number on their phone to be taken through to a supposed "agent", who would try to scam them.

It seems fraudsters are particularly clever nowadays, using all kinds of methods to trick people into handing over essential details. So how can you protect yourself?

How to avoid a bank scam call:

1. Be aware of any cold-callers, says a Santander spokesperson. "They might say they're from your bank, HMRC, a telecoms company or even the police, and they can sound very professional and official - but a call out of the blue should immediately put you on your guard."

2. Any texts or emails should be approached with caution. Sophisticated scammers can make phone calls or text messages appear as though they have genuinely come from your bank. But if you're unsure, do not share any personal or financial details over the phone, via text or email.

3. Take five minutes to contact your bank if you do receive something, and double check that it's genuine. If you feel something is suspicious, call your bank or card issuer on their advertised number to report the fraud.

4. If someone asks to transfer money - whether it's via phone call or email - don't do it. "Think about what you're being asked to do," says Santander's spokesperson. "Is the person you're speaking to asking you to transfer any money, to allow access to your computer or to give away personal information? This should immediately ring alarm bells. Your bank will never ask you to move money to another account." Likewise, it will never call you out of the blue to ask for your PIN or full password.

How to spot a fraudster:

- If the caller doesn't give you time to think, tries to stop you speaking to a family member or friend, or is insistent and makes you feel uncomfortable, they are likely committing fraud, advises the Met Police.

- If they phone to ask for your 4-digit card PIN or your online banking password, do not give it them. Even if they ask you to give it to them by tapping into the telephone keypad rather than saying the numbers out loud, this is a scam.

- Another red flag is if they ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them for safe-keeping, says UK Finance.

- They might also say that you are a victim of fraud and offer to send a courier to your home to collect your cash, PIN, payment card or cheque book.

For further information and advice, this Met Police leaflet on phone scams is helpful :

(20th September 2019)

(Evening Express, dated 5th September 2019 author Callum Main)

Full article [Option 1]:

A warning has been issued after new telephone scam began circulating in Aberdeen.

The city's Trading Standards team issued the warning this afternoon following calls telling people a "payment of £599 had been authorised".

People answering the call are then asked to press one if they had not made this transaction.

A statement from the team urges residents to not press 1, adding "this is a 'phising exercise to harvest personal details from you."

If you are concerned about a scam, or worried you be a victim, you can contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

Telephone scam currently circulating within Aberdeen.
An automated voice states that "Your payment of £599 has been authorised. If you did not make this transaction press 1."
DO NOT press 1 - this is a 'phishing' exercise to harvest personal details from you.
- Aberdeen City Council Trading Standards (@AberdeenCityTS) September 5, 2019

(20th September 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 5th September 2019 author Jack Newman)

Full article [Option 1]:

Note - Video avaiable on original article

A pair of scammers have shown how easy it is to steal contactless card data using only a handheld skimming device and a laptop.

The stunt, filmed at Manchester's Trafford Centre, shows the pair walking up behind shoppers and waving the reader over pockets and bags.

The gadget easily scans the card information with none of the shoppers even aware of what has taken place.

The duo then upload the information to a laptop and use it to buy a phone on Amazon.

The basket shows them spending £1,047 with the stolen data.

The shoppers were refunded and the data was deleted but the stunt shows just how easily people can be scammed on the high street.

It was carried out by SkimSafe, a company which makes cards which protect contactless cards from being skimmed.

Its founders, Björn Granberg and Carl Martinsson say that Britain needs to treat fraud as if it were a medical disease.

The pair warn of a 'pandemic' as one in 20 have fallen victim to the fraud since 2011 and one in ten did not see their money again.

Mr Granberg said: 'If this was an increase in the number of measles cases, it would be described as a pandemic and the WHO would issue a warning.

'It's staggering that remote card fraud increased a phenomenal 47 per cent, that's almost doubled, since the year before and nearly a 400 per cent increase since recording of these types of crimes started in 2011.'

In Manchester, the risk of becoming a victim of bank and credit account fraud increased by 80 per cent from 2017 to 2018.

The amount taken from the UK public rose last year from £564million to £671.4million, an increase of over 19 per cent from.

The largest proportion of these fraudulent transactions were via 'remote purchase'.

This occurs when criminals use stolen details online or over the phone to buy items ranging from mobile phones to holidays or apply for more finance in your name.

(20th September 2019)

(Mirror, dated 3rd September 2019 author Emma Munbodh)

Full article [Option 1]:

A gang of criminals 'lived the lives of lavish footballers' after conning their victims out of almost half a million pounds by using a dangerous phone fraud tactic.

Two perpetrators made hundreds of fraudulent transactions between 20 October 2017 and 25 October 2018, stealing a total of £457,000 from bank accounts.

The fraudsters first harvested bank details from customers using 'phishing' emails or 'smishing' text messages, before using 'sim swaps' to complete bank transfers and purchases on their accounts.

This is when the fraudster pretends to be a customer of a mobile operator - either online or in person - to try and convince the phone company that they, as the customer, need a replacement Sim for their phone.

Once in, they then seize control of the customer's mobile phone number, allowing them access to their calls and texts and even online banking details.

A third defendant, was also charged for facilitating fraud, reportedly receiving £100 for each sim card swap he completed.

Analysis of his phone revealed he was sent details of customers by a perpetrator that he used to order replacement sim cards, which he would then deliver to the fraudsters.

The fraud was spotted by Metro Bank and TSB who referred it to the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) which then investigated the case. All victims were fully refunded by their banks.

One perpetrator was then arrested at a Metro Bank branch in Romford on 22 October 2018 and found with a mobile phone that had been used to conduct over 100 sim swaps.

A large number of pre-paid gift cards were also found in his flat, with a total value of £19,000.

Subsequent analysis revealed that Amoako had accessed over 1,500 customers' accounts, by tricking people into giving away their personal details through phishing emails and text messages impersonating a bank.

CCTV footage subsequently showed him spending some of the stolen funds at high-end fashion stores including Gucci, Christian Louboutin and Louis Vuitton, as well as expensive restaurants across West London.

Items seized at his flat that had been purchased through the proceeds of fraud, included dozens of pairs of designer shoes.

He also rented a luxury flat in London and leased several expensive cars including a Range Rover, a Porsche and a Bentley.

Another perpetrator was arrested at his property on 30 October 2018, where mobile phones and laptops were seized containing customers' personal and financial details.

In total, the account details recovered through the operation led to an estimated £27million of fraud being disrupted and prevented.

Detective Constable Andrew Hammond, who investigated the case for the DCPCU, said: "This was a highly sophisticated scam, with these criminals using mobile "sim swaps" to commit almost half a million pounds worth of fraud.

"Working closely in partnership with the banks and phone companies, we were able to track both fraudsters down and bring them to justice.

"It's important that people are vigilant against the growing threat of sim swap scams. If you unexpectedly lose phone signal in a location where it's normally good, report it to your bank and network provider immediately."

Mark Tingey, head of financial crime operations at Metro Bank said: "We work closely with stakeholders across the industry including other banks, network operators and law enforcement agencies to help prevent and protect customers from these crimes. Our team has worked diligently over many months to support this investigation and bring these criminals to justice."

Ashley Hart, Head of Fraud at TSB, said: "TSB supports law enforcement across the UK in hunting down every criminal that attempts to defraud our customers. We cooperate fully with each investigation and work hard alongside the police to bring fraudsters to justice."

(20th September 2019)

(Which?, dated 3rd September 2019 author Chiara Cavaglieri)

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Scammers are mimicking new security measures designed to keep you safe online, by sending fake emails that attempt to steal your banking credentials and personal data.

Banks, card providers and retailers across the EU are asking customers to provide up-to-date contact information, as part of new checks for online card payments known as strong customer authentication (SCA).

Fraudsters are imitating these messages, aiming to get hold of your details at a time when you may be expecting these requests and so let your guard down.

What is SCA and why do banks need my details?

Tough new rules mean that additional security checks - under the Payment Services Regulations 2017 or PSD2 - will become more common for online shopping and banking within the UK and EU.

You may have already been asked for extra details when shopping on a new website, or with a new card, but over the next few months these checks will become routine for payments over €30 (or the equivalent in pounds).

When you pay with your card online, your bank or card issuer will check your identity using two of three possible methods:

- Something you own (Possession) such as texting your mobile phone with a one-time passcode.
- Something you know (Knowledge) such as a password or passphrase.
- Something you are (Inherence) such as a fingerprint, voice pattern or facial recognition.

These are all in addition to your card number, name, expiry date and CVV code.

It's up to each bank and card issuer which methods they use and they will inform you of the details or devices you might need.

How phishing emails are exploiting SCA

Which? has already warned that these checks risk excluding customers without mobile phones or decent signal.

But scams are another concern, and we've seen several early examples of phishing emails that imitate genuine messages from banks.

Each of these scam emails included links to sites that have since been taken down but were set up to capture personal details used to hack into the victim's bank account.

We expect more of these to surface over the next 18 months during the phased implementation of SCA.

Are banks and retailers doing enough to protect you?

Banks and other firms are heavily invested in the fight against fraud, but they could be unwittingly helping fraudsters when they ask customers to click links or confirm sensitive information.

Eight in 10 (78%) Which? members we surveyed think banks and other financial firms should never include links in emails, to make fakes more immediately obvious.

Yet we've seen genuine emails from RBS inviting a customer to download its new open banking app; and from Lloyds telling a user that they'd need to visit the website to register again because their access to online banking had been removed.

This is exactly what phishing emails will do, to trick you into handing over login details or infect your computer.

Companies that use several web addresses are adding to customers' confusion. For example, PayPal users have reported receiving emails with links to both and

These legitimate addresses can look similar to fake ones, such as

When companies don't make it crystal clear what a valid link should look like, they make it that much harder for customers to stay safe.


Look for the real sender address

One fairly standard technique used by scammers is to put the legitimate brand name or email address as the 'name' that appears beside the email address, as you can see below.

The real sender is shown in brackets here, and has nothing to do with Tesco Bank.

From: Tesco Bank <
Date: 24 June 2019 at 15:19:08 BST
To: <anon>
Subject: Recent Uprade. Access Verififcation Required

Check links without clicking on them

To find the real destination of a link, hover your mouse (without clicking) to preview the website it's pointing to. If an email seems important but you're concerned it could be fake, contact the company in question yourself using a trusted method.

Don't assume padlocks prove a site is safe

Never enter sensitive data online without checking for a padlock and https in the address bar - as this tells you that the connection is encrypted - but be warned that fraudulent websites can also use padlocks.

Which? free guide that outlines eight easy steps to spotting a fake, fraudulent of scam website :

(20th September 2019)

(Guardian, dated 2nd September 2019 author Staff and agencies)

Full article [Option 1]:

Millennials are falling victim to scams involving handing money to fraudsters more than any other age group, according to Lloyds Bank.

New data shows that victims aged 18 to 34 are losing an average of £2,630 to frauds, which typically involve scammers impersonating banking staff, the police or HM Revenue and Customs.

People over 55 are still handing over the most money out of any age group - with £10,716 reaching the pockets of the fraudsters per scam on average - but are less likely to be duped, with a slowdown in the number of total scams.

Despite losing less money when scammed, more millennials have lost out financially, with the number of them being tricked rising almost fourfold.

There are more than three times as many people aged between 45 and 54 being scammed out of money than those over 55, according to the figures. Lloyds revealed that people in this age group are being tricked out of an average of £3,573 per fraud.

Younger people are thought to be duped at a much faster rate than their peers because of their greater use of online banking, which has increasingly been seized upon by scammers.

Greater awareness among older people is also thought to have driven fraudsters to new groups and tactics.

Paul Davis, fraud and financial crime director at Lloyds Bank, said: "Helping to keep our customers' money safe is our number one priority. Being a victim of fraud can have devastating effects not just on people's finances, but also their lives.

"While we are working 24/7 behind the scenes to protect customers and millions of pounds have been frozen, every day fraudsters are trying to trick people into handing over their personal information, like a PIN or password, or transferring cash."

The figures come as the bank launches a new multimedia campaign to crack down on scams, including a TV advert that will air from Monday.

Davis added: "Our new campaign will help people to recognise the signs by reminding them that we will never call and ask them to move money to another account. The more we all know about spotting scams, the safer we will all be."

Gareth Shaw, head of money content at consumer group Which?, said: "Anyone of any age can fall victim to a bank transfer scam, as fraudsters use increasingly sophisticated tactics - and people are losing life-changing sums of money every day as a result." He added that all banks and payment providers should sign up to a new voluntary code that offers greater protection for their customers and scam victims.

(20th September 2019)

(Mirror, dated 1st September 2019 author Dean Durham)

Full article [Option 1]:

You order something online and the wrong item arrives - it happens. But what if you get a delivery when you ordered nothing?

Answer: You should ­immediately smell a rat. As a reader called Emily found out, this is the opening shot of yet another scam which you need to be on the lookout for.

Earlier this summer Emily ­received a phone call from someone claiming to be from a well-known online clothing company.

The caller informed Emily that an admin error had occurred and they had sent her goods in the post in error.

She was told she should accept the goods, and that another courier would then collect them from her to return them.

As an apology for the ­inconvenience, Emily was ­promised a £50 gift voucher.

The next day, three large parcels arrived and, as instructed, Emily accepted the delivery.

Two days after that, as she had been told to expect, another man arrived saying he had been sent to collect them.

But two weeks later Emily ­noticed £3,950 had been charged to her credit card by the retailer.

Emily, from Lancaster, then began to put together the pieces and realised exactly what had ­happened. Three weeks prior to the call claiming to be from the ­retailer, Emily had completed a survey being conducted by a man at her local shopping centre.

As part of the questionnaire she was asked to name two retailers she has an online account with.

She was also asked for details including her phone number.

Emily was enticed into doing this by a £20 gift card, which was ­handed to her there and then.

The fraudster had obtained enough details from Emily to be able to use her credit card for an internet purchase - and with this they placed an order with one of the retailers she had told them she had an account with.

To avoid the retailer getting suspicious, the fraudster had the goods delivered to Emily's house.

They then telephoned Emily, posing as the retailer, and fed her the "goods sent in error" story.

The retailer has refused to ­refund the money but I have ­advised Emily to make a section 75 claim , which protects credit card purchases above £100 :

(20th September 2019)


(Guardian, dated 31st August 2019 author Chris Stokel-Walker)

Full article [Option 1]:

Fraudsters are conning Chinese students out of tens of thousands of pounds just days after they arrive at universities in the UK.

At the start of August, a Nottingham University student had her laptop, containing identifying information and bank details, stolen at Heathrow airport. A week later the student, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, received a phone call purporting to be from the Chinese embassy. She was told the embassy had received information from Chinese police alleging she was connected to a money-laundering case in China. "At that time, I was already panicked," she said.

The caller encouraged her to co-operate with the investigation, and she was provided with a case number and transferred to what was claimed to be a Chinese police office. The scammers, acting as police officers, provided more details around the case, and gave the student a URL to a website claiming to belong to the Chinese prosecutor general's office. The website contained details including the student's national ID card number, and the photograph used on that ID card.

The student was told she would need to return to China and was threatened with imprisonment unless she made a videotaped statement via QQ, a Chinese social media platform. She did so after seeing a man dressed as a police officer via a video chat.

"I thought it will ruin my life if I cannot tackle this case," she said. "I was too scared to think of anything except crying because they told me at the beginning I can't tell anyone, including parents, otherwise they will be implicated."

The student transferred nearly £30,000 as "bail money" to the fraudsters, fearing she would be deported if she didn't. It was only after talking to staff at the university that she realised it was a scam. Her parents reported the crime to police in China, and she reported it to UK police, although it was too late to recover the money.

"This is the darkest day I have ever experienced," she wrote in a post on the Chinese social networking platform Weibo, designed to warn other students. She told the Observer that she had since been contacted by other Chinese students defrauded of money. At least three students have fallen foul of a similar scam at Newcastle University.

A staff member at Into, a Brighton-based company that runs centres providing foundation courses for international students looking to study at universities in America and Britain, told the Observer: "We have had three instances this summer where students have answered the phone, given away their details, and lost their money." One student had lost £12,000. "These are significant amounts they are losing. They believe if they don't pay the money they won't get their visa, or get their visa taken away." Into has sent an email to its students warning them about the scam.

The number of Chinese students studying at UK universities has reached record levels. Applications from China have increased 30% year on year, and now there are more students from China studying at UK universities than from Northern Ireland, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. Every year since 2012-13, more Chinese students have studied at UK institutions than students from all non-British EU countries combined.

An official at the Chinese Embassy said: "We are warning all Chinese students when they come to the UK. What makes us feel heartbroken is that there are always Chinese students who fall for it."

The scam is a simple but powerful, experts say. "Social engineers prey on vulnerable victims that can be manipulated," said Richard De Vere, a social engineering consultant, who is hired by companies to test their vulnerability to scams. "When they have focused their nefarious techniques on a wealthy foreign student the task has been made even easier and more rewarding than most.

"Drilling down to their individual fears - being sent home to China a failure, being sent to prison, being ejected from the UK - would all be fears that would work to manipulate and gain the upper hand."

A Nottingham University spokesperson called the scam appalling: "In addition to the serious financial implications for those students and their families, it overshadows what should be a happy and exciting time in their educational journey, and we are sorry that for some this has been their first experience of studying in the UK.

"We are doing everything we can to help all new and returning students to protect themselves against scammers and phishing."

The university is offering information about the scam to all international students arriving on campus, and has already briefed everyone enrolled at its Centre for English Language Education.

(7th September 2019)

(Telegraph, dated 31st August 2019 author Gabriella Swerling)

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Wealthy pensioners need to be more savvy about doorstep collection scams, the charity watchdog has warned, as it issues anti-fraud guidance for generous donors.

The Charity Commission has today published guidance for generous older donors amid warnings that collection bags may not be from genuine charities and that people over the age of 65 are vulnerable to having their generosity taken advantage of "leading them to become victims of crime".

Bogus labels and logos are just some of the tactics deployed by fraudsters to take advantage of charitable pensioners. The warning is part of a campaign to ensure older members of the donating public make important checks before giving.

The regulator published its guidance alongside new data revealing that these groups are among the most generous donors to charity in the UK; 374,000 people over the age of 65 making donations totalling £1,092 million in tax year 2017 to 2018.

For the years 2015 to 16 and 2016 to 2017 a similar number of over 65s donated £951million and £969million, respectively.

However, according to the latest data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales, almost one in 12 of respondents aged 65 and older reported being the victim of fraud in the last year.  This is equivalent to more than 800,000 older people in England and Wales.

Sarah Atkinson, director of policy, planning and communications, said: "The scams that we sometimes unfortunately see take advantage of people's charitable spirit, and can seriously dent their trust in charity."

"Donating to charity is a longstanding and important tradition in this country, and I value the generosity of people who have worked hard all their lives wanting to give back.  It is vital that this generosity does not lead to people becoming victims of crime."

Among the guidance issued to pensioners, include a warning to carefully review collection bags for clothing and household goods to ascertain whether they are from a genuine charity.

Donors are also being urged to check whether street collectors are wearing a proper ID badge and that any collection tin is sealed and undamaged and to check whether fundraising materials are genuine. These should feature the charity's name, registered name and a landline contact number.

The Commission is warning pensioners that if they think that a collection or appeal is not legitimate, to report it to the police. Charity scams are small in number compared to how much is given safely, however the charity sector generates an annual income of over £76 billion making it an attractive target for criminals.

Ms Atkinson added: "Making simple checks before you hand over your money or your details is an important way to ensure you are giving with your head as well as your heart. I want to encourage everyone to follow our advice, so that they feel empowered and more confident at spotting and avoiding scams."

Research carried out by the regulator in 2017 suggested that over half of 18-24 year olds usually do checks on a charity before donating, compared to just under one third of 65-74 year olds.

(7th September 2019)

(Daily Post, dated 30th August 2019 author Owen Evans)

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People are being warned about a bizarre new scam where callers are saying they are wanted by police.

North Wales Police are asking members of the public to be aware of a scam where people are phoned and told that police are after them.

They are told that a warrant has been issued for their arrest.

A police spokesman said: "We are aware people are being called and advised that a warrant has been issued for their arrest and to "press 1" in order to avoid this action.

" North Wales Police will never call you in this way and be aware this is a scam."

It is the latest in a series of scams where criminals will attempt to trick members of the public into handing over valuable information or money.

How to avoid telephone fraud

Police have issued advice for people to avoid being scammed.

On their website, they said: "Fraudsters often try to trick older or vulnerable people out of their money by telephoning them at home and pretending to be someone trustworthy.

"They use well-rehearsed stories which are designed to gain the victim's trust.

"Fraudsters often claim to be officials and can seem very genuine. But you should always remember that callers may not be who they claim to be, even if they already seem to know details such as your name and address."

Police said people could pretend to be police officers, phone providers or bank services.

Their advice includes never giving out your PIN number, avoiding people claiming to be calling to fix your computer and being aware of anybody asking for money in advance.

The most common type of fraud in impacting older people in North Wales is "safe account" fraud, where fraudsters persuade victims to transfer money into accounts that the fraudsters provide, claiming that will protect the victim's money from fraud.

They added that people should never be afraid to put the phone down, be sceptical of all callers and never give out personal information to unexpected callers.

(7th September 2019)

(The Times, dated 24th August 2019 author Ben Clatworthy)

Full article [Option 1]:

The Issue
( raised by Shane Howells, Ledbury, Herefordshire)

We run a double-glazing company and rely on phone calls for our business. On August 1 our BT landline was cut off. We spoke to a sales manager who said that we had informed BT that we no longer wanted the number. We have had it for more than 30 years and there is no reason we would have done that.

We had no email or notification to say that we were being cut off. After many phone calls, BT is saying that a third-party company has given our number to someone else. We spoke to endless people from BT, including our business representative, and no one is giving us a clue as to what is happening. Local people are coming in to make sure we are still trading.

When customers ring us they get a message that says the number is not receiving incoming calls. I usually do four jobs a day, but next week the diary is empty. We are losing money hand over fist.

The outcome

Shane insisted that he had not authorised any change to his account and had no reason to do so, having been a loyal customer for more than 30 years an going great lengths to keep the number active each time his business has moved address.

Shane made many calls to BT and was eventually told that another telecom supplier, which cannot be named for legal reasons, had requested a transfer of the line and BT had processed the application, including sending an email about the pending transfer.

Shane says he did not receive this and insists that he never engaged the services of another supplier.

It appears that Shane has been "slammed", an illegal practice in which a customer is switched to a competitor provider - without the consent of the customer, or the original providers knowledge.

Ofcom, the regulator says that slamming is "unacceptable and an extreme form of mis-selling" and tackling the practice is a priority. It says that it has "introduced tough rules to clamp down on slamming" and that telecoms companies that are found to have broken the rules face fines of up to 10 per cent of their annual turnover.

I appears the reason Shane did not receive BT's notification is because the email address listed on his account is obsolete and had not been updated.

A BT spokesman says "BT received a request to transfer Mr Howells's phone line to another provider, which BT processed. As soon as Mr Howells made BT aware that he did not consent to the transfer and had no knowledge of the request, BT reactivated Mr Howells's phone line, and can confirm that this is working."

As a gesture of goodwill BT has offered Shane compensation of £2,000 in the form of credit. I also recommend that Shane raises a complaint with Ofcom.

(7th September 2019)

(BBC News, dated 23rd August 2019 author Simon Read)

Full article [Option 1]:

A brand new top-of-the-range phone is delivered to your door. The package has your name on it but you don't remember ordering it.

There is another knock at the door and a courier asks for the phone back explaining: "We delivered it by mistake."

Would you hand it over? If you do, it could prove to be an expensive mistake.

It is a scam and yet another way that sophisticated thieves try to rip us off.

"Delivery scams are just one of the increasingly sophisticated methods fraudsters are using to leave victims out of pocket," warned Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert.

Tricking you

The scam involves crooks ordering and then attempting to intercept - or trick you into handing over - high-value packages.

It usually happens when criminals somehow manage to get hold of your personal details to place the order.

It can be one consequence of identity theft, for instance.

If the crooks fail to intercept the delivery in the street, they often pose as a courier and try to collect the "wrongly delivered" item from your house.

One victim, who did not want to be named, told the BBC: "After it happened to us, we were worried about how someone was able to get so far in ordering a phone in our name.

"We were also worried that it could impact our credit rating, as we were buying a house."

A victim's story

Another victim told the BBC: "We rented out our house to tenants after we relocated, and a year after moving they called to say there was a parcel for us. We hadn't ordered anything there but were in the area so popped in to collect it.

"It had two Samsung new phones that had just been released. We contacted Carphone Warehouse, the company which had sent the phones, only to be told that they had been ordered online, on a contract linked to a Halifax account in my husband's name."

The couple had not opened the account or ordered the phones. They called Action Fraud, which told them it was likely that another courier would try to collect the phones.

The couple handed the phones back to Carphone Warehouse after calling the police.

But they were left upset. "It was a huge worry that they had somehow got our information and possibly ruined our credit history."

What should victims do?

If a courier unexpectedly comes to collect an item at your home, do not hand it over.

Check their credentials and call the company they claim to be representing. If you have any fears, contact the police.

"If you receive an unexpected high-value package such as a phone, contact the retailer immediately and arrange for it to be sent back, as the scammer may have attempted to intercept the delivery or will pose as a 'courier' to collect the item," said Mr French.

"Identity theft is also on the rise so if you spot any suspicious activity on your account report it to your bank immediately. Ensure personal documents such as bank statements are not left lying around, and are shredded before throwing away."

Scams increasing

Scams like this are on the rise in the UK.

"Tried and tested scams still pose a huge threat," warned Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

"Even in this digital age, where online scams are on the rise, scammers are continuing to use traditional routes to prey on people, using tactics like doorstep selling, sending unsolicited letters and cold calling.

"Unfortunately, it's usually more vulnerable and isolated people who are affected."

The latest official figures published in the Crime Survey for England and Wales showed that there were 3.8 million fraud incidents reported in the year to March 2019.

That was up 17% over the year.

Meanwhile UK Finance reported 2.8 million cases of frauds involving UK-issued payment cards, remote banking and cheques - an increase of 39% from the previous year.

(7th September 2019)

(BBC News, dated 22nd August 2019 author Naomi Pallas)

Full article [Option 1]:

uaware note : This article has been cut down to just describe one couples harrowing experience

When US couples want to adopt a baby they often post ads online and search social media for women pregnant with an unwanted child. Sometimes it works - but there are dangers. One young scammer has tricked countless couples, just for fun, by stealing the identity of a pregnant woman.


It's early February 2019, half way through one of the coldest Michigan winters in recent history. The grey sky threatens snow.

Thirty-three-year-old Samantha Stewart is in her pyjamas at home in Wixom, just outside Detroit, doing Sunday morning chores. There's a full washing basket, a house to be cleaned and dogs to walk. It's just after 11:00 when she receives a direct message request on Instagram from @ashleymamabear2019.

It's not anyone she knows - but she accepts the message and starts reading.

"Are you looking to adopt still?" are the opening words.

It's six years since Sam had a hysterectomy. Throughout her 20s she underwent a series of operations in an attempt to control her endometriosis, a condition that causes the womb lining to grow in other parts of the body and can lead to crippling pain. They didn't work. By the time she was 27 it had become clear she would have to lose her womb - and the chance of carrying a child.

It took time for Sam to recover from the stress and the heartache. Though she longed for a family, it was only at the end of last year that she and her husband, Dave, felt ready to contact an adoption agency and begin the laborious process of adopting a child. They passed their home study, an assessment of their suitability to be parents, and underwent training. Then they set up an Instagram account, @findingbabystewart, posting requests for birth parents to contact them, illustrated by an empty cot in a freshly painted nursery.

Sam examines @ashleymamabear2019's Instagram feed. Ashley is 16, from a small town outside Atlanta, Georgia.

She posts mirror photos, love notes to her boyfriend Chris, and selfies with Snapchat filters. Her hair is straight and honey-blonde and a backwards cap usually covers his. But there is one thing that sets them apart from thousands of other American teen couples - the occasional shots of Ashley's figure, her face beaming as Chris places his hand against her swollen, round belly. This is the baby Ashley is making plans to give away.

The women begin messaging, but not before Sam has called her husband, her parents and his parents in excitement. She doesn't spend much time wondering why they look so happy about the pregnancy, bearing in mind that it is unwanted. They're young, she thinks.

"Are you guys talking to any other adoptive families?" ventures Sam. "I'm just scared of being hurt. I want to be a mom so badly."

"Nope," comes the reply.

Minutes later, Sam shoots back: "I'm crying."

Ashley's life had been harrowing. Her parents were abusive, her mother killed herself. She was raped by her brother at the age of 14, resulting in a premature baby, a little girl who was given up for adoption. The adoptive parents shut Ashley out, preventing her from seeing her child. It would be hard to write a bleaker story.

The contact is constant. Sometimes Chris takes over texting because Ashley is feeling sick. When they talk on the phone, Sam finds Ashley's conversation immature, makes her excuses and hangs up after half an hour. They text about adoption plans late into the evening.

The temperature has now dropped to -5C, and a light snow is falling. Sam is exhausted from messaging. She explains that she's heading out for dinner, and so won't be on her phone for a few hours. She passes on her adoption agency's details.

But then, suddenly, Ashley becomes abusive. She tells Sam she would be a bad parent. Shocked and hurt, Sam stops replying. The adrenaline that has kept her going all day suddenly drains away, and she crashes on to the sofa.

"It's just - it's devastating. There's no other way to describe it," she says later, remembering this moment.

Sam assumes she will never hear from Ashley again. She and Dave consider deleting their Instagram posts appealing for pregnant women to contact them. Sam begins to feel that adopting a baby will take a long, long time.

Then, exactly a month later, as icy patches of ground are beginning to thaw, a message arrives. Ashley tells Sam the baby has been born early, at 31 weeks. Exasperated, Sam tells Ashley to contact her adoption agency, or leave her family alone: "Have a nice life and don't contact me."

It only takes 14 messages, though, for Ashley to persuade Sam that there really is a premature baby waiting for adoption. She names the medical centre where she gave birth and Sam and Dave get ready to fly there. Ashley sends a photograph of her cuddling a premature baby, wrapped in a white towel, wires trailing from the small body. It's captioned, "She's yours."

"Omg I'm literally losing it. I can't wait to meet her," Sam replies. "I can't wait to spoil that pretty little baby!"

There are three days of non-stop talking. Then Ashley blocks Sam on Instagram. When Sam calls, Ashley doesn't pick up.

There is no explanation, just silence.

Distressed, frantic, but already sensing that Ashley has been getting a thrill out of tormenting her, Sam posts a drawing of a broken heart on Instagram.

"They don't ask for money, they don't ask for material things like a lot of scams do. They want your time, emotional investment and quite frankly someone to talk to while promising you what you are desperate to find: your future child," she writes in the caption.

"We need to talk about this."

The comments start coming in. Sam is not the only one whom Ashley has tricked.

In many countries, social media would be the last place anyone would look for a baby to adopt. In the US, though, most states allow something called private adoption, where couples hoping to adopt and birth mothers find each other independently. The arrangement is then formalised by an attorney or an adoption agency.

When Sam and Dave first signed up at their adoption agency, they were number 21 on the list of prospective adoptive parents. The agency warned them to expect a long wait and said they might get quicker results advertising themselves on the internet.

Pregnant women who don't want to keep their child have the same choice - to approach adoption agencies, or search for adoptive parents online. Apparently, many feel that by making contact with parents directly they have more control.

At the time of writing, #hopingtoadopt is hashtagged 44,892 times on Instagram; #waitingtoadopt is mentioned 18,844 times and #hopefuladoptiveparents 10,758. Images of letter boards jostle for the attention of birth mothers: No Bump, Still Pumped, We're Adopting; Share This Photo and Help Our Family Grow; We are Officially a Waiting Family.

Babies as a commodity

There aren't enough babies to go round, though, so many of these thousands of hopeful parents will be disappointed. The problem has got worse since countries that once provided large numbers of babies for adoption, such as Russia, China and Guatemala, clamped down.

"Most countries have ceased to allow the adoption of their children internationally, so the raw numbers have plummeted over the last 10 to 15 years by huge margins," says Adam Pertman, president of the National Centre on Adoption and Permanency.

Unplanned pregnancies have also become less common in the US - and the reduced stigma around single parenthood means that, when they do occur, the mothers are less likely to give the child away. The National Council for Adoption's last survey estimates that less than 0.5% of babies are put up for adoption.

Couples hoping to adopt may already have spent years trying to conceive, and even if they haven't, the long wait for a baby to become available for adoption can be frustrating and lead to impatience.

"Urgency creates desperation, and desperation creates sometimes decisions not being made with enough thought," says adoption specialist Dawn Smith Pleiner.

"Even though in the back of your head you know that it's probably not real, there's that glimmer, that feeling that there's a 1% chance it could be," says Sam. "And you go with it anyway."

Not taking things seriously

It's a scam that's hard to prosecute. Most states still don't have the legal tools.

Since September 2018 there have been laws in place in Georgia to stop financial adoption fraud, but not the emotional kind. "It's very frustrating," says Juli Wisotsky.

One option could be to raise a civil case for intentional infliction of emotional distress. "But, does somebody want to get involved in a lawsuit for that?" she asks. "Or do they just want to let it go and try to heal and grieve what is a loss to them? Even though there was no baby there, they thought there was a baby. It's a grief."

Traumatised couples regularly report this scam to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Centre. In a statement, the FBI told the BBC that although they were aware of emotional adoption scams, these were still uncommon. None of the parents have received a follow-up call.

A number of fake accounts used by one perpetrator were reported to Instagram by her victims, but they remained online for months, until the BBC started asking Instagram why. Then they were deleted. An Instagram spokesman said: "Keeping people safe on Instagram is one of our biggest priorities. We're aware of this issue and will disable any further accounts in violation of our policies. We encourage anyone to report content they think is against our guidelines using our in-app tools."

(7th September 2019)

(iNews, dated 21st August 2019 author Matt Allan)

Full article [Option 1]:

Almost 1,000 fake driving instructors have been reported in the last five years to the body which overseas lessons.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that 961 allegedly illegal instructors have been reported to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) since 2014.

Instructors must be registered with the DVSA and have passed a series of special test and background checks in order to charge for lessons.

Doing so without DVSA approval is a criminal offence under the Road Traffic Act.

Taking lessons from an unlicensed instructor either intentionally or unwittingly is also potentially dangerous and could prove costly.

Not only could you be missing out on key instruction and information but you have no guarantee that your "instructor's" vehicle is roadworthy and, should you be involved in an accident, you'll have no insurance.

You also run the risk of encountering an instructor who has not been subject to the proper police background and criminal record checks.

Low conviction rate

There are around 40,000 approved driving instructors registered with the DVSA and it says that it "investigates all reports of illegal driving instruction and seeks the strongest possible punishments".

However, the figures obtained by Hippo Leasing show that prosecutions are extremely low, with just 18 convictions since 2014.

Section 123 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states driving instruction for payment can only be given legally by registered or licensed persons but it can be hard to prove that money has changed hands between student and teacher.

How to spot a dodgy driving instructor

There are two types of licensed driving instructors - a Potential Driving Instructor (PDI) and an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) - and both can legally teach you how to drive.

Both types of instructor must clearly display a valid, in-date badge. For PDIs this is pink, while for ADIs it is green.


Both badges must carry the instructor's name, a photograph of them, a valid date and a unique instructor number.

If they don't have such a badge, they aren't a legitimate instructor, even if they have other elements such as a dual-control car, roof signs and branding.

PDIs can legally instruct you and are registered with the DVSA, however, to become an ADI, they must complete three tests set by the DVSA. The fact that potential driving instructors are only allowed three attempts to become licensed means some may resort to teaching illegally if they fail.

Learner drivers can find a DVSA-approved instructor by using this service on :

Threat to learners and the public

Tom Preston, managing director of Hippo Leasing commented: "Due to the nature of driving lessons, learners are in a particularly vulnerable position, alone in a car with a stranger for long periods of time. If a driving instructor isn't approved by the DVSA, there is no guarantee of personal or vehicle safety."

The DVSA's head of counter-fraud and investigations, Andy Rice added: "It's essential that all drivers demonstrate they have the right skills, knowledge and attitude to drive safely and the result of their test is entirely dependent on their performance on the day.

"Illegal driving instructors pose a threat to learners and the general public alike. They often use uninsured vehicles, lack the proper training or are otherwise unfit to instruct the next generation of drivers.

"We have stringent measures in place to detect fraud and bring offenders to justice, and DVSA will always seek the strongest possible punishment."

Anyone who believes illegal instruction to be taking place is encouraged to report it by calling 03001233248 or emailing

(7th September 2019)

(This is Money, dated 16th August 2019 author George Dixon)

Full article [Option 1]:

Spot the difference:

Your prize if you can? Nearly £54,000.

That's how much money Richard Crisp lost after fraudsters managed to hack his Peterborough business's eBay account and siphoned off some of his sales for 17 months.

Camped inside his eBay account like a virus, the scammers would set up fake PayPal accounts that were almost identical to his and change a small number of listings each day.

Between 14 February 2018 and 19 July 2019, they hijacked 11,327 eBay payments, using Paypal accounts where the 'l' had been changed to an upper case 'i', or an 'e' had been removed.

For example, on 836 occasions the PayPal address legitimate buyers of wares from his family business selling household cleaning products, Homecare Essentials, actually sent money to a scam PayPal account where the 'l' in essentials had been changed to an 'f'.

Chris Dawson, editor of online marketplace news site Tamebay, who first contacted This is Money about Richard's case, said he wouldn't be surprised if these two cases were just 'the tip of the iceberg'.

He added that 10 accounts could lose £1million a year if £50,000 was stolen from each one in six months.

Given the volumes some eBay sellers deal in, that isn't implausible. And given the sophisticated and clandestine nature of the fraud, he said he'd be surprised if it was 'someone in his bedroom doing this.'

Richard, 50, told This is Money the fraudsters targeted 'predominately low-value, fast-moving lines'.

On the first day of the scam, the scammers diverted four orders totalling just £11.30.

He said he was never alerted to the fact the PayPal address on these listings, or any of the 91 items affected, were changed, not to mention the fact you would hardly notice four orders when you were processing between 180 and 250 sales a day.

In fact, the fraud only came to light 17 months later, 'when a customer requested a refund for an item that was not delivered'.

Richard said: 'In our eBay account, the item was showing as paid but when we followed the link from our eBay account to PayPal to make the refund we received an error as the payment could not be found.

'Upon contacting PayPal we were told that the customer had never paid us.

'This is when we went into the eBay listing and found that the PayPal payment address was not ours.'

Richard immediately changed his eBay password and edited all 3,300 of the listings he currently had on his business's page, and contacted eBay, PayPal and the police.

After just over a week, eBay sent him a spreadsheet, seen by This is Money, detailing each of the 11,327 hijacked orders that cost his business £54,000 in lost earnings.

In total, the highest value item that was diverted into the PayPal accounts of fraudsters was worth £43.95. The most Richard lost in one individual scam was £87.90, in October 2018.

It is unclear how the fraudsters managed to initially hack his eBay account, and Richard says eBay refuse to tell him.

He said: 'As a seller we receive notifications about so many different things that are happening with our listings and performance.'

He said that while at first both eBay and PayPal were 'quite helpful and appeared surprised by the ingenuity of the fraudster', conversations with both quickly degenerated into exercises in passing the buck.

Ebay told him that because they never saw the money, he would have to 'deal with PayPal to seek reimbursement for any loss of funds, as [it] would not be in position to do so'.

PayPal said that because it was his eBay account that had been compromised 'the issue of the lost sums is…firmly for eBay to resolve'.

The two companies were once one and the same, but split in 2015.

While Richard's loss is bad enough on its own, it's also become clear that this is not the first time a sophisticated scam of this sort has happened.

In a post in eBay's own seller forums posted on February 19 2018 one eBay seller revealed their father had been a victim of the very same type of scam that began in October 2017.

Again, he only noticed a few months later.

Richard said: 'If eBay had notified all sellers of this potential fraud or put something as simple as a notification e-mail to sellers if a PayPal address has been changed in place on this date then I would have lost £227.65.

'This would have provided immediate protection for sellers and businesses like ourselves, and would seem to me that it is not too much to ask, given the huge profits that these organisations make, to re-invest a very small amount in protecting sellers.'

Richard concluded: 'At the end of the day my business will survive but it has been a very, very difficult few weeks.

'Notwithstanding the £54,000 that has been lost we had to buy all the products to fulfil all these orders, pay the postage to send them out, pay for packaging materials to send them out in and pay the staff to pick and pack them.

'I may not have been hit over the head and had £50,000 stolen but it is just as upsetting, even though it seems that fraud is treated as a victimless crime.'

What do eBay and PayPal say?

While eBay and PayPal seemed bent on blaming each other, This is Money believes both companies have questions to answer as a result of Richard losing nearly £54,000.

We asked eBay why nothing has been done to stop this scam, given the fact Richard was not the first to fall victim to it, and what it plans to do in the future to stop fraud like this happening again - such as by alerting sellers when key listing details have been changed.

Meanwhile, we asked PayPal how fraudulent accounts almost identical to legitimate eBay seller accounts were being allowed to be set up, how these accounts pass anti-money laundering laws given the sums passing through them, and how it also plans to clamp down on fraud like this in the future.

An eBay spokesperson said: 'Millions of people use our marketplace worldwide safely each day and cases like this are incredibly rare.

'We take privacy and security extremely seriously and invest heavily in measures to protect buyers and sellers around the clock. We have refunded Mr Crisp's fees and continue to investigate this case with PayPal.'

Though they have refunded the seller fees of around £5,400 that Richard paid to eBay for each of the 11,327 transactions where the money went to fraudsters, he still remains substantially out of pocket.

He estimates the cost in lost sales and postage amounts to between £35-£40,000.

PayPal said: 'We never lose sight of the fact that we are entrusted to look after people's money and we take this responsibility very seriously.

'The advanced fraud and risk management tools we use to keep our customers and their payments safe mean that PayPal is used by millions of people every day without a problem.

'On the rare occasion that cases like this occur, we investigate the circumstances closely with the customer and any involved third-parties like eBay.'

It's now unclear what Richard can do next to try and recoup his losses.

He has written to his local MP who is bringing up the case with business secretary Andrea Leadsom, but neither eBay nor PayPal have given him an option that doesn't involve talking to the other company, whose fault it allegedly is.

Fact vs fiction

The real PayPal address used by Richard Crisp's eBay business to receive payments:


And the fake ones used by scammers to siphon off nearly £54,000 worth of eBay sales:

- - 836 sales worth £4,267.67

- - 6,346 sales worth £24,067.92

- - 761 sales worth £2,850.38

- - 3,381 sales worth £22,541.48

(This is the one featured at the top of the story, the lower case l has been replaced by an upper-case i)

Total: 11,327 eBay sales worth £53,727.45

PayPal works by linking an email address or mobile number to a PayPal account, so you send money without having to enter the recipient's bank details.

Money in your PayPal balance can then be transferred into your bank account.

This means that buyers of Richard's goods thought they were paying him, but instead the money was being sent to the accounts of fraudsters, who could transfer the gains into their bank accounts.

(7th September 2019)

(Mirror, dated 13th August 2019 authors James Andrews and Zara Whelan)

Full article [Option 1]:

A new car tax renewal email scam is currently circulating in the UK, drivers are being warned.

The fake emails claim to be from the DVLA, and warns people their car tax  payment  has not gone through.

Drivers are then threatened with a £1,000 fine if they do not take action immediately, North Wales Live reports .

The email reads: "Your latest vehicle tax payment failed. It appears that some of the billing details associated with you might have expired or otherwise changed.

"Our system will automatically retry the billing process once your billing details have been updated.

"It can take up to 5 working days for the records to update. In order to continue tot he update page, pleas use the following link.

"Please note: If you don't pay your vehicle tax on time you can be fined up to £1,000, on your details passed to a debt collection agency."

But people clicking on the link to start the process are sent to a fake site designed to steal your details.

George Martin from consumer watchdog Which?  received the fraudulent email just days after renewing his car tax online .  He said: "When I received my vehicle tax renewal in the post a while back I, like most people these days, opted to pay it online.

"Everything went through as normal, but just two days later, an email appeared in my inbox that made me look twice.

"Even though my account flagged the message as spam, the professionally worded subject title, along with the presence of the 'customer number' made me open things up for a closer look.

"Fortunately the email address it came from acted as a dead giveaway, but the email arriving so close to my legitimate renewal does beg the question; had my data been leaked somewhere? How did the scammers know?"

Consumer rights expert, Amelia Wade said: "The DVLA assured us its systems are secure, built to government standards and checked regularly for any vulnerabilities.

"It is, however, good practice to regularly clear your browsing data, keep your browser up-to-date, ensure you've got a good antivirus software and have good password hygiene.

"Scammers are becoming increasingly conniving, so trust your spam filters and take pause to think if you're being asked to input payment details after following a URL.

"It can't be ruled out that George's case could have been a coincidence - it's not uncommon for scammers to chance their arm with multiple emails at different times."

DVLA's 5 tips to beat the scammers

1. Only use GOV.UK so you can be sure that you're dealing directly with DVLA .

2. Never share images on social media that contain personal information, such as your driving licence and vehicle documents .

3. Report online scams to Action Fraud .

4. Report misleading adverts to search engines.

5. Keep up to date with internet safety - read more about online scams and phishing , and how to stay safe online .

The DVLA will never send texts or emails asking you to confirm personal information or payment details via a link.

Never click on links from emails or text messages saying they are from the DVLA, report them to Action Fraud then delete immediately.

If you've already put your payment details into one, contact your bank or card provider straight away.
(Which ?, August 2019)

Full article [Option 1]:

Scammers often pose as the DVLA to try to trick you into handing over your money, banking details or personal information.

They do this in a variety of ways - but the most common methods are through text scams or email scams.

Remember: the DVLA never sends texts or emails which ask you to confirm personal information or payment details via a link.

If you get this, do not open any links and delete it immediately.


The DVLA itself says it doesn't send text messages with links asking for payment details or advising of a refund.

These can come from random numbers or appear to come from the DVLA in the name if the scammer has 'number spoofed' the official number.

Here we outline some of the common DVLA text scams.

DVLA final request text scam

This scam will usually have capitalised letters such as 'ACTION REQUIRED' or 'FINAL REQUEST' along with a link.

DVLA vehicle tax refund scam

Another common scam text warns you about an outstanding vehicle-tax refund and usually includes the amount you're supposedly owed, eg £53.20 and a link.

DVLA trying to contact you text scam

In this scam text, you're told that the DVLA has been trying to contact you and that your action is required, along with a link.


Scammers won't stop at just texting to try to trick you into handing over your savings - they'll also try email you.

The DVLA says it doesn't send emails with links, so if you get one from someone pretending to be from them you should report it to Action Fraud then delete immediately. If you have clicked on the link, we can guide you through what to do.

Here we detail some of the more common DVLA email scams.

DVLA failed payment email scam

This scam will often come with a subject line along the lines of: 'Your latest vehicle tax failed' with an ID number.

The body of the email will then tell you that your latest vehicle tax failed to be processed because your billing details have change or expired.

The emails look official because it says the DVLA will automatically try to bill you in five working days and prompts you to follow a link where you can update your details.

It will also threaten you with a fine of up to £1,000 if you don't pay on time - this is the legitimate fine for untaxed vehicles, which makes the scam emails evermore convincing.

DVLA not up-to-date with vehicle tax email scam

This scam email will come to you with a subject line along the lines of: 'You are not up to date with your vehicle tax' and include an item reference number.

The body of the email will say that according to their records, you're not up to date with your vehicle tax and include a warning about 'unpleasant consequences' if you don't pay.

The email will include a link prompting you to start the process.

Again, this is all a rouse to get you to get your payment details.

What to do if you've followed any links or handed over payment details

If you've already clicked a link in what you know realise was a DVLA scam text or email, don't input any personal or card details.

But if you've already put in your bank details or card information, you should contact your bank or card provider immediately.

You should also report any calls, texts, emails or suspicious online activity to the Police via Action Fraud immediately.

You can do this by using their online reporting tool or by calling Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

If you've already lost money to a scam, not all hope might be lost - especially if you act quickly. We can help you with how to get your money back after being scammed :

(7th September 2019)

(Mirror, dated 8th August 2019 author Nadeem Badshah)

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Over £50million worth of illegal Viagra has been seized over the past five years in Britain, figures show.

Around 4.7 million unlicensed pills were found in 2018 alone by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), compared to around 4.6 million in 2017.

The impotence drugs seized last year were worth an estimated £14.2 million compared to £13.9m in 2017.

Experts have warned buying unlicensed versions of the drug online and from abroad can cause breathing problems and other health issues.

Professor Mahendra Patel, an honorary visiting professor in pharmacy at the University of Bradford, warned: "You do not know if the source is legitimate and the quality and standard of the product.

"You don't know if it fits the standard in this country, any impurities used, how much of the drug there is.

"It can cause problems if not brought by bona fide sources like your GP, over the counter at your local pharmacist or through a prescription.

"The dose could be too high, too low, it could break down incorrectly in the body or set off allergic responses.

"People have been hospitalised with respiratory problems. Sometimes people are led by price - your health should be the priority."

Since 2018, Viagra Connect is available at chemists and registered online pharmacies without a prescription for around £4 a pill.

MHRA said many treatments for erectile problems "are not genuine - they are unauthorised generic versions which cannot be legally traded in UK and, as their contents are unknown, may cause harm."

The MHRA also shuts down rogue websites and online pharmacies flogging illegal medicine.

Last year it closed down 123 websites and removed 353 online adverts.

An MHRA spokesman added: "Always purchase medicines from a registered pharmacy or reputable retail outlet.

"When purchasing online, look for the Distance Selling Logo.

"If you have any concerns about your health, speak to your doctor or a healthcare professional.

"Don't gamble with your health, look after number one."

In July, Edward Cohen, 67, was jailed for laundering cash from the sale of counterfeit erectile dysfunction and slimming pills through bank accounts linked to a charity.

Cohen, from North London, was sentenced to a total of seven-and-a-half years for money laundering and theft offences, and two years and three months' imprisonment for benefit fraud.

A Met Police probe found websites offering erectile dysfunction pills and slimming aids aimed at customers in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and France.

(7th September 2019)

(This is Money, dated 8th August 2019 author Tanya Jefferies

Full article [Option 1]:

Two in five pension savers would fall for a common scam tactic and those who consider themselves financially savvy are as likely to be duped as anyone else, new research reveals.

Savers aged 45-65 were presented with six ploys that fraudsters often use to rip off unsuspecting victims, in a quiz run by watchdogs attempting to alert the public to the dangers of pension scams.

Unusual investments touting high returns and offers to help access a pension before reaching 55, were the ruses most likely to lure savers into discussions about their retirement finances.

Victims of heartless pension scams reported losing an average of £82,000 last year, according to Action Fraud figures.

Pension freedom reforms, which allow over-55s to access their entire retirement savings pots in one go, have made this money a target for criminals.

Some 42 per cent of people were persuaded by at least one of the six fraud tactics, and said they would say yes or engage with someone using this approach on them.

The 28 per cent of people who said they were actively looking for ways to boost their retirement income proved more vulnerable, with 60 per cent taken in by at least one of the fraud scenarios.

Some 78 per cent of savers identified themselves as financially savvy, but were just as liable to be deceived as everyone else, according to the research by the Financial Conduct Authority and The Pensions Regulator.

The results of their quiz point to around five million people across the UK - out of 13million 45 to 65-year-olds in total - being at risk of pension fraud, according to the regulators which are currently running a ScamSmart awareness campaign on TV, radio and online.

Take the quiz yourself here, and for more about the mind tricks scammers play on their victims, check out tips from psychologist Honey Langcaster-James here.

What fraud tactics are effective with savers?

1. Offering exotic investment opportunities

High returns in exotic-sounding investment schemes - like overseas property, renewable energy bonds, forestry, biofuels or storage units - were most likely to tempt savers, with 23 per cent willing to pursue such an offer even though they are high risk.

2. Calls out of the blue

The same percentage of savers as above thought it would be fine to chat about their pension plans with someone from an unknown company who rang up to discuss the topic with them.

They would ask for website details, request further information, and find out what was on offer, in this scenario.

That is despite a heavily publicised new ban on cold calling people about pensions, which started in January. Firms breaking the rules face fines of up to £500,000.

3. Offering early access to your pension pot

This is another common approach by scammers, and 17 per cent of savers said they would be interested in talking about tapping their pension pots before they are 55.

But so-called 'pension liberation' fraud is particularly devastating, because victims lose their savings and then get landed with a 55 per cent tax bill on the missing money.

Just because the cash is gone doesn't mean people get let off the tax penalty for accessing a pension early, because HMRC says it has to apply legislation fairly and consistently.

4. Guaranteed high returns on your pension savings

Some 13 per cent of savers surveyed would pursue an offer that guaranteed returns of 11 per cent.

That is way above what people receive in interest from regular savings accounts and products, where their money is protected up to £85,000 per bank, building society or credit union.

Meanwhile, people targeting that level of return from legitimate investments like shares and funds have to accept high levels of risk to their capital, with no guarantees.

5. Offering to review your pension for free

One in 10 people would say yes to such an offer from a company they had not dealt with before.

In addition to the risk of being lured into a scam, it is unwise to give personal details and financial information to firms you are not absolutely certain are legitimate. See below for how to check if a financial firm is authorised by the FCA.

6. Time-limited offers

Some seven per cent would take up a special deal if a firm said it wasn't available for long, and they would send a courier so you could sign paperwork immediately.

The latter offer is a red flag that you are dealing with a fraudster.


The regulators' survey of more than 2,000 people offers fresh evidence that believing you are financially savvy does not make you any less likely to get caught out by a scam.

In a previous exercise by Citizens Advice, three out of four people said they felt confident they could spot a pension scam, but when put to the test the vast majority were fooled.

It presented them with three mock adverts, two of which contained glaring examples of scams, and asked which they were most likely to pick for help with their pension.

Some 88 per cent of people overall chose one of the fraudulent ads. Among those who had expressed confidence about detecting scams, 87 per cent selected one of these offers.

The FCA and TPR offer the following tips to dodge common pitfalls :

1. Reject unexpected pension offers whether made online, on social media or over the phone.

2. Check who you're dealing with before changing your pension arrangements - check the FCA Register here or call the FCA contact centre on 0800 111 6768 to see if the firm you are dealing with is authorised by the FCA.

The FCA warning list, which will help you check if an investment opportunity is a scam, is here :

3. Don't be rushed or pressured into making any decision about your pension.

4. Consider getting impartial information and advice. See the box on the right for where to turn for help.

Guy Opperman, Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, said: 'Pensions are one of the largest and most important investments we'll ever make, and robbing someone of their retirement is nothing short of despicable.

'We know we can beat these callous crooks, because getting the message out there does work.

'Last year's pension scams awareness campaign prevented hundreds of people from losing as much as £34million, and I'm backing this year's effort to be bigger and better as we build a generation of savvy savers.'

Psychologist Honey Langcaster-James, who gives in-depth insights into techniques used by scammers here, said: 'Most people are confident in their ability to avoid being scammed.

'We tend to assume that it would never happen to us because we think we'd notice something if it wasn't right.

'But even the smartest and savviest among us can become victims of crimes and we do often have a 'blind spot'.


- The offer won't last long

- You're entitled to a free government review

- You'll make a better return by investing in storage units/forests/overseas property

- There's a guaranteed 7 per cent return

- We'll send a courier over with your documents

- Can you sign quickly - I'm parked on a double yellow line

- There's a legal loophole

- You're a sophisticated investor

- It's free

- Your pension company might try to talk you out of it - they just want to keep your money


- Action Fraud: If you suspect a fraud, report it to the UK's national fraud and internet crime reporting centre, Action Fraud on 0300 1232040.

- The Pensions Advisory Service: Offers free and impartial guidance on pensions and will tell you how to spot a scammer.

- Pension Wise: Over-50s who want to take advantage of new pension freedoms can make a face-to-face or phone appointment with the Government's free guidance service on 0800 802 1345, or call 44 20 3733 3495 if you live outside the UK.

- Pension Tracing Service: Some scammers will offer to help you find lost pensions but the Government will offer free help. Take care if you do an online search for the Pension Tracing Service as many companies using similar names will pop up in the results. These will also offer to look for your pension, but try to charge or flog you other services, and could be fraudulent.

(7th September 2019)

(The Scottish Sun, dated 7th August 2019 author Sara Benwell)

Full article [Option 1]:

FIVE million retirees are at risk of having their pensions stolen by clever fraudsters.

Financial watchdogs are alerting consumers to six clever tactics used by con men after research showed that 42 per cent of savers are likely to be vulnerable.

It's easy to think that scams are something that happen to someone else, but the study found that people who considered themselves smart or financially savvy are just as likely to be taken in as anyone else.

Victims of pensions fraud have £82,000 stolen on average, often to what look like bona fide investment companies, but turn out to be sophisticated and smart criminals.

If you're approaching retirement, or have parents or grandparents who are - here are the tactics they need to be aware of:

Offers to access a pension early

Many people are frustrated by the rules and regulations around getting access to their pensions.

Because of this, clever scammers offer schemes to help people get their hands on their money sooner.

It works too. A worrying 17 per cent of 45-54 year olds said they would talk to a company that said it could help them get their savings quicker.

But accessing your pension before 55 is likely to result in a large tax bill for the saver.

In many cases it's not even possible under the rules of your pension.

Such promises are likely to be the work of fraudsters who want to get their hands on your cash.

Out-of-the-blue cold calls

Some 23 per cent of all those surveyed said they'd talk with a cold caller that wanted to discuss their pension plans.

Nearly a quarter said they would ask for website details, request further information or find out what they're offering, even if the call came out of the blue - despite the government's ban on pension cold-calls this January.

The ban means that it is now illegal for legitimate companies to call you to discuss your information.

That means an unexpected call will undoubtedly be a scammer - no matter how realistic or professional it sounds.

Even if the phone number matches your bank or pension provider, it could still be a fraudster.

Spoofing scams means that criminals can make it look like they are calling from an official source.

Guaranteed high returns on savings

Over one in ten (13 per cent) of 45-54 year olds said they would be interested in a caller who guaranteed high returns on their savings.

They said that returns of just 11 per cent would be enough to pique their interest,

Generally speaking, if an investment opportunity sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Often the scammers are sophisticated, with fancy websites, investment brochures and other slick materials - making the opportunity look like a real one.

Sometimes they will use exotic or interesting investment opportunities to explain why the returns are so high.

a quarter of those surveyed said they would pursue an offer of high returns in things like overseas properties, renewable energy bonds, forestry, storage units or biofuel.

These sorts of high risk investments are usually not suitable for pensions investing - if they exist in the first place.

Offering a free pensions review

Offering a free pension review is one of the tactics that criminals use to get access to your personal details.

Often, this can be enough to steal funds or commit identity fraud.

Or it could be a tactic to try and persuade you that there are better investment opportunities - in order to steal your money.

One in ten 45-54 year olds said that they would fall for this tactic.

They said they would pursue a free review - even if they have never heard of the company before.

Time-limited offers

Saying that an investment is time-limited is one of the tactics scammers use to pressure people into handing over their money.

Often, the reasons for the need for speed can seem legitimate.

They may say that it's a short term opportunity before a stock floats, or that lots of people want in on the deal so you need to act fast.

Legitimate companies will never try and pressure someone into a quick deal.

If you're feeling flustered, then hang up immediately.

Gregg McClymont, at pension provider The People's Pension, said: "In recent years, the fraud landscape has changed dramatically and pensions savers can fall prey to transfers from a legitimate pension scheme into an occupational pension scheme or self-invested personal pension (SIPP) that looks legitimate but is in fact a fraud.

"It is now frighteningly easy to transfer money from a legitimate pension scheme into other investment products, from where, in some cases, ruthless scammers can help themselves.

"More needs to be done."

Honey Langcaster-James, psychologist, added: "Most people are confident in their ability to avoid being scammed... But even the smartest and savviest among us can become victims of crimes.

"Sophisticated scammers take advantage of this and use powerful psychological techniques to build trust and rapport and ultimately to influence our behaviour."

Guy Opperman, Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion added: "Pensions are one of the largest and most important investments we'll ever make, and robbing someone of their retirement is nothing short of despicable."

"We know we can beat these callous crooks, because getting the message out there does work."

How to spot a scam

The FCA and TPR are urging the public to be ScamSmart with their pension and always check who they're dealing with.

THE regulators recommend four simple steps to protect yourself:

1. Reject unexpected pension offers whether made online, on social media or over the phone. A legitmate provider will never make unsolicited contact.
2. Check who you're dealing with before changing your pension arrangements. Check the FCA Register or call the FCA contact centre on 0800 111 6768 to see if the firm you are dealing with is authorised by the FCA.
3. Don't be rushed or pressured into making any decision about your pension. Real pensions and investment companies won't tell you that you need to sign on a deadline to get a deal
4. Consider getting impartial information and advice. Free guidance for over-50s is available from Pension Wise.

Been scammed?

- Call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or go to
- Call  the Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047
- Try the FCA's ScamSmart website to see if the deal on offer is a known scam.Go to scamsmart

(7th September 2019)

(Mirror, dated 5th August 2019 authors Martyn Landi and Latifa Yedroudj)

Full article [Option 1]:

UK's students are at risk of email scams as many institutions have not installed right tools to block such threats, research has found.

According to a report by cybersecurity firm Proofpoint, Britain's top 20 universities were not using any inbuilt software to protect their students from falling trap to fraudulent emails.

65 per cent of universities in the top 20 ranking were not using any form of an industry-recommended email authentication tool, the research claimed.

This could easily allow cyber criminals to imitate university emails and steal students' personal data.

The email authentication software recommended by cybersecurity companies is called the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) record.

The system is used to verify whether an address being used by an email sender is genuine or fake.

Only one out of Britain's top 20 universities were found to be using the recommended DMARC protection tool, research has found.

Meanwhile, 35 per cent of other institutions were using some form of software to block email scams but they were below the recommended level.

Proofpoint's vice president of threat operations Kevin Epstein said he is afraid scammers may try and trick students into sharing their personal information.

"By not implementing simple, yet effective email authentication best practices,

Universities may be unknowingly exposing themselves and their students to cybercriminals on the hunt for personal data," he said.

"Email continues to be the vector of choice for cybercriminals.

"Proofpoint researchers found that the education sector saw the largest year-over-year increase in email fraud attacks of any industry in 2018, soaring 192 percent to 40 attacks per organisation on average.

"Institutions and organisations in all sectors should look to deploy authentication protocols, such as DMARC to shore up their email fraud defences.

"Cybercriminals are always going to leverage key events to drive targeted attacks using social engineering techniques such as impersonation and universities are no exception to this."

Mr Epstein encouraged students to be cautious of any requests to log-in when opening emails, or threats to suspend a service or account if a link is not clicked, especially during the A-level results day period.

He added: "Ahead of A-Level results day, student applicants must be vigilant in checking the validity of all emails, especially on a day when guards are down, and attentions are focused on their future."

In response to the research, spokesman for the the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said: "NCSC experts work closely with the academic sector to improve their security practices and help protect education establishments from cyber threat."

(7th September 2019)

(Action Fraud, dated 2nd August 2019)

Be Aware

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has received intelligence to suggest that fraudsters are contacting social media influencers, based in the UK and abroad, offering them the opportunity to market a bogus product, service or investment opportunity.

Fraudsters will present professional and credible pitches to the social media influencers and try to convince them to feature the opportunity for a fee on their social media profiles in order to entice unsuspecting followers of the influencer to sign up or make a purchase.

Additionally, fraudsters are using the names of well-known public figures, implying that their opportunity or product is endorsed by the figure when it is not.

The public should be aware that any apparent endorsement by celebrities, influencers or personalities does not necessarily mean that an investment, product or service is genuine. The public is urged to exercise a cautious approach to any such offer of investment, product or service with the same caution they would at any other time.

What You Need To Do

- If you are purchasing goods from a company you don't know and trust, carry out some research first, or ask friends or family for advice before completing a purchase.

- Professional-looking websites, adverts or social media posts do not guarantee that an investment opportunity or product is genuine. Criminals can exploit the names of well-known brands or individuals to make them appear legitimate.

- Avoid paying for goods or services by bank transfer unless you know and trust the person or company. Payments via bank transfer offer you no protection if you become a victim of fraud. Instead, use your credit card or payment services such as PayPal as they offer you greater protection if you become a victim of fraud.

(3rd August 2019)

JULY 2019

(Action Fraud, dated 31st July 2019)

Action Fraud has received 63 reports about a scam in which fraudsters target people with offers of "low cost" loans or "free" government grants. What the victims aren't told is that the money they'll receive is actually an advance payment for Universal Credit. The criminals use the personal information they've obtain under false pretences to make an application in the victim's name. After the fraudsters have taken their "fee" from the advance payment, the victim is then left to pay back the total amount once their repayments begin.

How you can protect yourself:

- Never share your personal or financial information with someone you don't know and trust, especially if it's in response to an offer of "free money" or a "free grant".
- Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) staff will never approach you in the street or ask for your personal/financial details over social media.
- If you have concerns about your benefits, you should visit
- If you suspect your identity may have been stolen, you can check your credit rating quickly and easily online. You should do this every few months anyway, using a reputable service provider and following up on any unexpected or suspicious results.

(1st August 2019)

(Guardian, dated 30th July 2019 author Miles Brignall)

Full article [Option 1]:

Readers letter (PI, London)

We have had solar panels on our roof for some years and all is working well. Last week we received a letter from the British Trading Solar Association warning us that the five-year warranty on our inverter was due to expire. It invited us to book a free health check and service. I have never heard of the BTSA and it did not install our system. Can you shed any light on this?

Author response

In March this year the Microgeneration Certification Scheme issued a warning about these letters, and told people to bin them. They appear to be a ruse to get people to sign up to unnecessary services or similar. I'd suggest you follow this advice.

And SS from Lichfield says readers should also be aware of a fake TV licence email that is doing the rounds. It invites recipients to update their bank details via a link embedded in the email.

There have been lots of letters going out recently from the actual TV Licensing body concerning the ending of free licences for the over-75s.

As ever, be wary of any web link in an email, however official it looks.

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at
or write to Consumer Champions, Money, the Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a daytime phone number.

(1st August 2019)

(This is Money, dated 30th July 2019 authr Grace Gausden)

Full article [Option 1]:

One in ten couples who have fallen victim to a wedding scam have then gone on to cancel their big day at the last minute, new data has revealed.

Phantom photographers, florists and non-existent wedding planners are the most common wedding scams, according to research from Barclays.

One couple were conned just weeks before their big day and lost £1,000 to a wedding caterer who never delivered.

Bimpe Johnson, the bride-to-be, said: 'The initial financial effect was obviously shocking and annoying.

'Just knowing I had lost a large amount of money in that time was just so annoying and all this happening quite close to the wedding date too, but luckily I had family and friends on hand to help cover the costs.'

Barclays data found that 17 per cent of those married in the last year have been victim to some form of a wedding-related scam, leaving unsuspecting couples horrified to learn their dream day has been targeted by con artists. 

The average wedding in Britain now costs £30,000 meaning many couples will be looking to save money where they can - providing a lucrative opportunity for scammers to exploit, especially as people may be feeling stressed or time-stretched.

The data found 15 per cent of people were scammed on their actual wedding day.

The impact of a scam can, unsurprisingly, have a significant impact on couples with 17 per cent saying being conned has ruined their big day.

The research was based on 2,000 people who have been married in the last ten years or are planning to get married in the next two years.

I should have taken my time finding a caterer...

Bimpe, 28, had been getting to the intricate stages of her wedding planning and was looking for a caterer to provide meals for 200 guests.

Her budget wasn't huge and she wanted to try and cut costs on the caterer. She went online and found an independent vendor that appeared legitimate.

After speaking to them via phone, they arranged to meet in a coffee shop. After the initial discussion, Bimpe arranged to go for a tasting session. She then paid a deposit of £1,000 to secure their services.

Bimpe wanted to introduce the vendor to her wedding co-ordinator to draw up a menu but when it came to arrange this meeting, she didn't get any response to her calls or emails.

Then the penny dropped.

Stressed, upset and £1,000 out of pocket, Bimpe had to act fast and ask family members, as well as friends, to help front the costs for an alternative caterer.

'I was so angry and still quite annoyed to this day. I just felt silly that I had let that happen to me. There were no reviews of that vendor online - that really should have been a red flag.'

On reflection, she felt she should have taken more time to look for caterers and realised she acted hastily in paying with no money back guarantees.

'If I could do it all again, I would have had the wedding co-ordinator draw a list up of trusted caters and pick one from there to avoid all of the stress.'

Unfortunately, Bimpe and her groom are not the only ones who struggled to find cash to cover the stolen money.

Some 34 per cent also said they had to dip into their honeymoon savings to cover the cost of the scam while another 22 per cent said a scam had sparked a row with their partner.

Photographers who never turned up for the day made up the majority of scams at 20 per cent whilst florists who never delivered and non-existent wedding planners were both also accountable for 16 per cent of scams.

The stress and amount of time it takes to organise the perfect day could lead to busy couples making costly mistakes with one in five stating they would buy wedding items from dodgy discount sites.

Meanwhile, 16 per cent said they would purchase off social media sites.

Worryingly, 18 per cent of couples also say they would be happy to buy wedding items off the first website they visit - just to save a couple of hours of research.

It is not surprising that some couples fall victims to scams when looking at how many essential items are bought within just a month of the wedding.

Some 35 per cent buy flowers at the last minute whilst 30 per cent of people purchase cakes late and 25 per cent of brides even buy their wedding dresses just a few weeks before the big day.

Ross Martin, Barclays head of digital safety, said: 'As the peak wedding season is underway, it is easy to forget our online safety as couples rush to secure those last-minute purchases to make their day as perfect as possible.

'Weddings are expensive, so it is understandable couples try to save where possible, but it is important that you take your time and be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, so you don't let fraudsters ruin your big day.'

Another scam growing in popularity is where soon-to-be married couples book a photo booth for their wedding day but the firm responsible never shows up.

John Lewis Wedding Insurance revealed that a growing number of brides and grooms are being hoodwinked by these companies.

The firm said its first claim about a photo booth no-show was in 2017 and it has since paid out for several more cases.

Top tips to beat the scammers

Barclays have revealed their tops tips on how you can beat the wedding scammers: 

1. Do your research: 29 per cent of couples admitted they felt stressed whilst preparing for their wedding and 20 per cent felt overwhelmed with all the purchasing decisions. Be thorough and do not let your emotions cloud your judgement.

2. Too good to be true: If the price looks too good to be true, the alarm bells should be ringing. Weddings are expensive events, and fraudsters will often lure people in with heavily discounted prices to draw you in. Do not play into the hands of those opportunists offering cheap deals.

3. Read the reviews: You should always look for reviews online before making a purchase. This is even more important when booking a service such as a wedding planner. Always ask for references to avoid being caught out.

4. Get written confirmation: A lot of newly engaged couples will be unsure of how much everything should cost and what makes an event run smoothly, and scammers will take advantage of this lack of knowledge. Always try and obtain written confirmation for any supplier agreements, to ensure you are covered by your wedding insurance.

5. Never let your guard down: Do not let security measures slip as you try to bag a deal. Remember, always look out for the padlock symbol in the web address to ensure that the link between you and the website owner is secure. If this symbol is not there, do not continue to payment or enter any of your personal details.

(1st August 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 28th July 2019 authors Michael Powell and Ben Ellery)

Full article [Option 1]:

A compensation cowboy exposed by The Mail on Sunday has become the first fraudster to be jailed for encouraging people to submit fake holiday sickness claims.

Brian Cromby was given a 12-month sentence last week after a court heard that he briefed undercover reporters on how to scam insurers, telling them: 'Most of my clients weren't sick.'

Cromby's firm, RTA Solutions, even sponsored a cancer charity's fundraising boxing match, then cynically used it to drum up fake claims.

He hired two young women to hand out his business cards at the event where he was secretly filmed telling two journalists how he could secure them each a payout of £2,000 if they lied about being ill on holiday.

'All you have to say is you had the s***s for a week and that's it and I'll get you two grand,' he boasted.

'It's as simple as that, yeah? Two grand, that's the average pay cheque. If you want to say you were sick for ten days or two weeks, I'll get you three grand.'

During the event in May 2017, the Liverpool-based businessman also offered to coach the journalists on how to concoct their fake stories, adding: 'I'll tell you all the symptoms that you had… You don't need no medical evidence.'

The 34-year-old, who had previously pleaded guilty to encouraging an offence, sat stony-faced in the dock at Liverpool Crown Court on Friday as Judge David Aubrey sentenced him.

'In my view, you were rumbled by investigative journalists and you were rumbled plying a dishonest trade under the guise of a legitimate business,' the judge told him.

'In truth it was a sham. It was a scam and at the very least it was promoting or encouraging dishonest civil claims.

What you were intending was to persuade another to dupe, deceive, swindle, defraud a travel company by making representations relating to potential holiday sickness, when in truth you were promoting dishonesty.

'You thought the investigative journalists were potential clients and you were driven by the concept of dishonest, easy money.'

He added: 'You had set up a claims business called RTA Solutions, but it had nothing whatsoever to do with solutions. It was to do with promoting dishonest civil claims.'

Turning to Cromby's exchange with the journalists at the charity event, the judge said: 'You say it was marketing bravado, but it was nothing of the sort. You were seeking to make another dishonest claim for holiday sickness.'

RTA Solutions, which was set up in 2014 and closed in May, found clients and directed them on to lawyers.

It is illegal for lawyers to pay claims companies for referrals but many dodge the rules by paying a monthly retainer.

The number of holiday sickness claims leapt by 500 per cent between 2015 and 2017, driven by unscrupulous claims-management companies such as RTA Solutions and law firms seeking to make a quick profit. The situation became so widespread that leading hoteliers in Spain were even forced to consider banning British tourists.

While holidaymakers have been fined and one couple jailed for submitting false holiday sickness claims, Cromby is the first claims businessman to be prosecuted.

Praising The Mail on Sunday, Clive Myerscough, a Merseyside Police fraud investigator, said: 'People like Cromby who encourage others to make fraudulent claims against the travel industry also risk undermining genuine holiday sickness claims. I want to thank the journalists who reported his offending and assisted our investigation.'

(1st August 2019)

(Mail on Sunday, dated 28th July 2019 author Alexandra Shulman)

Full article [Option 1]:

I was leaving a friend's house when I received the first message, a voicemail from a photographer I hadn't spoken to in months saying they gathered I was trying to get in touch. I hadn't been.

A few hours later, an American magazine editor I scarcely knew phoned me as I was cooking dinner, with the same message. What could he help me with? The next day, I was contacted by many of the most high-profile names in fashion, media and film. Yup. I'd been the victim of email identity theft.

It would have been hilarious if it weren't so creepy and inconvenient. The fraudster had been enjoying themselves impersonating me on a Gmail account I didn't remember I even had, contacting people with individually crafted requests, many intended to make me look an idiot.

Some had me touting for work - one suggested a gig on YouTube interviewing 'fashion luminaries' (by the way, a term that makes me gag), another had me hoping to apply for the editorship of a French magazine. Several asked for personal phone numbers.

Another had me offering a photographer $200,000 for portraits of Saudi princes. And in possibly the most bizarre instance, I supposedly requested a photoshoot with a famous Brazilian drag queen for British Vogue, a magazine I haven't edited in two years.

By the time an ex-assistant of mine was approached, rather than a famous name, I began to consider this may not be some 16-year-old in Belarus getting a kick out of contacting celebrities, but possibly someone with inside knowledge of my life. Which was even more disturbing.

Of course, I tried to shut the account down but I hadn't used it in over a decade and had no idea how to get into it. The process of attempting to discover how I could do that was wildly frustrating and sent me down a mind-numbing Kafkaesque path that ended in failure and despair. Finally, I pulled some strings and managed to get myself into the account and, I hope, the imposter shut out.

Having your email stolen is extremely unpleasant but I was relatively lucky. I didn't have my contacts list attached to the account (so the fraudster had to do their own dirty work finding out people's email addresses).

As far as I know, no money has been stolen. No violence was threatened. But the idea of somebody trying to get inside my head, to infiltrate my life and spend hours working out how to cause trouble to me and the people they think I might know, is distressing.

Of course, I am not alone in this occurrence. Many people have their email compromised - my hacker just targeted a starrier list of names than most. Yet dealing with the fallout is ludicrously complex.

Despite owning an account, the activities that take place on it are not your property. Obviously I wanted to see who had been contacted but even though I could access the account and see who was replying, the sent messages had been deleted and I was allowed no access to them without using a lawyer.

While I was able to discover a certain amount of information about the scammer (for example, where some of the emails were sent from - a suburb of Athens), the only way Google would release their identity would be through a court order.

Nowadays, a huge part of our lives is lived via email. We rely on it to communicate personally, administratively and professionally. What we write is, to a large extent, who we are.

Yet when a fraudster appropriates an account in our name and sends out messages that might cause real reputational damage or emotional distress, we're shut out of any information that might help discover the extent of the damage or who the perpetrator might be.

(1st August 2019)

(This is Money, dated 27th July 2019 author Sally Hamilton)

Full article [Option 1]:

Couples planning to hire a photo booth for their wedding celebrations should watch out for fraudsters that take their cash and do not turn up on the day.

Photo booths have grown in popularity in recent years as an entertaining way for brides and grooms to record memories of guests attending their reception.

But wherever business booms, crooks loom.

Analysis of claims by a leading wedding insurance company found that a growing number of brides and grooms are being hoodwinked by booth firms that never show up.

According to John Lewis Wedding Insurance, its first claim about a photo booth no-show was in 2017 and it has paid out for several more cases since.

Mike Jackson, director of financial services at John Lewis Partnership, says: 'Most couples planning their wedding would never imagine that their supplier could be a fraudster.

'It is particularly upsetting for those who only discover they have been scammed when a supplier fails to show up on their wedding day.'

Jamie Mannan, owner of booth firm Surrey FaceBooth, has helped pick up the pieces for many couples who discover before their wedding day that they have been scammed.

He recommends couples check for culprits on Facebook groups such as 'Wedding Scammers Don't Let Them Win'.

When booking a service, pay any deposit with a credit card. This means you should be protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act and get your money back.

Venue cancellation and supplier failure are covered by wedding insurance. Policies cost between £20 and £150, dependent on the amount of cover required.

A wedding supplier or venue that acts unfairly should be reported to Trading Standards by calling Citizens Advice on 03454 040506. Report any scam to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

(1st August 2019)

(Mirror, dated 24th July 2019 author Emma Munbodh)

Full article [Option 1]:

A criminal who committed over £115,000 of cheque fraud at bank branches across the UK has been jailed for 27 months.

Colin Mosdell, 33, pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation after an investigation found he had used counterfeit drivers' licences and cheques featuring fake signatures to impersonate business customers and fraudulently withdraw money from their accounts.

The conman targeted over 18 high street banks up and down the country, from Plymouth to Sheffield.

He stole a total of £115,064 between 15 October 2017 and 23 December 2018, making a series of withdrawals worth between £1,000 and £5,000.

A further £21,670 worth of fraud was blocked by bank staff, after Lloyds workers reported suspicious activity to police arm the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU).

CCTV footage showed the fraudster was smartly dressed and grinning as he tried to persuade bank branch staff that he was a genuine customer.

The DCPCU tracked Mosdell down and arrested him in Northampton on 12 March 2019. By the time of his arrest he was wanted by four police forces across the country.

A search of the flat in Northampton that Mosdell was residing in at the time found a series of hand-written notes with attempted fake signatures on them.

Colin Mosdell, originally from Northamptonshire, also had a previous conviction for burglary and robbery from August 2016 and another conviction for 21 burglaries from 2011.

 Detective Constable Alex Coubrough, who investigated the case, said: "Mosdell was a prolific offender who thought he could make easy money from fraud. He travelled the length and breadth of the country, using sophisticated fake documents to defraud businesses out of over £115,000.

"Working closely with the banking industry we were able to identify this repeat fraudster and bring him to justice. This sentence sends a strong message that banks and the police take fraud extremely seriously and those responsible will be caught and punished."

All victims were fully refunded.

Protect your identity from fraud

1. Always use different passwords for different accounts - particularly for your email account and online banking.

2. Always destroy personal IDs and bank cards after they expire - both the DVLA and Passport Office will ask that you return old documents that you no longer need. If you lose your ID, report it as lost or stolen.

3. Invest in a shredder for disposing of any bank statements and documents with your address, name or sensitive details on.

4. When using public computers, always tick the 'do not save' box when entering your password. Likewise, avoid using public wi-fi to access accounts on the go.

5. Before entering payment details online check the link is secure. There should be a padlock symbol in the browser window frame (not the page itself), and the web address should being with 'https://'. The 's' stands for 'secure'.

6. On social media, always use privacy settings to ensure that only friends and family can see your posts.

7. Set up a passcode on your phone to prevent it from being used in the event of it being lost or stolen.

8. Regularly check your credit reference files as this will flag up any unusual credit applications, loans and more in your name.

(1st August 2019)

(Surrey Live, dated 24th July 2019 author Christopher McKeon)

Full article [Option 1]:

Online dating fraudsters have been convicted of conning two "sensible, professional" women out of £240,000 between 2016 and 2017.

Using the names Kevin Churchill and Kevin Thompson, the gang posed as wealthy, jet-setting businessmen on internet dating sites, convincing their victims that they were in a genuine, loving relationship before making demands for money.

Police said the gang - Yaw Sarpong, Nicholas Adade Adu, Eric Ocansey, Obed Addo, Daniel Keh and Makeda Stair - began by asking for money to pay for a vet's bill, taking advantage of their victims' love of animals and claiming the money was to pay for treatment for a sick dog.

One of the victims ended up paying £200,000 to the romance fraudsters over the two years, with the gang telling her the money was for solicitors' fees, travel accommodation and flights among other ruses. At one point, she travelled to Brussels to give money to people she thought were from the Haitian government.

 According to Surrey Police, much of the £200,000 was borrowed from family and friends, damaging the victim's relationships with those people.

The second victim paid a total of £40,000 to the gang, who used similar tactics to trick her out of the money.

Following the gang's conviction at Guildford Crown Court on Monday (July 22), Detective Constable Rebecca Mason, of Surrey Police's economic crime unit, said: "The victims are sensible, professional women, and in hindsight both are aghast that they were able to let themselves fall prey to these criminals.

"The impact on them has been shattering, and to this day they are struggling to rebuild their finances at a time in their lives when they should be planning for a relaxed retirement.

"This gang of fraudsters was very good at what they did, painting a picture of the idyllic life the victims would have with the man they thought they were in a serious relationship with. They were persuasive, cruel, forceful and manipulative."

Sarpong, 22, of Isleworth, was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation while associates Adade Adu, 23, of Blurton, Stoke-on-Trent, and Ocansey, 35, of Birmingham, had already pleaded guilty to the same charge.

Addo, 37, of Roehampton, was convicted of converting criminal property, while Keh, 25, of Enfield, and Stair, 23, also in Enfield, had pleaded guilty to that charge.

Keh and Stair also admitted supplying articles to be used in fraud and possessing articles to be used in fraud respectively.

DC Mason said: "They had every element of their story planned out and knew exactly what to say to take full advantage of these two generous, intelligent women.

"Most of us want companionship and to spend time with someone we feel a connection to, and most of us instinctively want to trust others.

"In truth, any one of us could fall for something like this."

Surrey Police's financial safeguarding officer, Bernadette Lawrie, added that romance fraud was "one of the fastest growing types of fraud affecting vulnerable people".

She said: "It has a real long-lasting emotional impact on victims who don't just experience a financial loss, but the heartbreak of the loss of a relationship they thought they had.

"It's an investment that goes far beyond money and we often see victims who don't eat or sleep, become reclusive or sever ties with family and friends."

The gang will be sentenced at Guildford Crown Court on August 2.

Surrey Police's DATES advice on avoiding romance fraud

Romance fraud is on the rise, according to Surrey Police, with conmen targeting vulnerable people via online dating sites.

To help reduce your risk of falling victim to these fraudsters, the force has issued the following advice:

- Don't rush into an online relationship - get to know the person, not the profile. Ask plenty of questions.
- Analyse their profile - confirm the person's identity. Check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly-used phrases and the term 'dating scam' into your search engine.

- Talk to your friends and family - be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them.
- Evade scams - never send money or share your bank details with someone you've only met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you've been speaking to them.

- Stay on the dating site messenger service - don't use email, phone, social media or other messaging apps until you're confident the person is who they say they are.

(1st August 2019)

(Bournemouth Echo, dated 23rd July 2019 author Alex Winter)

Full article [Option 1]:

 Professor Keith Brown, who is based at Bournemouth University, has warned the scale of all types of fraud is much greater than we know - and between just five and ten per cent of victims are reporting crime to police.

Many of those committing scams are based in countries from which the UK has no extradition powers, with Turkey identified as a particular hotspot, he said.

"There are lots of reasons a person might not report a scam, including shame and embarrassment," Prof Brown said.

"Sometimes, people don't know they're a victim.

"If you're an elderly person in the early stage of dementia and you're sold a repeated vitamin supplement, there might be more coming out of your account than you realise, for example."

People suffering cognitive decline are most likely to fall victim to fraudsters, Prof Brown said.

However, he also warned that those who are vulnerable in different ways can also be badly affected.

"If you're looking at clairvoyant scamming, we've got people who trawl through notices about recent deaths and make contact with the recently bereaved," he said.

"They call the victim and say they can make contact with the loved one for a small fee.

"It goes on for a while sometimes and then when the victim wants to stop payment, the fraudster will say, 'Carry on paying me or I'm going to put an evil curse on you'."

There have been few prosecutions of serious fraudsters. Many of the offenders aren't based in the UK, he said.

"Criminals behind these scams look at this on a 'risk and reward' basis," Prof Brown said.

"The risks are comparatively low, and the rewards are often extremely high.

"Criminals are often based outside the UK, and that presents issues. We don't have extradition orders for Turkey, for example.

"There's a massive challenge to police forces all over the country. The nature of the crime they're dealing with is changing very rapidly indeed.

"Criminals of this kind are fleet of foot and fast."

In the first four months of this year, 34 reports of fraud were made to police. A total of £331,682 is thought to have been lost to con artists.

(1st August 2019)

(Gloucestershire Live, dated 17th July 2019 author Phillip Thompson)

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A warning is being issued about criminals targeting elderly residents in Cheltenham, following a spate of fraudulent phone calls.

The criminals, who are claiming to be from TSB or Lloyds Bank, have been contacting people in the area telling them they need to replace the individual's bank card to a newer style.

They have been requesting some individual's pin numbers over the phone, and in one incident, successfully stole 'a large amount of money.'

Gloucestershire police has issued the warning after receiving a number of reports recently and warned that banks and officers will 'never require the pin of an old card.'

A spokesperson said: "One incident saw the caller part with a large amount of money and we would like to remind residents that your bank or police will never ask you to provide your personal details or pin number over the phone."

They added: "We're reminding the public to please be vigilant following a number of fraudulent phone calls targeting elderly residents in Cheltenham that have been reported to us recently.

"Fraudsters, claiming to be from TSB or LLoyds banks, have stated they need to replace the individual's bank card to a newer style.

"The fraudster will then claim that the card needs to be delivered to the individual's home address and that in order for them to do this, they will require the pin of the old card to transfer it to the new card.

Gloucestershire police has advised people to be vigilant and to contact them if they, or a family member they know, has had a similar call.

"We would like to encourage the public to ask to see an officer's warrant card if you ever have any suspicions about their identity.

"If yourself or a family member receives a call of this nature, please hang up immediately and report this by calling 101 or 99 if the incident is ongoing."

"If possible, we advise using a differing phone or waiting five minutes to ensure that the call has been disconnected."

(1st August 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 16th July 2019 author Tom Kelly) [Option 1]

Britons are the prime target for international phone scammers who make billions of pounds a year, a report showed last night.

An astonishing 15 per cent of all calls made by fraudsters are to the UK - by far the highest figure for a country in the G20 group of wealthy nations.

Only Somalia, Tunisia and Cuba suffer anything like the same level of criminal activity, according to the study based on information from 900 telecoms firms.

Researchers said that looser regulation and control over phone numbers made Britain vulnerable. A Daily Mail investigation revealed in March that scammers in India targeted Britons by phoning from numbers that appeared to those of HMRC officials. other scammers use the same tactics to impersonate high street bank staff or BT engineers, tricking vulnerable pensioners into transferring money they will never see again.

The study by BICS, a subsidiary of Belgian telecoms company Proximus, showed that of the 170 million fraudulent calls blocked by phone companies last year, 25million were to the UK.

Katia Gonzalez, the firm's head of fraud prevention, said: 'the UK is a long-suffering target of telecoms fraud, both in terms of its phone numbers being used to collect fraudulent traffic and its subscribers being targeted. Eradicating telecoms fraud is an ongoing battle, and one which will only be successfully waged with industrywide collaboration.

'Sharing information and knowledge will allow the sector to take a proactive approach to minimising fraud, protecting subscribers in the UK and globally.

'Fortunately, tools are available to make its detection and prevention easier for mobile operators.'

Another problem highlighted by the study was that the UK phone system lets criminals trick victims into calling back fake numbers that carry extortionate charges.

Over half a million fraudulent calls last year are believed to have involved numbers starting with 070 that can cost up to £1.50 a minute. there is no breakdown of how much phone fraud costs the UK, but the annual global bill is estimated at £24billion. Britons receive an average of seven bogus calls a month, according to the Global robocall radar study.

An Ofcom spokesman said: 'Malicious number spoofing is a complex and challenging global problem, which often involves disguised calls that have been routed over the internet and different countries' networks. ofcom continues to work closely with our partner regulators in the UK and overseas to tackle the problem.

'We identified concerns about scammers using 070 numbers to defraud people. so we've stepped in to help protect callers, reducing the amount phone companies can charge for connecting these calls and, with it, the incentive to use them fraudulently.'

But Zena Bhundia, a 33-year-old London teacher who lost over £5,000 to fake taxmen, said: 'it is only because they were calling from a UK number that i believed they were genuine. Why is the UK the worst hit country for these scams? if other countries do more to prevent this why can't we?'

Gangs falsely using celebrity names to sell diet pills or dodgy investments face a crackdown.

Scammers have been using ads on Facebook featuring famous figures to push expensive subscriptions for products - netting an estimated £200 million in 2018.

The social media site is setting up a scam ads reporting tool to root out the criminals and has given Citizens Advice £3million to help victims who have lost large sums of money.


CYBER attacks launched by criminals who pretend to be taxmen have declined by 58 per cent in a year.

Experts say fraudsters are giving up because the security services have become so effective at blocking them.

The attacks typically involve an email purporting to come from an official HMRC address, telling victims they are entitled to a refund. Victims type in their bank details only to find their accounts have been plundered.

Figures from GCHQ - the Government's intelligence and security service - show that 16,064 HMRC-related attacks were launched by fraudsters in 2017.

But this fell to just 6,752 in 2018 thanks to a 'concerted effort to dissuade criminals'.

One of the largest attacks last year involved

From the Mail, March 18 200,000 air passengers. Fraudsters intended to send them an email informing them they were entitled to refunds - with the aim of obtaining their bank details.

The emails were never sent because GCHQ's computer software detected the address was suspicious and shut it down.

A total of 140,000 cyber attacks were blocked by the agency in 2018. It said pensioners were vulnerable because they tend to be less suspicious about emails and texts.

(1st August 2019)

(Mirror, dated 16th July 2019 author Emma Munbodh)

Full article [Option 1]:

Social media users who complain about Facebook scams - and those who lose money to them - will now have their cases investigated by a specialist team of experts that will fight their corner and block the dangerous adverts.

On Tuesday, new rules kick in to combat online scam adverts on the back of a defamation lawsuit by Martin Lewis after users lost thousands of pounds to fake investment adverts.

On 23 January 2019, the consumer expert agreed to settle his case out of court, with a £3million payout to set up a new anti-scams initiative, and create a smart scam ads reporting tool on Facebook.

These are linked to fraudulent adverts, placed by criminals, which often use fake celebrity images or endorsements to dupe people into investing in fake 'get rich quick' schemes called 'Bitcoin Trader', buying diet pills and more.

They can lead to many people being conned out of their cash - in some cases their life savings - and have a serious impact on people's mental health and self-esteem.

Today, Facebook will launch a new scam ads reporting tool, accessible within the app, supported by a dedicated team, allowing people to easily report ads they believe to be misleading or scams on Facebook.

All UK users will be able to flag ads they believe to be scams or misleading by clicking the three dots in the top right corner of every ad on Facebook, pressing ' Report ad' , then choosing ' Misleading or scam   ad ' and then ' Send a detailed scam report' .

This will alert a new, dedicated, specially trained, internal operations team who will handle these reports, review and take down violating ads.

Elsewhere, Citizen's Advice has announced plans to deliver specialist one-on-one help to those worried they're being scammed and those who have already lost money.

The charity said it will also undertake scams prevention work to identify, tackle and raise awareness of online fraud in the UK.

People who think they have, or are being, scammed online can now get help from its Scams Action group by calling its fraud team on 0300 3303003, or using its online web support.

It will also offer face-to-face appointments for those who need it at their local Citizens Advice in England, Wales and Scotland.

However, the service won't just be for scam ads - it will also help with email fraud such as antivirus and fake invoice messages; website scams like copycat sites; and investment scams which include buying non-existent stocks, shares and other investments such as rare wine or art.

"The UK faces an epidemic of online scam ads - they're everywhere. Yet disgracefully there's little effective law or regulation to prevent them, and official enforcement is poor to non-existent, as these criminals are usually based outside of the EU," Martin Lewis explained.

"That's why I sued for defamation, bizarrely the only law I could find to try to make big tech firms understand the damage their negligent behaviour has caused.

"Millions of people know a scam when they see it, and millions of others don't. So now, I'd ask all who recognise them to use the new Facebook reporting tool, to help protect those who don't - which includes many who are vulnerable. Facebook's new dedicated team will then hopefully respond quickly to ditch the scammers.

"Sadly, we have to accept zero tolerance won't mean zero occurrence. Yet my hope is it'll squash the numbers of scam ads and the time those that do get through are live."
"During the lawsuit negotiations I approached Citizens Advice and asked if it'd be willing to help in the fight against scam ads. I was delighted that it was so eager to do it, and that it'd have a couple of years of resources to try to tackle and repair the damage caused by the scourge of scams.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "This project means we can not only support people who have been targeted, but also raise awareness of what to look out for to help prevent online scams happening in the first place."

Steve Hatch, at Facebook, added: "Scam ads are an industry-wide problem caused by criminals and have no place on Facebook.

"Prevention is also key. Our £3million donation to Citizens Advice will not only help those who have been impacted by scammers, but raise awareness of how to avoid scams too.

"At a global level we've tripled the size of our safety and security team to 30,000 people and continue to invest heavily in removing bad content from our platform."

(1st August 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 16th July 2019 author Daily Mail Reporter)

Full article [Option 1]:

Cyber attacks launched by criminals who pretend to be taxmen have declined by 58 per cent in a year.

Experts say fraudsters are giving up because the security services have become so effective at blocking them.

The attacks typically involve an email purporting to come from an official HMRC address, telling victims they are entitled to a refund. Victims type in their bank details only to find their accounts have been plundered.

Figures from GCHQ - the Government's intelligence and security service - show that 16,064 HMRC-related attacks were launched by fraudsters in 2017.

But this fell to just 6,752 in 2018 thanks to a 'concerted effort to dissuade criminals'.

One of the largest attacks last year involved 200,000 air passengers.

Fraudsters intended to send them an email informing them they were entitled to refunds - with the aim of obtaining their bank details.

The emails were never sent because GCHQ's computer software detected the address was suspicious and shut it down.

A total of 140,000 cyber attacks were blocked by the agency in 2018. It said pensioners were vulnerable because they tend to be less suspicious about emails and texts.

uaware comment

They may have reduced the numbers of frauds.....BUT THEY HAVE NOT STOPPED THEM !!!

(1st August 2019)

(Lancashire Telegraph, dated 15th July 2019)

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POLICE are warning people to be on their guard against telephone scammers after a victim had their bank account cleared.

A Greater Manchester resident was contacted by an offender purporting to be calling from BT.

They were kept on the phone for two hours by the scammer while their bank account was remotely accessed and emptied.

Thankfully the victim's bank was able to return their cash.

Following the incident, Greater Manchester Police have issued a warning about scammers on social media.

If you have been scammed or are concerned about a potential scam call on 101, especially if you have transferred money to a scammer in the last 24 hours or if the scammer is in your area.

Call 999 if you feel threatened or unsafe.

Alternatively call Action Fraud 0300 123 2040 or visit

To report a scam to Citizens Advice call 0300 330 3003 for online scams or 03454 04 05 06 for offline scams.

For postal scam contact the Royal Mail on 0800 011 3466.

(1st August 2019)

(The Sun, dated 13th July 2019 author Daniel Jones)

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READY to jet off on hols? Check you have not been scammed. Rising numbers of us are being fleeced by fraudsters advertising bogus flight tickets and holiday rentals.

Last year more than 5,000 victims lost over £7million - up from £6.7million in 2017. The average loss per person was £1,380. In the worst cases, families flew abroad to find their dream holiday was all a con. Today, Sun Money looks at the most common tricks and what to look out for.

Fake flights

MORE than half of travel scams relate to bogus airline tickets, says Action Fraud, the national reporting service for fraud and financial cyber crime. Fraudsters advertise competitive long-haul fares worth hundreds of pounds on fake websites.

Often these are made up but in some cases real tickets are bought with stolen credit cards, then sold on to unsuspecting passengers with a reference number. The tickets are cancelled when the card is reported stolen, so victims are left with nothing.

Retired couple Barry and Christine McCarthy, of Stourport-on-Severn, Worcs, paid £550 for two return flights to Bangkok, to a firm called The website looked slick and professional and Barry, 69, spoke to an agent before transferring the money. But the firm later refused to answer his calls.

Barry, who holidays in Thailand with Christine, 67, every year, said: "Our bank said we couldn't have a refund because we made the payment voluntarily. We now only use travel firms we've heard of." The site has now disappeared.

Rogue rentals

ADVERTS for stunning villas and apartments may not be what they seem. Conmen often steal other people's photos and post them on bogus websites or mainstream sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway.

When people enquire, they send them a link to a convincing payment page, where they are encouraged to transfer money. One trick is to pretend a credit card payment has not gone through, then ask for a bank transfer instead. Or they may ask for a bank transfer to avoid commission fees.

Author Angus Kennedy, 54, and wife Sophie, 43, from Maidstone, Kent, were conned out of £2,600 when they tried to book a seven-bed villa in Majorca on The couple and their five kids, aged seven to 19, had, through the site, arranged a taxi from the airport. But it failed to turn up.

They had also been given a fake address for the villa, but managed to find it because a local taxi driver recognised the house in the promotional photos and took them to it.

When they arrived, the owner knew nothing of their booking. They then had to spend a further £2,500 on accommodation for their trip. Angus said: "We were left sitting on a wall with nowhere to go and my wife in tears." is still operating. It did not respond to our request for a comment.

Holiday hackers

EVEN with genuine listings, you may end up speaking to scammers and should never vary from official payment procedures. This happened to Talia Tester, 30, and Rachel Smith, 29, from Brighton, who were organising a hen do in Marbella for pal Anna Harris, 29.

They saw a villa on the HomeAway site - and confirmed it was available with the owner. But Talia claims they were sent a message via the site's official service by a fraudster who had hacked the owner's account. He asked them to email him instead.

She agreed over email to transfer a £2,300 deposit but realised the scam when she rang the real owner to ask if he had received payment. HomeAway will not refund the cash, as the payment was made off-site. Talia said: "You never think something like this will ever happen."

Facebook frauds

SCAMMERS also advertise on social media such as Facebook and WhatsApp and often contact victims with bogus deals. Retired NHS manager Pam Kolasa, from Burton upon Trent, Staffs, was targeted when she asked a local Facebook caravanning group for a short-term rental last summer.

One man offered her a few days' hire of a two-bed caravan parked in Coral Beach, Skegness, for £250. Pam, 64, said: "He sent me photos and answered all my questions, and sent me a screenshot of a list of owners with his name on. It all seemed OK."

She transferred the money but started to worry when she asked the man if the caravan was also available to hire the following week for her partner's son.

When the rogue told her it was, alarm bells started to ring as it was the school holidays when normally everything is booked up. She later realised his Facebook identity was fake and he didn't own the vehicle. The scammer disappeared with her money ­-?which her bank NatWest has refused to refund.

Pam, who this summer went on holiday to Butlin's, said: "I didn't realise these scams were such big business operating on such a big scale.  They're taking people's hard-earned cash."

Protect yourself

1. Look out for firms which are cheaper than everything else, have unlimited availability and insist on bank transfers. All three are warning signs of scams.
2. Check the web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name - such as going from to .org.
3. Be suspicious if there is an urgency to secure your booking immediately.
4. Make sure any travel agent you use is a member of Abta (the Association of British Travel Agents).

5. Never pay by bank transfer or click on a website payment link sent by email. Always use the official payment processes.

6. When looking for a villa, right-click on property images and choose "search Google for image". You'll see if it's being used fraudulently to advertise other properties.

7. Use Google Maps Street View to see whether the property is really there.

(1st August 2019)

(Which?, dated July 2019)

Full article [Option 1]:

Job scams and employment fraud

More than two thirds of us are now going online to look for employment, according to Safer Jobs - an organisation set up by the Metropolitan Police to help combat employment fraud.

But as more and more of us use the internet to search for new job opportunities, this has also opened the door to fraudsters.

Fraudsters often recruit for a 'dream job', advertising roles with a starting salary of around £100,000 that require few qualifications, skills or experience.

Sound too good to be true? Unfortunately, that's because it most probably is.

Job scams prey on hope

Looking for a new job can be both stressful and exciting with individuals eager to believe the perfect job is out there for them -  even if it sounds unlikely or unrealistic.

According to a survey carried out by Safer Jobs, 98% of respondents said that even if they were suspicious of a job advert, they would continue with an application despite feeling the job may not be legitimate.

This could be due to people feeling overly hopeful or optimistic that despite suspicions, the job may still be real.

When you're focussed on getting a new job, the desire to believe that something is legitimate is very strong, which is what the fraudsters rely on.

Some people have even turned up to the workplace ready to start their new job only to find that the employer has never heard of them.

What shouldn't I put on my CV?

While you will want to sell yourself and impress future employers/recruiters, providing too much personal information could leave you vulnerable to scams.

Too much personal information could lead to identity theft, where fraudsters can obtain your details, steal your identity and spend your money, take out loans or buy goods in your name.

Remember your CV should be a summary of why you're the best candidate for that job. In most cases you should not be asked to include: 

- your date of birth
- your full address
- passport number
- driving licence number
- National Insurance number
- marital status and number of children
- credit card or bank account numbers
- weight and height
- hair and eye colour
- headshot

Next steps if you fall foul of a job scam

If you think you've been scammed, you must stop all communication with the scammers immediately.

If you can, take a note of their details and report them to Action Fraud.

If you've given them any money or shared your bank account details with them, contact your bank immediately.

You should also report the attempted scam to any website where you've listed your CV.

Follow our five steps to protect yourself from employment fraud:

1. Be suspicious if the employer or agent provides a webmail email address such as @yahoo or @hotmail as a point of contact.
2. Check any documents for poor spelling and grammar - this is often a sign that fraudsters are at work.
3. Check official records on websites such as companies house or overseas registries to confirm that the organisation offering you the job actually exists. If it does, contact the organisation directly through officially listed contact details to confirm the job offer is genuine.

4. If you're in discussion about a job abroad, ask the embassy representing the country where you believe you will be working how to obtain a visa and how much it costs. Check that the answers the potential employer gives you are the same - if they're not, it's a strong indication of fraud.

5.Tell the employer that you will make your own travel and accommodation arrangements. Beware if they try hard to dissuade you, or tell you that you have to use the agency they refer you to.

For further help go to Safer Jobs, which provides specific advice for candidates and recruitment professionals :

What does a job scam look like?

Advance-fee scams

- you're asked for money by fraudsters to write your CV or carry out security and police checks
- you're asked to pay for expensive training programmes which don't exist for overseas jobs, fraudsters require you to pay for immigration lawyers again for overseas jobs, fraudsters ask you to pay for travel-agent fees.

Premium-rate phone scams - As the potential candidate, you call a number assuming you're going to have an initial phone interview, but you're kept on hold for a long period of time before you realise what's happened. In some cases, job seekers will be duped into going through a fake interview on the phone, which could last up to an hour at a cost of hundreds of pounds.

Money laundering - fraudsters employ you on a work-from-home basis. You assume that you're employed in a genuine job, but you're really being used to launder money, you're asked to buy office equipment and ship it to a specific address, or cash a cheque not knowing you're actually committing a crime in the process.

Salary-payment scam - fraudsters may also ask for your bank account details to set up salary payments. They will use these details to steal money from your account.

(1st August 2019)

(Good Housekeeping, dated 12th July 2019 author Susanne Norris)

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Monday 15 July is Amazon Prime Day. This 48-hour online sale is a good way to grab some bargains, especially if you're looking for new tech, but be aware that there are an increasing amount of scam emails circulating about the event.

Action Fraud has received over 30 reports about fake Amazon refund emails. These emails claim to be from Amazon and tell consumers they are owed a refund. However, they are actually from scammers. The links in these emails lead to malicious sites, which ask you to enter your Amazon login details, personal and financial information in order to access them.

Whether you shop on Amazon or not, follow these steps to ensure you don't fall victim to an email scam.

Spot the difference

Emails from legitimate companies will never ask you to disclose personal information. Watch out for unexpected emails asking for your national insurance number, credit card details or PIN number, as these will always be a scam.

Amazon is also warning consumers about fake emails offering a refund on an order they never placed. This is a common scam which is designed to make you click a link asking for your bank details. If in doubt, go to the 'your orders' tab on your Amazon account. If the email doesn't match any orders you've made, then it isn't from Amazon.

Stick to the site

If you think the email you have received might be a scam, don't respond to it.

Most of the time, you can deal with common issues - like processing refunds and updating bank details - through a company's website.

You can update details, check orders or process refunds directly on the Amazon website. Most online-only fashion retailers and online shops for high street stores allow you to deal with issues like this directly through their websites too.

If you have a query that can't be solved through the website, make sure you only contact legitimate email addresses for support. These can be found on a company's website under a 'contact us' tab.

Report a scam

If you have received a scam email, report it to Action Fraud by filling out a form on their website or by calling 0300 123 2040. You can also report scams to Citizens Advice.

It's also worth reporting email scams directly to the company they are supposedly coming from, to make them aware there is a scam circulating. Any Amazon scam emails should be reported by forwarding the suspicious email to

If you have given out personal information through a scam email, report it to your bank immediately. Keep the email in case they need any extra details.

(1st August 2019)

(Plymouth Herald, dated 10th July 2019 author Carl Eve)

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Two families were duped out of thousands of pounds after letting fraudsters concocted an elaborate scheme using a 'stolen' Plympton house.

Police are now warning potential tenants who are looking to let property to be extra cautious following the recent discovery of the fraudulent enterprise.

Det Con Ed Carr of Plymouth north and east sector CID said the fraud came to light after a relative of a homeowner who was selling her house spotted people in the back garden, claiming to be the prospective new tenants.

Investigations have led police to believe the suspects - at least three people but perhaps more - initially targeted the empty house which was up for sale, arranged for locks to be changed and then advertised it on Gumtree for rent in late June.

They went on to arrange for viewings and even showed people around the property.

The fraudsters went on to insist on cash payments, claiming it would speed up the process and guarantee the address. Investigators believe the criminals were fully aware of housing rules, highlighting the landlord deposit scheme and used rental terminology.

Det Con Carr said the scam-artists arranged for potential tenants to turn up on the day - one at 5.30pm and the other at 6.30pm - with their deposits and a couple of months worth of rent, handed over the tenancy agreement and the keys to the property before leaving.

He said: "They were very organised and very believable. The suspects knew the landlord and tenancy system really well and made themselves appear very legitimate.

"It was only because one of the tenants at the 6.30pm handover were in the back garden looking at the garden  boundary when a relative of the actual homeowner who lives nearby came over and asked why they were there. Then it all came out.

"There were two families who were victims - one with young children and the other with a child on the way. These are people who have been saving up their deposit and rent advance for a long time."

Police believe the suspects even conned a locksmith, claiming that they were having work done on the three-bedroom semi-detached Plympton house and that the builders had lost the key.

Det Con Carr said: "They even removed the 'for sale' sign.

"We want to warn other people looking to rent property. Make sure you're not paying in cash. If you are not asked to sign any tenancy agreement then be suspicious, especially if they do not suggest not having a witness present to sign them.

"We would strongly urge people to visit the Action Fraud website - they have told us they have seen this kind of scam before and there is lots of useful information on their website :

"These suspects are targeting people who are in real need of homes, people who are saving up for a long time to cover the deposits and rent. They could do this on any size home - a house or a flat."

If you have any information about the matter or believe you may have also been or are becoming victims of a similar fraud, contact the Police via the 101 non-emergency line; or if you feel threatened 999.

For more details visit :

(1st August 2019)

(Which ?, dated 9th July 2019 author Faye Lipson)

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We were contacted when a person was left shaken by an attempted number-spoofing scam. The ordeal didn't end with the abusive call - here's what happened.

A cold calling victim told us they received a call from someone purporting to be from Microsoft. We suspect that they wanted remote access to their computer and bank accounts.

The caller made sexually abusive remarks and then correctly recited the victim's home address.

Terrified, they put the phone down, but the ordeal wasn't over.

The victim was then deluged with calls from different UK landline numbers, which they were too scared to answer. Eventually they stopped, but later that evening a call was received from a different man.

He said he'd received the same scam 'Microsoft' call, but it appeared to have come from the victim's own number, and he was simply returning the call!

Another case of number-spoofing

This was a 'number-spoofing' scam, where a fraudster's call displays under a fake number to avoid being traced.

In this case, the fraudster spoofed the number in turn to dupe others. When the police were contacted, they advised the victim to contact their landline provider, BT.

BT said it couldn't do anything except change the member's number, which was not wanted. BT told us that it proactively warns its customers about scams, adding:

We'll never call a customer to ask for remote access to their computer or ask for personal information, including bank details, unexpectedly, and we'll never call from an 'unknown' number.' It advises customers never to share their BT account number and to shred paper bills"

The 'Microsoft' phone scam is also known to us. Here we explain how it works, how you can avoid it, and what to do if you believe you have been scammed :

Our full guide on phone scams is also full of valuable information on how you can indentify these cold calls and report them :

(1st August 2019)

(The Press and Journal, dated 7th July 2019 author Jon Hebditch)

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North-east firms have been scammed out of more than £1 million over the past 19 months.

Freedom of information legislation has revealed that 115 traders have been robbed of £1,017,254 through a range of fraud.

That is an average of £53,539 a month - or £1 for every minute of the day.

Police records show May 2018 is the only month in the last three years that scammers have not successfully targeted north-east companies.

In one incident in April, four conmen went to The House Spa on Great Western Road and distracted staff while using a card machine to scam them out of £6,000.

The average victim in the region loses almost £9,000.

Police are urging victims to come forward and have highlighted the work they are doing.

Detective Chief Inspector Jim Robertson said: "We are working with our partners, including banks and the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, to prevent and tackle online fraud and reduce the harm it causes our communities.

"There are steps which can be taken to help prevent you from becoming a victim.

"These include ensuring you have adequate anti-virus protection for your computer, never giving out login details in an email or over the phone, shredding any personal or financial documents once you are finished with them, being wary of cold calls and not giving information to people you do not know.

"If you have concerns or want advice, police can be contacted on 101."

(1st August 2019)

(Mirror, dated 6th July 2019 author James Andrews)

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Customers of Tesco are being warned about text messages being sent out pretending to be from the supermarket.

The scam text tell people they have a package waiting, before asking them to click and confirm their details.

Clicking on the link just sends you to counterfeit website designed to look like it's run by Tesco and asking you to answer some quick questions before you can "reveal your gift" - you just need to fill out a few details and pay a £2 delivery fee first.

The problem being it's not real and nothing to do with Tesco at all.

A Tesco spokesman told Mirror Money said: "This is not a text message sent by Tesco. We would always ask customers to be vigilant and to double check the legitimacy of any online competition alerts, coupons or vouchers.

"If you are ever unsure about any alerts you see online, a text or an email you have received, you can always check by calling our customer service team on 0800 50 55 55."

"Customers can also visit our privacy centre, where we have some advice regarding staying safe online and how to be aware of scams and phishing."

Tesco advises customers being sent scams texts to take a screenshot and forward it on to - then delete the text without clicking on any links.

Sadly, it's far from the only text message scam we've seen, with others pretending to be from banks as well as other retailers.

To keep yourself safe, Action Fraud offers the following tips for staying safe from phone and text scams:

Protect yourself

- Don't assume anyone who's sent you an email or text message - or has called your phone or left you a voicemail message - is who they say they are.
- If a phone call or voicemail, email or text message asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, be cautious. Real banks never email you for passwords or any other sensitive information by clicking on a link and visiting a website. If you get a call from someone who claims to be from your bank, don't give away any personal details.

- Make sure your spam filter is on your emails. If you find a suspicious email, mark it as spam and delete it to keep out similar emails in future.

- If in doubt, check it's genuine by asking the company itself. Never call numbers or follow links provided in suspicious emails; find the official website or customer support number using a separate browser and search engine.

To report a fraud and cyber crime and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use its online reporting tool :

(1st August 2019)

(This is Money, dated 6th July 2019 author Laura Shannon)

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Fraudsters are ripping off the names of genuine financial companies to win trust from potential victims - and the threat to UK consumers is rising.

Known as 'clone companies', the villains behind them trick people into believing they are dealing with a reputable business so they will hand over thousands of pounds of their savings.

They do this by spinning a web of lies - stealing the details of properly regulated firms and passing them off as their own.

So, when a customer checks the company's reputation - through an internet search, for example - it seems as if they are dealing with a well-known institution.

The number of warnings about clone companies issued by City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority reached 56 last month.

This is a 65 per cent leap compared to June 2018, new analysis by The Mail on Sunday shows. And it is more than quadruple the 13 flagged up by the regulator in June 2017.

The number of warnings in the first half of this year jumped by a quarter compared to the same period last year, from 114 to 142. Among the companies cloned include wealth managers, investment banks - such as JP Morgan Chase - insurance brokers, loan providers and payday lenders.

The FCA adds notices about clone firms to its 'warning list', which features the names of companies that it does not authorise, but which have been caught targeting people in the UK.

Mark Steward, of the FCA, says: 'Investment scams are becoming more sophisticated and fraudsters are using fake credentials to make themselves look legitimate. If you are in any doubt - don't invest.'

Crooks often use cold-calling as a tactic - phoning victims 'out of the blue' - but as of January this year pension cold-calling was banned.

As the message for consumers to ignore cold-calls sinks in, criminals are increasingly relying on email approaches or are luring people to fake websites through promotions on social media. Around ten million adults receive unsolicited approaches each year about pensions and investments.

The vast majority of scams being reported involve invitations to invest in shares, bonds, foreign exchange trades and crypto currencies (such as Bitcoin).

Among all types of scams - including clone firms - pension fraud victims lose an average £91,000, while investment scam victims typically lose more than £29,000.

Forex and crypto cons have stripped an average of £14,600 from victims. Consumers considering handing money over to a business need to turn detective and carry out some basic background checks.

When searching for clues about the authenticity of a firm, sometimes the address is a giveaway.

For example, people claiming to work for a firm called Swiss Investment FX have recently contacted people in the UK. The address given is in Majuro, the Marshall Islands - out in the Pacific Ocean.

But the FCA-authorised firm it is thought to be imitating, Swiss Investment Corporation Limited, is headquartered in London.

This kind of inconsistency becomes apparent if you cross-check details given by a firm and those listed on the regulator's register at

Other clones are trickier to spot. For example, wealth manager Baillie Gifford was recently cloned by fraudsters. The address given by the fake company matched that of the genuine firm. The main contact's email address also looked plausible. In a game of 'spot the difference', the only obvious one was the contact phone number, although the Edinburgh area code still matched.

Fraudsters will mix fake contact details with those of the genuine company to confuse victims. Often, they will quote the real company's 'firm reference number' with the Financial Conduct Authority.

The advice is to never trust unsolicited calls or emails and to spend time verifying any claims made on a legitimate-looking website.

Richard Wazacz, chief executive of financial advice company Octopus Wealth, says: 'Be wary of contact out-of-the-blue from companies you have never heard of and, above all, check that who you are speaking to is indeed who they say they are.

'Double-check their website and contact details against the FCA register and suggest meeting face-to-face at the office address shown. If something doesn't feel right, then simply walk away.'

Use the details listed on the register to contact the company concerned, rather than relying on information on their website or which they provide, so you can be sure you are calling - or emailing - the right firm.

Do not click on links provided in emails or on a website - visit the register's web page independently as the FCA says fraudsters have been known to clone its own website and register.

Anyone who is still uncertain can call the regulator's consumer helpline on 0800 111 6768. To wise up to the different types of pension and investments scams that exist, visit consumer website

Financial advisers can also help clients dodge scams. Find a regulated adviser using websites such as and Wazacz adds: 'A regulated financial adviser will carry out thorough checks on all of the providers they work with.

'They will give you confidence that your money is actually going to the people you think it is.'

(1st August 2019)

(The Sun, dated 5th July 2019 author Claudia Aoraha)

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Note : Original article shows an example of the fraudulent letter.

VICTIMS across the country are receiving fake letters saying they've won a lottery prize linked to the 2022 World Cup.

Cops have issued a warning about fake letters being sent from the "International Postcode Online Lottery", linked to the FIFA World Cup, claiming the recipient has won a hefty £900k prize.

The fraudsters make you pay various fees and taxes in instalments, so they can release your non-existent prize winnings.

Members of the public receiving the bogus letters are also asked for their bank account number to begin the scamming.

One recipient of the scam had been told they had won £900,000, but that they had to pay a sum of fees and taxes before they could get their winnings.

The fake lottery letters also ironically ask people to keep the fact they've won quiet to prevent fraud.

The letter, published by West Midlands Police, reads: "This program was designed and promoted by European lottery, Loteria, El Gordo and Commonwealth Bank of Australia to promote the 2022 FIFA World Cup to be hosted by Qatar and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games to be hosted by Japan.

"Please to help us proceed with your claims, this information must be kept away from the public to avoid unwarranted abuse of the program or fraudulent acts from criminal minded and unauthorised person(s)."

Once getting in touch, the fraudsters will ask you to supply copies of your passport which can be used to steal your identity.

The FIFA World Cup lottery scam is written to create a sense of urgency, sending recipients into panic mode when faced with their large, imaginary money prize.

Making them as believable as possible, the fake letters are signed and stamped, the victims are given an official phone number, date to claim their prize and an address to collect the fake winnings.

The most bizarre part of the scam is that recipients who haven't even entered into the lottery or bought a ticket are told they are winners.

The urgent deadline for collecting the prize amount is just one of the signs that the letters are a fraud.

Scammers also are prone to making punctuation, spelling and grammar errors in their letters.

Official lotteries don't contact people when they're winners, which is another sign that the World Cup lotto letters are fraudulent.


- Don't respond. If you haven't entered a lottery then you can't have won it.

- Official lottery operators do not ask for fees to collect winnings. Any request for payment is a good indication that someone is trying to defraud you.

- Never disclose your bank details or pay fees in advance.

- Genuine lotteries thrive on publicity. If they ask you to keep your win a secret it's likely to be a fraud.

- Many fraudulent lotteries have bad spelling and grammar - see this as a warning that fraudsters are at work.

(1st August 2019)

(Warrington Guardian, dated 3rd July 2019 author Hannah Bargery)

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A WARNING has been issued after an increased number of reports across the region of elderly victims being targeted by fake police officers and traffic wardens.

Action Fraud say victims are being approached while they are parked in their car and told by the suspect they have parked illegally or broken a speed limit.

The scammer also says a photo has been taken of their car for 'evidence'.

The driver is then told they will face a substantial penalty fine unless they pay a smaller upfront fee immediately.

Victims who opt for paying the smaller penalty will be directed to a parking meter and asked to enter their card and PIN.

An Action Fraud spokesman added: "These parking meters have been tampered with by the suspect in order to retain the card.

"Once the victim inserts their card and are asked for their PIN, the victims are shoulder surfed for their PIN by the suspect.

"Once victims input their PIN, the card is retained by the machine and victims are told by the suspect to seek help from the company who operates the parking meter or their bank."

How you can avoid being scammed

Advice from Action Fraud is to always shield your PIN from view when using an ATM machine and never share your PIN with anyone.

A spokesman added: "If you are suspicious about the authenticity of the fine, do not pay it until you have verified it with your local council.

"If your bank card is retained by an ATM machine, contact your bank immediately to inform them."

(1st August 2019)

(Telegraph, dated 3rd July 2019 author Greg Wilford)

A police chief revealed that he lost £4,000 to Nigerian scammers as he called for Britain to rethink its approach to tackling cyber crime.

David Munro fell victim to online fraudsters when he was running a software company before he was elected as Surrey's police and crime commissioner in 2016.

They emailed him a bogus £12,000 invoice made to look like it was from a contractor he was working with at the time.

His bank noticed that the account details were different to the contractor's and raised the alarm once he had paid the bill.

Mr Munro was only able to recover £8,000 and lost the rest to criminals operating in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city.

Last week he said he believes that Britain's approach to cyber crime is "wrong" and puts too much pressure on local police forces.

He told The Telegraph: "I believe that we need a fundamental rethink.

"At the moment the default position on cyber crime is that it should be done at local or regional level, with the National Crime Agency, City of London Police and so on being called in if it becomes really complex and expensive.

"I think that puts local police forces under unfair pressure, and although they do the best job they can, fundamentally they are outgunned by these international fraudsters.

"We need a rethink, it has to come right from the top, and cyber fraud must be tackled nationally, and then of course local police forces can be called in to assist."

Mr Munro said he will appeal to whoever becomes the next Home Secretary to change cyber crime policy.

The latest police figures show that more than £190,000 a day is lost by victims in the UK.

More than a third fall prey to the hacking of social media and email accounts.

Nearly £35 million was reported stolen between April and September last year - a 24% increase on the previous six months.

At a glance - Six types of cybercriminals

Defence group BAE Systems have identified six types of cybercriminals:

1. Mules

Naive opportunists who may not even realise they work for criminal gangs. They can be caught up in cyber crime through online adverts promising the chance to make money working from home, often by laundering money for organised crime.

2. Professionals

Career criminals who work in the digital shadows, using technology instead to lower the chances of getting caught. They might call victims pretending to be technical support to gain access to a target's IT system.

3. Nation State Actors

People working directly or indirectly for their government to steal sensitive information and disrupt enemies' capabilities or create international incidents.

4. Activists

Those who take to the internet to promote their religion, politics or cause, who may not have the advanced skills of other hackers but can cause significant disruption or steal data to damage their targets.

5. Getaways

People too young to be prosecuted, and likely to receive only a slap on the wrist for their attacks, which are often the application of downloaded code.

6. Insiders

"Disillusioned, blackmailed or even over-helpful" employees operating from within a company, according to BAE's head of cyber threat intelligence. "They might just be people who take a contact list... not thinking of the harm it could do."

(1st August 2019)

JUNE 2019


The following is a summary of scam notifications issued by the National Trading Standards team. These are typically provided in monthly emails and provide details of scams on individuals and large scale activity. This summary covers large scale activity.

(Hereford Times, dated 24th June 2019)

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A DUDLEY pensioner was scammed out of £60,000 by con artists over a 20-year period.

 The shocking case has been highlighted in a report to members of the health and well-being board, who are meeting this week to discuss how to improve fraud awareness.

In a report to the committee, council officers say they contacted the un-named 84 year-old after learning she had lost £200 to a scam involving a beauty product.

A company had repeatedly called and conned her into entering fictitious prize draws and lotteries that required minimum orders and on occasion, added unwanted items to her order.

Despite being warned by her family, she continued to pay for goods.

After being contacted by the council's scams officer, she eventually disclosed she had lost £60,000 over 20 years.

(The Star, dated 20th June 2019 author Sharmila Nair)

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If you see an unfamiliar notification on your Google Calendar, don't be too quick to click on the link.

You could fall victim to a new form of phishing attack, warns cybersecurity expert Kaspersky Lab.

Cybercriminals are reportedly luring unsuspecting Google users to click on links sent to them via the Calendar feature, exposing them to a variety of cyber threats. Kaspersky notes that it observed attacks targeting victims throughout May.

The criminals reportedly abuse a specific feature of the calendar that adds events and invitations automatically.

Users supposedly received pop-up Calendar notifications, and the report shows that in some cases, the victims are redirected to a website that offers money in exchange for the users to complete an online questionnaire. In order to receive the prize, the victims are asked to enter their credit card and other personal details.

(Guardian, dated 26th May 2019 author Anna Tims)

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Michael Johnson* and his business partner had struggled for a month to open a new account with Metro Bank, despite the fact that he was already a customer. So it was a relief to receive a phone call apologising for the delay and promising that the new account could be set up then and there. The caller took him through Metro's standard security questions and Johnson received authorisation codes texted from Metro to enable the transfer of his payees from his old account to the new. That afternoon he received another call. It was Metro Bank informing him that he had been scammed out of £9,200.

Nearly 85,000 banking customers lost £354m to fraudsters last year after being tricked into revealing bank details. The scam, known as "authorised push-payment fraud", typically deceives customers into thinking they are communicating with their bank so that they disclose vital security information, or with a legitimate trader to whom they owe money.

(FCA, dated 21st May 2019)

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The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Action Fraud are warning the public to be wary of investment scams carried out via bogus online trading platforms. This warning comes as cryptoassests (crypto) and forex investment scams reports more than tripled last year to over 1,800. Fraudsters promise high returns from investments in crypto and forex, with victims losing over £27 million in total in 2018/19.

###How the scams work

Fraudsters often use social media to promote their 'get rich quick' online trading platforms. Posts often use fake celebrity endorsements and images of luxury items like expensive watches and cars. These then link to professional-looking websites where consumers are persuaded to invest.

(Daily Mail, dated 29th April 2019 author James Pero)

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A new and surprisingly simple phishing method has affected Google Chrome's mobile browser, disguising itself as some of victims' most-trusted websites. 

According to developer Jim Fisher, who posted about the exploit on his personal blog, hackers can use a mixture of coding and screenshots to trick victims into giving up their private data.

The scam, which Fisher calls the 'inception bar' targets Android mobile users for Chrome by using a fake address bar that not only displays the name of a legitimate website, but also an SSL badge - used to verify a site's authenticity - indicating that the page is safe.

Bristol Live, dated 12th April 2019 author James Andrews and Kate Wilson)

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People are being warned against clicking on confirmation links in emails which are being used by criminals to sneak malicious links past your spam filters and into your inbox.

The scam exploits a flaw in the sign-up forms of real companies online to trick email providers into allowing dangerous links to get through.

The trick was uncovered by consumer website, as reported in The Mirror.

Lots of websites ask you to enter your first and last name in a sign-up form, then send you a confirmation email.

(Safer Derbyshire, dated 1st April 2019)

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Thousands of people in the UK become victims of holiday fraud every year - paying for non-existent accommodation, flights or entire holidays. They lose their holiday and their hard-earned money.

We've teamed up with Get Safe Online to bring you expert tips to help protect you when booking a holiday. Make sure you:

- thoroughly research private advertisements for accommodation, flights, cruises or package holidays, to check that they are authentic
- check reviews on Trip Advisor, or similar sites
- check that accommodation really exists by finding it on Google Maps and, if you can, call the owner/agent directly. If the number is not provided, email and request it

- remember that paying by credit card means you have more chance of getting your money back, if something goes wrong.

(iNews, dated 2nd April 2019 author Gareth Edwards)

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Virgin Media customers have been warned not to respond to an email threatening to disconnect them - because those that do could fall victim to a malicious scam to steal bank details, personal information and maybe your whole identity.

The convincing scam email has the distinctive Virgin Media logo and branding, and looks for all the world to be completely legitimate.

It threatens customers they are facing "automatic disconnection" due to "invalid billing information" and asks that they take immediate action to prevent this by entering their username and password.

Anyone that enters their details however will have handed over their log-in information to the scammers - and they will then be able to use whatever personal information you have stored online and use it to commit fraud crimes, such as identity theft and bank fraud.

(Spirit FM, dated 26th March 2019 author Ryan Burrows)

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Members of the regulation, audit & accounts committee were told that, in order to assess weak points within the council's cyber defence, a variety of emails were sent to 886 staff.

The messages, which were sent by a third party, included offers for cheap pizza and free iPhones. Another told them they needed to change their bank details, while another claimed to be from the council itself and told them they needed to reset their work passwords.

The committee was told that the emails all contained 'horribly obvious' mistakes, but 611 people opened them anyway - not a disaster in itself - and 285 clicked on the link.

Had the email been a real attempt at phishing, it would have taken them to an unsafe website where malware would be waiting to invade their computers.

Instead, the users were met with an error message.

Members were told that the most worrying part of the results was that 200 people clicked on the link claiming to be from the council - even though 'Sussex' had been spelled incorrectly.

(London Loves Business, dated 7th March 2019 author Sarah Dunsby)

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Half (50%) of UK business owners and senior managers are leaving themselves vulnerable to invoice fraud by failing to take basic precautions, according to research commissioned by Santander Business.

The research found that only half of business owners and senior managers would check the details of an emailed invoice when asked to make an online payment, leaving them at risk from scammers posing as legitimate payees.

Among those who said they would check the details, two fifths said they would be satisfied doing this simply by calling the number on the email with the invoice, leaving them equally vulnerable to sophisticated scammers who can impersonate legitimate payees over the phone.

Just under two fifths (39%) of business owners and senior managers said they would agree to pay fees to accountants into a new bank account following an email request, without making any checks to establish whether the request was genuine.

(Money Saving Expert, dated 13th March 2019 author Callum Mason)

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Fraudsters are trying to trick victims into handing over their financial details by claiming they're owed a council tax refund - here's what to watch out for.

Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, says there has been over 100 reports from people getting an email which claims to come from the 'Council Tax & Payroll Service'.

The email links the recipient to a convincing Government-style website, and they are then asked for personal details to claim a refund - although if you were to put details in, you wouldn't get cash back and would likely lose money.

Action Fraud says it's had the reports of the scam - known as a 'phishing' scam - since January, and although it's not aware of people actually losing money, we're making consumers aware of it because we published a new investigation showing Brits are owed £230 million+ in overpaid council tax and don't want people to fall for the scam with that in mind.

(Banking Tech, dated 22nd February 2019 author Antony Peyton)

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Hackers have targeted an unnamed Polish bank by placing a malicious file in Google reCAPTCHA to lure victims into downloading banking malware.

According to website security platform Sucuri, this phishing campaign employed both the impersonation and panic/bait techniques within an email to entice the unwary to the download.

Just as a refresher, impersonation phishing campaigns pretend to be a popular brand or product through specially crafted emails, SMS, or social media networks. They may also contain a victim's name, email address, account number, or some other personal detail.

The panic/bait technique is used to generate a fake situation to instil a sense of urgency or panic in the victim.

(Coventry Telegraph, dated 21st February 2019 author Enda Mullen)

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Thousands of students and staff at Coventry University were victims of an email phishing attack which locked them out of their university accounts.

The hack happened earlier this week and saw students and staff unable to access their emails or the university's Moodle system, meaning they were unable to complete or submit assignments.

The aftermath was reported by student website The Tab, which also covered the incident on its social media channels, on Tuesday afternoon.

The Tab said that as many as 36,000 staff and students were affected but the university said the number affected was much lower - around 2,000.

(1st July 2019)

(Fox News, dated 29th June 2019 author Kim Komando)

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Some people think they're immune to cybercriminals. "I'm not even on their radar," they think. "What are the chances that I'll get targeted? It's not like I'm famous or have zillions of dollars."

Well, let me tell you a cautionary tale: A gentleman named Bob recently called my national radio and television show. He owns a Homeland Security consulting company, so he's about as knowledgeable about online precautions as a person can be. For work, Bob was using a Yahoo Small Business account, and he needed to upgrade his service.

His instincts were correct. There had been a well-documented Yahoo breach, so Bob was doing his due diligence and updating his software. Tap or click to learn about the Yahoo data breach.

He had a few questions, did a Google search for Yahoo's small business helpline and called. Little did he know the listed number wasn't for Yahoo tech support at all. Scammers found a way to push their fake number to the top of his Google search, and Bob was tricked into calling a convincing-sounding technician. When the person on the other end asked for his login information, including password and home address, he didn't question the request. After all, Bob called them.

The person on the helpline informed Bob that his account was being hacked "as we speak." But when they offered to fix the problem by selling a $645 firewall package - which could only be purchased through Google Play Bucks - Bob hung up and shut everything down, including his Wi-Fi.

When he rebooted, Bob discovered ransomware on his hard drive, which prevented him from accessing anything on his computer. He took the machine to some experts, who broke through and eliminated the ransomware. The whole charade cost $210, plus a bruised ego.

Yahoo isn't the only one to fall prey to this scam. Facebook recently had to contend with a fake hotline that duped many of its social media users. Tap or click to read about the Facebook fake hotline story.

In short: cyber-criminals have become so sophisticated that they can even fool professionals. While I'm sorry that Bob had to experience this firsthand, he was kind of enough to share his story, and there are several great lessons to be learned.

1. Know how to get help the right way

I know, the world's most powerful search engine should be able to weed out potential cons, but that's not how it works. Hackers are brilliant at gaming the system, and they're just waiting for someone to find that fake number and call.

The truth is, tech support for a company like Yahoo doesn't usually have a simple 800 number. They would have to field thousands, or even millions, of calls every day. Instead, they typically correspond by email or through a live chat.

So if you find a number at all, be suspicious. At the very least, reverse search any phone number you find through Google or any search engine and look for reported scams. Better yet, use a tool made for the job.

2. Check and double-check

Bob's adversaries used a common scare tactic: They insisted that his computer had been hacked, and he should act quickly before any more damage was done. Desperate to fix the problem, Bob was only skeptical when they asked for an unusual form of payment, Google Play Bucks.

Bob's computer had been hacked because he had readily given the criminals his login information. For many online services, similar information is regularly given in order to confirm the identity of the customer.

Bob learned his lesson: He should make sure the person on the other end is real. This can be challenging if the criminals are persuasive actors who seem to know what they're talking about.

3. Also, be wary when so-called tech support calls you

The same way that tech companies don't often provide a hotline; they never call you. Unless you have scheduled an appointment or asked for help on a specific problem, tech companies are far too busy to give you a courtesy call.

Many people don't realize this, and they have fallen for a scam. A prime example is a rash of calls that purportedly came from Microsoft, but were actually phishing operations.

4. If you get ransomware, don't panic

Bob doesn't know how much damage the hackers caused, and the experience made him feel violated. But remember: Cybercrime is a full-time job, and the rewards can be great, so professional hackers are aggressive and manipulative. Some of the biggest companies in the world - Equifax, Yahoo - have been exploited.

Bob didn't fork over any money. Ransomware is scary, but he took his computer to experts and resolved the problem. Panic will only make the problem worse. So learn from this experience: Stay calm and carry on.

Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation's (USA) largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at

(1st July 2019)

(Cornwall Live, dated 28th June 2019 authors Rebecca Day and Chris Matthews)

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Cheshire Police have issued a 'warning' over what has been dubbed the worst banking scam ever.

A fraudulent bank letter has been sent to homeowners, asking them to send back their debit cards as they are at risk of 'catching fire'.

The return address for 'Mr Smith', an alleged debit card safety manager at Barclays, is on Bangalore Lane, Bangalore, India.

The force posted about the scam on its Facebook page at 4pm on Thursday.

They shared a photo of the letter, which read: "Many of our bank costumers(sic) have reported that their debit cards have caught fire while they are in wallets and purses, and so as a precushion(sic) we are issuing an URGENT safety recall.

"This is a matter of the uppermost emergency as your card could create a pocket fire at any given moment, burning your legs and stomach terribly. This is because of a fault in the factory process at our debit card factory in Molton Keynes(sic).

"Therefore, for your own safety and verification, please complete the bottom of this form, and return it with your debit card to the safety manager."

Writing on Facebook, Cheshire Police wrote: "As far as scams go, we think this one will take some beating... 

This letter from 'Mr Smith' at 'Barclays' is warning people about Spontaneous Debit Card Combustion...that's debit cards... catching fire. "Usually our advice would be to take five before giving anyone your bank details, but we would like to think this one was pretty obvious."

(1st July 2019)

(This is Money, dated 26th June 2019 author Rob Hull)

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Anti-fraud experts are warning drivers to be vigilant of scam artists using a new crash-for-cash tactic forcing unsuspecting motorists to have collisions and then claiming for bogus injuries.

Motor fraudsters have adopted a dangerous new method of hiding in a driver's blind-spot before quickly moving in front to slam on the brakes and force an unavoidable shunt.

The scheme is the latest in a wave of conniving tactics used by false claim makers, who are costing insurers £340 million a year and pushing premiums for innocent motorists higher.

The hide and crash tactic has been identified by AX - a firm that provides vehicle protection and management technologies for the automotive and insurance industries.

The company was the first to expose the recent flash for crash scam, where fraudsters flash their headlights to invite an innocent driver to pull out of a junction before accelerating to cause a collision.

The latest 'hide and crash' trend was noticed when AX detected several suspicious claims displaying near identical underhand characteristics.

'This new tactic is a dangerous progression of the existing 'slam on' approach,' explained Neil Thomas, director of Investigative Services at AX.

'Criminals can take cover in a driver's blind spot, wait for the ideal moment, then accelerate and move into their pathway before slamming on the brakes.'

AX's scrutiny of insurance and injury claims identified a spike in trends previously unseen on UK roads.

This includes more drivers detailing crasshes caused after being flashed by other drivers, while collisions caused by other motorists pulling out at roundabouts and then slamming on the brakes are also becoming more common.

In fact roundabouts were the most common locations highlighted for suspected crash-for-cash scams, while busy motorways and urban areas with frequent sets of traffic lights are also considered danger spots.

'Ultimately, fraudsters look for places where it is unlikely and often unsafe for potential witnesses to stop,' AX warned.

But despite these trends becoming more widespread and easier to identify, it's still difficult for motorists to plead their innocence unless they have dashcams or incidents are recorded on CCTV.

'Detecting new methods deployed by gangs is notoriously difficult and without video evidence, it is often difficult to prove who was really at fault,' Thomas added.

Intelligence sharing amongst insurers and the authorities can help, nevertheless drivers should always be vigilant. Collectively, we can minimise the impact of these increasngly sophisticated criminals.

Having a dashcam in your car in the best way to prove that con artists have acted fraudulently, though driver are being urged to do more if they've been a victim of one of these tactics.

In terms of motorists protecting themselves from fraudulent claims, Thomas advises: 'It is hard to avoid being a victim of a staged accident but watch for passengers looking back, and do not interpret flashing headlights as an automatic invitation to pull out of a side road.

In the event of an accident, drivers should take a few simple steps to guard against fraud.

'Count the number of occupants and ask for names.

'Then be sure to note the registration plates of the other vehicles.

'This is critical information which is easy to miss in heat of the moment but can help insurers and fraud experts build up a true picture of events.'

(1st July 2019)

(Evening Express, dated 25th June 2019 author Callum Main)

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Trading Standards has issued a warning after a fake e-mail offering a reduction in council tax was sent to a resident in Aberdeen.

The message claimed to be from GOV.UK and advised the recipient they were getting a council tax reduction of £340.99.

However, the e-mail with the subject Discounts and Council Tax support was instead sent from

Clicking links on scam e-mails like this can result in malware or ransomware being installed on your device.

This can then lock all your files as well as spread throughout your home or work network - potentially costing vast sums to repair.

The warning from Aberdeen City Council's Trading Standards team said: "Luckily, they spotted it was a scam and reported it to us but this is not always the case.

"If you're not sure, take five and check via a trusted source."

#Scam Alert! We've had a report of a fake Gov UK e-mail being sent to an #Aberdeen resident. Luckily, they spotted it was a scam and reported it to us, but this is not always the case. If you're not sure, @TakeFive and check via a trusted source! #Tell2 @CityPoliceTell2

- Aberdeen City Council Trading Standards (@AberdeenCityTS) June 25, 2019

(1st July 2019)

(Mirror, dated 24th June 2019 author Amber Hicks)

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Conmen posing as litter wardens are duping people out of hundreds of pounds by issuing fake fines.

Two bogus wardens have been spotted dressed in black in a bid to look like real litter enforcement officers in Bridgend, South Wales.

Council officials have issued a warning about the pair, who have been demanding instant cash payments of £150 for supposed littering and dog fouling.

Hywel Williams, deputy leader of Bridgend Council, said: "We are urging people to watch out for the scam.

"Genuine enforcement officers always wear official ID badges and lanyards and will never ask for a cash payment for a fixed penalty notice.

"Instead, officers will issue a ticket stating details of the offence, payment options and online, telephone and postal contact details.

"They will never ask for cash up-front or for a personal mobile number."

Last month, one passerby was targeted by the conmen who took their contact number and later demanded extra cash on the phone.

Real enforcement officers would only issue fixed penalty notices of £100.

And as we previously reported, one gran was left in tears after being told to pay £150 by a genuine council worker for giving pastry leftovers to pigeons in the street.

Sally-Ann Fricker, from Bath, thought she was doing no harm when she chucked the "the end corner of a sausage roll" for the birds to tuck into.

But within minutes she had been confronted by the council's contractors 3GS - dubbed 'litter police' - who "came out of nowhere" and started quizzing her.

The shocked 54-year-old, who had been shopping with her her daughter and grandchildren, was slapped with the £150 fixed penalty.

She arranged to borrow money to cover the cost but was flabbergasted at the ordeal.

She claims the food had been eaten and could no longer be seen.

"It was absolutely ridiculous," Mrs Fricker said.

(1st July 2019)

(BBC News, dated 22nd June 2019)

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Takeaway apps Deliveroo and Just Eat have said they are working to combat fraud, after customers reported their accounts had been used to buy food they did not order.

One customer told the BBC Deliveroo took five days to shut his account after he reported fraudulent activity.

Both companies said their own systems had not been breached and passwords had been obtained from another source.

Deliveroo said it had introduced new measures this year to protect users.

Just Eat said it took the safeguarding of customer data "extremely seriously" and was liaising with customers who had reported fraudulent activity.

Several Deliveroo customers told the BBC they realised their accounts had been accessed when they received an email from the company saying the email address linked to their account had been changed.

Fraudsters then ordered food through their account using credit obtained by claiming refunds for previous orders.

Deliveroo said cyber criminals relied on people reusing passwords for multiple online services and used data breaches on other sites to try to access Deliveroo accounts.

Andrew Shaw, 33, from London, said he had to wait five days after he reported fraudulent activity on his account before Deliveroo shut it down.

By this point Mr Shaw had already cancelled his card and three orders had been placed, using £11 credit he already had on his account and £27 credit obtained from a refund.

A Deliveroo spokesman said: "There are rare occasions we don't meet the high standards our customers expect and we are working hard to correct and address the issues raised."

The company said it takes security "extremely seriously" and is continually rolling out measures to combat fraud, including introducing extra security checks when it detects changes to account details.

Another customer, Ian Cutress, 33, from London, said an order was placed on his account to an estate less than three miles away, with instructions to "ring when close for detailed delivery instructions".

After contacting Deliveroo, the company deactivated the account.

Mr Cutress said he was relieved his card details were not attached to his account, so the fraudster was only able to place an order using refund credit and he was not left out of pocket.

Just Eat also confirmed it had received reports of "isolated" fraudulent activity, which it said appeared to be the result of "malicious third parties using usernames and passwords from an unknown source", which was not Just Eat.

On Thursday, one customer wrote on Twitter that they had cancelled their bank card after it was fraudulently used to purchase food through Just Eat.

The customer claimed they had been told by the company's customer services they had received "numerous calls" about similar issues that day.

Just Eat said it had multiple security measures in place, which are continually reviewed to ensure they are robust.

It is not the first time takeaway apps have been targeted by fraudsters. In 2016 the BBC found Deliveroo customers had been charged hundreds of pounds after their accounts were used fraudulently.

To avoid being hacked, Action Fraud advises using strong, unique passwords for online accounts.

Action Fraud also recommends using two-factor authentication, if offered, which means the account can only be accessed by inputting a randomly generated code which is sent by text to a mobile phone.

(1st July 2019)

(ITV News, dated 23rd June 2019)

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A Northern Ireland woman has been scammed out of more than £300,000 by an individual who promised her a romantic relationship.

The victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, was targeted by the man on Facebook three years ago and she believed a relationship had developed.

After three months, the scammer asked her to send him money for his children to be educated in England.

She was later asked for money in relation to investing in both Ghana and Dubai.

In total she sent more than £300,000 to different accounts at his request in what Chief Superintendent Simon Walls described as one of the biggest romance frauds the PSNI has seen in a long time.

He said it is unclear where the scammer is from, and believes he may be moving around internationally.

Mr Walls said the woman has been left devastated by the elaborate deception.

"Inquiries are ongoing into this fraud which has, understandably, had a devastating impact on the victim," he said.

"We receive reports of fraud on a regular basis and, no matter how big or small the amount of money is that a victim loses, every loss is felt by those targeted.

"However, this is one of the bigger scams where a victim has been swindled out of such a significant amount of money.

"Sadly we received another report recently where a similar amount of money was lost in a scam."

In total, more than £1.6 million was stolen from victims in Northern Ireland in a variety of scams that are known about between November and May.

February saw the most incidents, with 253 scams reported to the PSNI. Of those, 16 were by fraudsters calling at their victims' doors, 71 scams were conducted on the internet, six by post and 160 by phone.

These resulted in a total of £391,571 being conned out of victims.

Mr Walls said romance scams are not the most common type reported to police, but they are more personally hurtful to victims.

"We have fewer romance scams than the HMRC scams, fewer than scams involving broadband and probably fewer than TV licensing scams, but it has that added dimension that as well as someone's bank account being emptied, their heart is being broken," he said.

"It becomes really personal (for the victim), because you let them into your life, tell them all about your past and your secrets, and someone then ends up falling in love with the individual, so these are probably the most insidious of all, and not to generalise, but some who respond to these are vulnerable."

Action Fraud claims victims of romance scams reported losing more than £50 million in total last year.

They said the average loss per victim in 2018 was £11,145 - a 27% increase on the previous year.

The senior officer said he believes romance scams are significantly under reported.

"We think many people are simply too embarrassed to tell us they have been scammed in a romance fraud," he said.

"I would make a really heart-felt plea to people if they are reading this story, if they think they are being scammed, even if they have a suspicion of being scammed, please come forward, speak to police, call us on 101.

"The assurance from me is if a scam victim comes forward, we will give you good advice, we will also treat you kindly, treat you with dignity, treat you with respect and try to stop you being victimised."

He added: "If you're concerned by unsolicited calls, emails or letters then please report it to Action Fraud via their website or by phoning 0300 123 2040, or call police on the non-emergency number 101.

(1st July 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 20th June 2019 author George Nixon)

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The Financial Conduct Authority has refused to reimburse a fraud victim despite a watchdog describing the regulator as 'a facilitator' to her losing £13,000 in an investment scam.

The woman from London, who did not wish to be named, invested money in what she thought was a legitimate Austrian company in May 2018.

However, it turned out that fraudsters had taken advantage of an incorrect listing on the FCA's official register from 2005 to create a fake investment firm.

The register is a public record that displays the details of firms that have been authorised and regulated by the FCA, or have a passport to provide services in the UK.

She wrote to the Complaints Commissioner, which oversees complaints against the FCA, who concluded the regulator should make a goodwill payment of 50 per cent of what she lost due to its 'serious failings' that 'contributed to her financial loss'.

But the FCA rejected the Commissioner's recommendation and refused to pay out, claiming that the victim 'received sensible guidance from the FCA before investing, which was not followed.'

In his eight-page report in April this year, the Commissioner Antony Townsend noted that this was the second case in 12 months where the FCA's lax administration of its register had played a role in an investor becoming a victim of fraud.

In the case of the female victim who wrote to This is Money, the FCA's predecessor - the Financial Services Authority - misspelled the name of a legitimate Austrian firm that was passporting into the UK in 2005, creating a faulty listing.

The Austrian authorities informed the UK regulator a year later, in August 2006, that this misspelled firm - labelled Firm X in the Commissioner's report - should have its passport revoked and be removed from its register.

Instead of de-registering it however, the Austrian firm was registered under its correct name - meaning that 'two registered passport firms were created when there should have been none.'

Both the FCA and the Complaints Commissioner said they couldn't tell This is Money the name of the original firm.

Fast-forward 12 years later, in mid-2018 our reader came across the fraudulent cloned firm, which she told This is Money was called 'Helmut Kub' who was offering a decent return on her money.

With little information on the firm, she called the FCA on 16 May to confirm the company was legitimate.

The FCA employee told our reader that she needed to speak to the Austrian regulator.

But they did not mention the original Austrian firm - that wanted to be put on the register in 2005 - was only allowed to sell insurance products, when our reader was asking about savings.

She invested a day later, and for a second time on 1 June.

She told This is Money she had contacted the Austrian financial regulator, 'but they never replied to my email'. She also maintained that her issue was that Helmut Kub was listed on the FCA's register.

It was also revealed through Freedom of Information that the FCA was made aware of cloning of the original Austrian firm on 2 May 2018.

The FCA finally de-registered Firm X on 3 July 2018, some two months after it was warned X's place on the register was being exploited by fraudsters.

This was also nearly two months after our reader invested £13,000 into the scam, and 13 years after Firm X was mistakenly put on the register.

The 2006 duplicate entry was only removed from the register four months ago, in February 2019.

While the Commissioner concluded that our reader should have waited for a reply and the FCA's advice was 'good', he said this did not invalidate her complaint.

He wrote: 'In this case the FCA's failings with respect of the register are unusually serious and significant - the register is incorrect as a direct result of two serious errors.

'The FCA for 12 years showed a de-authorised Austrian company as registered despite having information that it should not be.

'Although the FCA cannot be held responsible for the criminal behaviour of others, the serious failings contributed to your financial loss.

'If Firm X had been de-registered in 2006, you might not have lost your investment in the way you did.'

In its response on 7 May 2019, the FCA rejected this.

It said it did not believe there was any evidence to suggest the complainant had checked the register in this case, and following the advice it gave 'we do not think an ex-gratia compensatory payment is appropriate.'

When This is Money raised to the FCA the fact the Complaints Commissioner had considered this point and still felt the FCA should pay the victim back £6,500, the regulator said it had no further comments to add.

It means the investor in question is still £13,000 out of pocket and the FCA has defied what the Complaints Commissioner has said.

She told This is Money: 'The FCA totally let me down, especially after the Complaints Commissioner highlighted a fair way for them to make amends.

'I knew I'd only get half my money back because I was duped, but when the FCA refused to pay anything, it left me gutted.

'There's no system of support.'

What's the Complaints Commissioner?

Regular readers of This is Money's Beat the Scammers section will be well aware of the Financial Ombudsman Service.

The Financial Regulators Complaints Commissioner is less well-known.

It deals with complaints about the conduct of regulators themselves rather than financial institutions.

You can write to them with a complaint about the Financial Conduct Authority, the Prudential Regulation Authority, the Payment Systems Regulator, or the Bank of England's oversight of the banking clearing houses and payment settlement schemes.

(1st July 2019)

(Mirror, dated 20th June 2019 author Vicky Shaw)

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People in Sussex are particularly likely to say they have fallen victim to romance scams, Norfolk is a hotspot for reports of computer fixing fraud, and London is the capital of online shopping and investment cons, figure suggest.

Consumer group Which? obtained police data from Action Fraud, the main reporting body for scams in the UK to map out hotspots of reported fraud as well as looking at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) crime survey data.

Which?'s findings also suggest that the reported figures are just the tip of the iceberg - as many scams go unreported.

It said, for example, that while the crime survey shows there were more than 3.6 million cases of fraud in England and Wales in 2018, only 276,129 fraud and computer crime reports were made to Action Fraud in the 12 months to April 2019.

Its figures from Action Fraud suggest dating scams, which typically see people duped into transferring money linked to a fake romance, is most likely to be reported in Sussex.

The rate of 1.9 reports per 10,000 people is higher than the national average of 1.1.

Is your city a hotspot?

People in Norfolk are particularly likely to report computer fixing fraud, with a reporting rate of 10.3 per 10,000 people, compared with the national average of just 5.9.

Meanwhile, London was identified by Which? as the capital of online shopping and auction fraud - with 17 reports per 10,000 people, against a national average of 13.

London also has the highest reported rate for ticket fraud at 4.5 cases per 10,000 people against an average of 2.2; and investment scams at 1.9 reports per 10,000 people against an average of 1.3.

Warwickshire has the highest reported rate for advance fee fraud, in which victims are asked to pay for goods or services that are never delivered.

Scams may start with an email from someone who claims they need a small loan to help unlock untold riches or a fraudster posing as an estate agent who needs a deposit for a non-existent property.

The rate of such reports in Warwickshire is 15.8 per 10,000 people, against the national average of 11.9.

Meanwhile, Surrey is a fraud hotspot for reports of bogus tradespeople and Hertfordshire has relatively high numbers of reports of people's social media and emails being hacked.

Of the reports made to Action Fraud in the past two years, online shopping and auctions fraud is the biggest reported type of fraud, with 86,127 cases.

This is followed by advance fee fraud (78,686); computer fixing fraud (38,891); and cheque, plastic card and online bank fraud (35,502).

Which? also found the typical age of fraud victims varies depending on the type of con.

The average age of someone making a report to Action Fraud over the past two years is 49.

On average, victims of rental fraud, where prospective tenants are typically tricked into paying a deposit, are aged 33 - reflecting the younger age of many people living in the rental sector.

The average age of victims of both ticket fraud and online shopping or auction fraud is 37.

Older people are more likely to report being targeted by bogus investment schemes. The average victim is aged 64.

They are also more likely to report being tricked by recovery scams, where they are tricked by criminals who claim they can help recover lost funds. The average age of victims is 65.

Jenny Ross, Which? money editor, said: "Fraud is spiralling out of control, so any measures that can help combat this worsening crime - such as the introduction of vital name check security for bank transfers - should be quickly introduced.

"The Government must set out an ambitious agenda - with real accountability - to finally tackle the growing threat from scams, which are having a devastating impact on the lives of victims."

Here are the most commonly reported types of fraud to Action Fraud over the past two years and the "fraud capitals" where they were most likely to be reported, according to analysis from Which?

(1st July 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 18th June 2019 author Amelia Murray)

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Identity fraud is now an 'epidemic', with almost 190,000 cases reported in just 12 months, figures reveal.

Britons aged 60 and over are most at risk, while those under 21 are also considered vulnerable.

The total number of cases recorded by the fraud prevention service Cifas increased by 8 per cent in 2018 compared with the previous year.

But the number of cases involving over-60s jumped by a huge 34 per cent to 33,000.

Fraudsters need only a few pieces of information to steal someone's identity and most of this data is freely available on social media websites and online directories.

Often they need just a name, date of birth and address to open a bank account or take out a loan or credit card in someone else's name.

Most people do not realise they have become a victim until they are hit with an unexpected payment demand or discover their credit rating has plummeted.

Experts warn that older people are increasingly targeted because they are more likely to be approved for credit. Identity fraud where criminals apply for a credit card in the victim's name is now most common - with cases soaring by 41 per cent to 82,608 last year. Cifas said its figures 'paint an alarming picture'.

In total it received 324,000 reports of all fraud types in 2018, a 6 per cent rise on the previous year.

Its report also highlighted a trend where bank customers are allowing fraudsters to use their account to move criminal funds. Banks reported 40,000 cases where so-called 'mule accounts' had been used to launder money, a 26 per cent increase compared with 2017.

Money mules are typically young and often students. Last month the Mail revealed how criminals were targeting schoolchildren on social media and bus routes. But Cifas also highlighted a 35 per cent rise in over-40s who let crooks misuse their accounts.

Conmen typically pose as banks and the police and tell customers they must move their money into a 'safe account' that they control.

Following Money Mail's Stop The Bank Scammers campaign, banks must now refund fraud victims who lost money from May 28 - providing they took reasonable care to protect themselves.

Laura Suter, personal finance analyst at the investment platform AJ Bell, said: 'Identity fraud is now an epidemic across the UK.

'More people are scammed by increasingly savvy fraudsters using more sophisticated means. But people are also willingly publishing their life details on social media, making these sites rich pickings. We need to make sure we're savvy with our details online, particularly older age groups who might be newer to using the internet.'

Mike Haley, chief executive of Cifas, said: 'From identity theft to using the young and naive as money mules, the economic and social harm to the nation is growing.'

(1st July 2019)

(Mirror, dated 18th June 2019 author Emma Munbodh)

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Identity theft has reached epidemic levels in the UK, with credit card fraud soaring, figures show.

Last year, a record 189,108 cases were reported to authorities, where victims had their accounts - and lives - raided by imposter criminals.

Most cases involved fraudsters pretending to be someone else to access their savings, buy items or take out loans or car insurance in their name.

The total represents an 8% year-on-year rise in this type of scam.

Fraud prevention service Cifas said plastic card was rising the fastest - with 82,608 reports of credit card fraud marking a 41% increase since 2017.

The number of victims aged 21 and under also rose 26%, while the over-60s saw an alarming 34% increase on the previous year.

Cifas said criminals are intentionally targetting the most financially secure generation - who are most likely to be accepted for credit.

'Rise of the over 50 money mule'

The number of middle-aged people becoming money mules has also risen sharply, Cifas said.

It has seen a 35% year-on-year increase in financial crime involving 40 to 60-year-olds.

Money mules help criminals to launder money and they may be targeted through social media with the promise of being able to make easy money.

Sometimes criminals enticing people to be money mules may pose as genuine employers advertising jobs.

A money mule shares their bank details, allowing cash which may be the proceeds from crimes to flow through their account and into other accounts - potentially so that other crimes can be committed.

Fraudsters may target people as money mules who do not have a criminal background, in the hope that the payments will slip more easily under the radar.

Money mules may not initially realise they are committing a crime.

But people who try to stop being money mules once they have started may be threatened with violence by the criminals who roped them in.

If they are caught they could face prison, as well as consequences for their ability to manage their finances, such as having their bank account closed and finding it difficult to apply for credit in the future.

Mike Haley, at Cifas, said: "Fraud in the UK continues to rise and fraudsters are constantly finding new methods of committing fraud.

"The only way to fight the threat is to combine communication and collaboration, working together to present a united front against the perpetrators."

Laura Suter, at investment platform AJ Bell, added: "Fraud cases are on the rise, with almost 324,000 cases of fraud reported last year, an increase of 6%. However, the actual figures will be far higher as often people are too embarrassed to report that they have been victims and don't even want to tell family and friends.

"As we increasingly use online services for all areas of our lives we need to make sure that we're savvy with our details online, particularly older age groups who might be newer to using the internet."

(1st July 2019)

(BBC News, dated 17th June 2019)

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A woman who suspected her mother was being scammed online later sent the fraudster £40,000, ending up heavily in debt.

The mother-of-one from south east Wales was a victim of romance fraud, a crime which police say grew by nearly a third last year.

Now the woman has spoken out about falling for the charms of the man she had initially been suspicious of.

"I just felt like I was emotionally blackmailed," she added.

She said her "lonely" mother had started an online relationship with the man, who said he was French and called Jean Marc.

But when he told her he needed help after being robbed on a business trip to Ivory Coast, the daughter became suspicious.

"I said to my mum 'don't you dare send him any money'. I said 'he's a scammer'," the woman told the BBC Wales X-Ray programme.

But her opinion changed after she spoke to the man herself.

"His voice was so lovely, so soft. He started with his stories and my heart just melted," she said.

She asked questions about his circumstances but Jean Marc had answers for all of them. He even sent her a photo, that looks edited, showing him in a hospital bed.

"I sent him the first money. I didn't even tell my mum, I did it because I wanted her to be happy," she said.

She sent 800 Euros (about £712) last summer and went on to make 21 further payments, totalling £40,000 until she realised she had been scammed.

She is now heavily in debt after maxing out credit cards and selling her mother's jewellery and has little hope of seeing her money again.

'End of marriage'

But she said the hardest part was telling her husband what had happened.

"I just couldn't cope - it was killing that he didn't know. I thought that's going to be the end of our marriage," she said.

"When I told him he didn't even look at me. He only said I can't believe you were so stupid.

"I just felt like I was emotionally blackmailed, I hope [people] will think twice before they believe in all the lies of the scammers."

It emerged that the man calling himself Jean Marc had stolen the identity of a Frenchman, Stephane Girynowicz.

His face has been used to create hundreds of fake profiles on social media and there's even a Facebook page dedicated to outing him.

He has posted a picture of himself online pleading with scammers to stop using his face for profiles.

In 2018, 4,555 reports of romance fraud were made to Action Fraud, the police reporting centre, with total losses up by 27% compared with the previous year. The total is likely to be higher as many victims are thought to have suffered in secret.

Gwent Police said it was seeing more and more victims of romance fraud.

"It's easier nowadays to steal money sitting behind a computer screen than it was in the bad old days to go out and burgle somebody's house - it's far easier," said PC Neil Cooper.

"It's so anonymous. The effect it has on the victims is devastating - it affects their lives, it makes them depressed, it makes them feel totally foolish. It's a really despicable act to do."

Online safety advice

- Criminals who commit romance fraud trawl through profiles and piece together information such as wealth and lifestyle, in order to manipulate their victims
- Police can investigate and help to provide support, but often cannot get the money back
- It is very simple for fraudsters to cover their tracks by masking IP addresses and using unregistered phone numbers
- Never send money to someone online you have never met

- Think twice about posting personal information which could be used to manipulate or bribe you
(1st July 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 17th June 2019 author Milly Vincent)

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Middle-aged people are increasingly being lured into becoming money mules, proving that the young are not the only ones tricked by the online fraudsters offering 'free money'.

The trick is said to have entrapped 35% more money mules aged 40 to 60 in 2018 year-on-year, according to fraud prevention service Cifas.

The findings show that being drawn into such criminality is not a problem limited to younger generations, Cifas said.

Cases involving money mule activity generally were up by 26% in 2018 compared with 2017, it said.

Money mules help criminals to launder money and they may be targeted through social media with the promise of being able to make easy money.

Sometimes criminals enticing people to be money mules may pose as genuine employers advertising jobs.

A money mule shares their bank details, allowing cash which may be the proceeds from crimes to flow through their account and into other accounts - potentially so that other crimes can be committed.

Fraudsters may target people as money mules who do not have a criminal background, in the hope that the payments will slip more easily under the radar.

Money mules may not initially realise they are committing a crime.

But people who try to stop being money mules once they have started may be threatened with violence by the criminals who roped them in.

If they are caught they could face prison, as well as consequences for their ability to manage their finances, such as having their bank account closed and finding it difficult to apply for credit in the future.

The research also found that young adults and the over-60s bore the brunt of a surge in identity scams last year, with the overall number of such cases increasing to a record high, according to fraud prevention service Cifas.

Identity fraud significantly increased in 2018, with 189,108 cases recorded - an 8% increase on 2017's figures.

Many cases involved plastic cards, Cifas said.

It said cases involving victims aged 21 and under increased by 26%, compared with the previous year, while those involving the over-60s saw a 34% increase.

As older people may be more likely to be approved for credit, and this age group is increasingly going online, they are finding themselves targeted by fraudsters, Cifas said.

Chief executive of Cifas, Mike Haley, said: 'Fraud in the UK continues to rise and fraudsters are constantly finding new methods of committing fraud.

'From identity theft through to using the young and naive as money mules to launder money, the economic and social harm to the nation is growing.'

(1st July 2019)

(Guardian, datd 14th June 2019 author Antonia Wilson)

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New research into cybersecurity has revealed UK holidaymakers lost more than £7m to fake sites and fraud in 2018. We outline the five most common scams and ways to protect a trip and your data.

With UK holidaymakers looking to book their summer breaks, industry experts are warning them to look out for online scams and fake websites.

Fraudsters stole more than £7m from holidaymakers in 2018, according to a new report from the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta), the national cybercrime reporting centre, Action Fraud, and awareness organisation Get Safe Online. More than 5,000 people reported being scammed in the last year, with an average financial loss of £1,380 per person. Figures are up from 2017, which saw 4,382 victims lose a total of £6.7m.

"Fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated methods to target destinations and times of year when demand is high and availability limited, as they know people will be looking for good deals," says Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer. "As victims often find out just before they travel or even in-resort that they have been defrauded, it can then be difficult and expensive to obtain a legitimate replacement booking."

Another survey (of 2,000 UK holidaymakers), from cybersecurity firm McAfee, found one in five Brits had, in their lifetime, either been scammed or "nearly scammed'" when booking a holiday online. Those who had nearly been scammed included, for example, people who had reached a payment page before realising the site was not legitimate and others who had been put off when redirected by fake property owners on trusted sites to pay on another platform.

As with the organisations involved in the Abta report, McAfee believes the actual figures are likely to be much higher. Some people may not be formally reporting scams because they are embarrassed, while others may not know what should be reported or who to report it to.

If you're planning on booking a holiday online - like four in five people in the UK now do - here are the most common five scams to watch out for - and how to avoid them.


According to Abta's report,53% of online holiday scams reported related to the sale of airline tickets: for example, booking a flight on a fake site and receiving an imitation ticket, or paying for a ticket that never arrives. The same type of scams can happen with accommodation and package deals, too. McAfee found that 27% of those surveyed did not check the authenticity of a website before booking, with 12% admitting they didn't know how to check if a site is trusted.

The advice

Before paying a deposit, travellers should check that the web address is legitimate. In particular, check the domain name (that's anything before the .com or; so, for example, make sure you're on and not and the top-level domain TLD itself (because .net and .org are rarely used for online shopping sites). Also check for https:// (rather than http://), which should always appear on the payment page. Misspellings, additional words or characters, fuzzy or low-resolution pictures and logos are also be indicators of a fraudulent website.


Some fraudsters lure consumers away from trusted booking platforms and request payment on a separate site - often tempting people with a better rate if they pay on another platform. Even louder alarm bells should ring if a host or travel company rep asks for payment via an online bank transfer instead.

The advice

"Be wary of paying a private individual by bank transfer, even if you are offered a discounted rate. Paying by credit card will offer you much more protection from fraud," says Tony Neate of Get Safe Online. "Trust your instincts, don't get rushed into making impulsive decisions if something doesn't feel quite right."

Raj Samani, chief scientist at McAfee, agrees: "While it might sound enticing to get an extra discount, it would be much worse to find the money had been taken and you turned up to no accommodation," he says. "Holidaymakers should keep all communications, bookings and payments on trusted platforms to help protect them from fraud and phishing."

If you have already paid for something that has turned out to be fake or non-existent with a credit or Visa debit card, you do have some rights, and will in some instances be able to get your money back through your bank.


Unsolicited promotional emails, pop-ups and other online adverts can often appear legit but will sometimes click-through to an unsafe or fake website. Low-resolution logos for well-known travel companies, trade associations or payment and card companies are a big giveaway. Some fake competition scams have also been known to defraud holidaymakers out of a fee to secure a holiday.

The advice

"We strongly advise people to validate deals, holiday rentals and flights directly via trusted brands' websites, instead of clicking on links and pop-ups offering bargains," says Samani. "Once they've validated its authenticity, all communication and payment should be conducted via that trusted platform to help keep personal and financial information out of hackers' hands."

When considering a booking through a lesser-known company, travellers should always check reviews and do a thorough search online to check the operator's credentials. "Customer reviews are invaluable but don't rely on just one review, research thoroughly," says Neate. "And look out for companies that are members of professional bodies such as Abta."

If in doubt, verify membership on the Abta or Atol websites.


Scams relating to accommodation bookings were the second most common area according Abta, accounting for a quarter of reported scams. This includes professional and convincing websites offering luxury villas for rent, often at a discounted rate. Some of these villas won't even exist, but some will be real properties being offered by scammers without the owner's knowledge, with Spain and France most commonly targeted. They often require you to pay a deposit, which travellers will never see again.

The advice

If renting private accommodation, such as a villa, apartment or cottage, call the owner or agent directly to ensure that it is a real listing. Email and request the number if it is not provided, and get the full address of the property and find it on Google maps to check location and legitimacy.

"As well as double-checking simple things such as descriptions matching pictures, minimise the risks of falling for a scam by booking through a trusted platform," Samani says. "They will have thorough processes in place to ensure that all listings are verified and authenticated so it's important to avoid just going for the first thing that your search engine presents."


Booking a tour, accommodation or travel online while you're away on holiday adds another layer of security concern. Beyond the risk of payment details being divulged, your personal and private data can be exposed via clouds and wifi.

Most holidaymakers are likely to connect to public wifi at some point during a trip. The majority of those surveyed by McAfee said they have connected to public wifi in an airport (62%) and in a hotel (49%). And almost half said they do not check the security of their internet connection or willingly connect to an unsecured network, despite pop-up warnings.

Public wifi includes secured and unsecured networks. To clarify, unsecured networks can be connected without using security features such as a password or login; whereas secured networks will ask the user to agree to terms, register an account or type in a password before connecting.

The advice

Always connect with caution, and avoid sharing sensitive data or bank account details over an unsecured network. Even secured public networks can be risky, however, so consider using a virtual private network app (VPN) to help keep your connection secure. A VPN will encrypt all of your data that passes through the network making it harder for scammers to steal.


If you have been the victim of an online scam, or you suspect a company of being fraudulent, you can report it by contacting Action Fraud. You will receive a crime reference number, which can be helpful for reporting that you have been scammed to your bank.

If you also report the fraud or suspected fraud to Citizens Advice, who pass on information to Trading Standards, it increases the chance of scammers being caught and stopped. Collect all the relevant information, including who you've been in contact with (names, numbers and addresses if you have them), why you're suspicious, what information you've shared (such as passwords, pin number, or bank details), whether you've paid any money, and when and how you've paid.

(This is money, dated 6th June 2019 author George Nixon)

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As we start to hit the summer months, expect departure lounges to be full to the brim with holidaymakers off on trips they've likely had booked for months and been looking forward to for even longer.

However, as Agatha Christie once wrote, evil is everywhere under the sun, not least in the form of fraudsters trying to coax Britons out of the hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds they spend on trips away.

And unfortunately it seems like last year a large number succeeded. According to the UK cybercrime reporting centre Action Fraud, more than 5,000 scam victims lost a total of £7million to holiday and travel-related fraud in 2018.

Why you should beware holiday scams

The figures represented an increase in both the number of victims and the amount lost compared to 2017, when 4,382 victims reported losing £6.7million.

Action Fraud compiled the forces as part of its campaign, in conjunction with Get Safe Online and ABTA - the UK trade association for travel agents - to warn the public about the dangers posed by holiday fraud.

Mark Tanzer, the chief executive of ABTA, said scammers were using 'increasingly sophisticated methods to target destinations and times of year when demand is high and availability limited'.

But what were the most common scams, and what warning signs should jet setters be aware of?

When and how to people get scammed

According to Action Fraud's figures, 53 per cent of reported scams related to plane tickets, with those visiting friends and family in Africa and the Indian subcontinent particularly targeted.

A spokesperson from ABTA said that this was likely down to fraudsters attempting to exploit those with a lack of knowledge of UK regulations and because of the large sums of money involved in these trips.

ABTA said a key red flag is a flight that appears cheaper than any of its competitors, but by a reasonable amount - for example it costs £600 rather than £800. Another is that such scam flights often have unlimited availability.

The trade body said that given how many of these scams involve family trips booked for around Christmas time, those looking for flights at what is an incredibly busy time of year should always exercise caution when seeing adverts for flights with apparently unlimited seats.

A further 25 per cent of the booking frauds related to the sale of holiday accommodation, with losses peaking in October.

The report said fraudsters were offering upmarket villas for rent on 'very professional and convincing websites', with some actually existing and being offered without the owner's knowledge. France and Spain were the two most commonly targeted destinations.

The third most common type of holiday scam reported related to religious trips.

The report said Muslim Hajj pilgrimages to Mecca were 'particularly attractive to fraudsters as the amounts of money involved are substantial'.

It added the average loss totalled almost £10,000 per reported case.

How can you play it safe?

ABTA added that looking out for logos, both of the travel agent body itself and for ATOL - the UK financial protection scheme that covers those who book package holidays - is also a useful indicator of authenticity.

If you're worried the logo might be faked, you can check with a package provider is ABTA covered on its website, while ATOL holders are listed on the website of the Civil Aviation Authority.

Because package holidays are covered by greater protections, it is always recommended you book holidays this way, as some flight only bookings may not be covered by ATOL.

Your credit card could protect you

If you want to give yourself a further layer of protection, then pay for your holiday with a credit card.

Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act covers holidays costing between £100 and £30,000, namely the cost of your flights or holiday if the provider goes bust or the holiday isn't as described.

Haven't got a ticket - chase it up

Finally, while it isn't a warning sign as you won't notice until you've booked something, ABTA says that it is a legal requirement to be sent your airline ticket within 24 hours, and it should happen immediately. If you haven't received it after a day, there's a possibility you've been the victim of a scam.

But just because fraud is on the up, you shouldn't necessarily be deterred from booking what you think is your dream holiday.

Tony Neate from Get Safe Online said: 'We urge people to take some time before booking a holiday to read through our safety tips and familiarise themselves with the small changes they can make to ensure they don't get caught out by cyber criminals.

'Customer reviews are invaluable but don't rely on just one review, research thoroughly. Look out for companies that are members of professional bodies such as ABTA and be wary of paying a private individual by bank transfer, even if you are offered a discounted rate.

'Paying by credit card will offer you much more protection from fraud.'

(1st July 2019)

(The Sun, dated 12th June 2019 author Sara Benwell)

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ATM users should be better protected from scammers when using HSBC dispensers as the bank has rolled out new technology to make it harder for scammers to steal cash.

The new technology, which the bank claims is the first of its kind, is supposed to reduce the chances of consumers falling victim to "cash trapping" scams.

This when fraudsters insert devices into a cashpoint that prevents it from giving you your cash when you try and take money out.

It's not easy to spot - criminals will tamper with an ATM, preventing money from being dispensed to customers and making it appear as if the machine had simply gone out of service.

The cash is then diverted and later the fraudsters come along later and steal it.

HSBC says it has noticed that this kind of scam is on the rise in central London in particular, which is where it has been trialling the new tech before its nationwide roll out.

And evidence suggests this is a growing problem generally.

According to an April 2019 European Association for Secure Transactions (EAST) report, ATM attacks rose by 27 per cent in 2018 with losses totalling €36million (£32million).

But HSBC's new software should detect if an ATM has been tampered with, allowing the bank to reverse any transactions and to investigate further.

The bank says the trial has reduced instances of ATM fraud by 50 per cent month on month.

Now HSBC is rolling the software out at 1,000 of its ATMS throughout Great Britain.

Richard Harrison, head of branch network at HSBC UK said: "We've now deployed the new technology to cash machines across the country, helping deter fraudsters and in turn improving safety and service for the public who rely on our ATM network."

How to stay safe from card fraud

HSBC UK's top five cashpoint fraud prevention tips are as follows:

- Never divulge your PIN to anyone, not even the bank or police, and always shield your hand when entering your PIN into a cash point or ATM keypad.
- Always look closely at the card insertion point of a cash machine before using it. If it looks like it may have been tampered with, do not use it and call your bank - if it is safe to do so.
- If you realise the cash machine has been tampered with after you have inserted your card, contact your bank while still standing at the cash machine - if it is safe to do so.

- If an ATM fails to dispense your cash, unexpectedly retains your card or appears to become "out of order", contact your bank while still standing at the cash machine - if it is safe to do so.

- Program your bank's phone number into your mobile phone (usually found on the back of your card) so you'll have it handy should you ever need it.

(1st July 2019)

(Dorset Echo, dated 11th June 2019 author James Moules)

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 Fraudsters have been advertising agricultural vehicles and machinery online, prompting a police warning.

Dorset Police Rural Crime Team say that agricultural equipment, including vehicles and machinery, is being fraudulently advertised on online selling platforms.

A spokesman said: "The victims, after communicating via email with the fraudster, will receive a bogus email which appears to be sent by a trustworthy third party, often PayPal or Escrow. The emails are designed to persuade victims to pay upfront via bank transfer rather than through a protected payment method via the website.

"The victim pays the deposit before visiting the seller to collect the goods, believing there is a 'cooling off' period to reclaim the payment if they change their mind.

"This gives victims the false sense of security that their money is being looked after by this trustworthy third party, when in fact, it is not and the money has gone straight to the fraudster."

Police advise that people never transfer money before seeing a vehicle in person, and avoid paying by bank transfer.

Carry out research on the seller if you do not know them.

Frauds can be reported to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

(1st July 2019)

(Action Fraud, dated 7th June 2019)

What you need to know

- Action Fraud has experienced an increase in the reporting of malicious calls and voicemails, to members of the public purporting to be from Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

- Fraudsters are spoofing genuine HMRC telephone numbers to deceive their victims over the phone. The fraudsters state that as a result of the victim's non-payment of tax or other duty, the victim is liable for prosecution or other legal proceedings in order to settle the balance. The fraudsters suggest victims can avoid this, by arranging payment to be made immediately by methods such as bank transfer or by purchasing iTunes gift cards.
- If the victim is hesitant or refuses to comply, the suspect makes a threat such as immediate arrest, sending bailiffs to the victim's address or, in some cases, deportation.
- Often, the period for which the tax is allegedly due is distant enough to guarantee the victim will have little, if any, paperwork or ability to verify the claims. Once the money is paid the suspects sever all contact with the victim.
- In genuine cases, HMRC will initially make direct contact with you via post/letter and potentially follow up that letter with a phone call at a later date.
- If HMRC contact you via telephone they will quote the reference number on the initial letter you should have received. HMRC will not discuss something you are not already aware of, like a tax investigation, and will NOT demand immediate payment.

It is vital that the public exercise caution when receiving messages or telephone calls of this nature.

What you need to do

- Always question unsolicited requests for your personal or financial information. Just because someone knows your basic details (such as your name and contact details), it doesn't mean they are genuine. Instead, contact the company directly using trusted methods such as a known email address or phone number.
- Legitimate organisations wouldn't ask you to pay taxes, bills or fees using an iTunes gift card, or any other type of voucher. If you're contacted by anyone that asks you to do this, you're likely the target of a scam
- Don't be rushed or pressured into making a decision. Under no circumstances would a genuine bank or some other trusted organisation force you to make a financial transaction on the spot.
- Report Phishing attempts. If you receive a call, text or email of this nature and have not lost money, you can report this as phishing to Action Fraud

(1st July 2019)

(Wakefield Express, dated 5th June 2019 author Leanne Clarke)

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People are being warned about phone calls from scammers claiming to be police officers or bank officials.

What you need to know

Calls have been received from people claiming to be a police officer or banking official saying there has been fraudulent activity at the victims' bank.

Here's what they say:

- They either say that staff at the bank are involved and the victim is then asked to withdraw money to either keep it safe or assist the police with their investigation.

- That a business such as a jewellers or currency exchange is fraudulent and they require the victims' assistance to help secure evidence by purchasing jewellery or exchange a large amount of currency to hand over to the police

- OR The victims' card has been compromised and used to purchase goods by a suspect, the victim is requested to withdraw their money to keep it safe or hand over their bank card to the police.

Occasionally the victim will be told to dial a non-emergency extension of '161' to receive confirmation of the individual's bogus identity, the bogus official will advise the victim to lie about the reason for the withdrawal or purchase if challenged by staff, as the staff member is involved in the fraud.

A courier attends the victim's home address to collect the goods the same day Often the victim is given a code word for the courier as a way of authentication.

Your bank or the police will never:

- Phone and ask you for your PIN or full banking password

- Ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them for safe-keeping

- Ask you to transfer money out of your account

- Send someone to your home to collect cash, PINs, cards to cheque books.

If you have any information about this scam contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

(1st July 2019)

(The Northern Echo, dated 4th June 2019)

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In the scam, fraudsters encourage young people to accept money into their bank account. That money is then transferred into another person's account, or withdrawn and handed over in cash, in exchange for a cut of the money.

Cleveland Police, who put out the warning, said: "For many young people the opportunity of getting cash by allowing someone to use their bank account for a bank transfer is tempting. However, knowingly becoming involved in such activity runs a risk of a prison sentence and a ruined credit history which can incur financial problems into later life.

"Nationally, banks are being alerted to this method of exploiting children and young people and materials have been produced which aim to educate children and young people and, support parents to protect their children from this kind of exploitation."

These top tips include:

1. Check children's bank statements with them regularly, ensuring every transaction can be accounted for.

2. Make sure they know not to give anyone their PIN, passcode, or password, even to someone claiming to be from their bank or the police.

3. If a child comes home with new clothes, trainers, electronic devices or other items that cannot be accounted for, ask them how they got the money to purchase them.

4. Explain that allowing someone else to use their bank details, regardless of how attractive or plausible the offer is a potentially a serious criminal offence that could damage their financial future. That this means they may not be able to get a mobile phone contract, mortgage, car loan.

5. Teach them the simple rule that if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.

(1st July 2019)

(Action Fraud, dated 4th June 2019)

What you need to know

Individuals have been receiving phone calls from people claiming to be a police officer or banking official

The suspect will say either:

- There has been fraudulent activity at the victims' bank and the staff at the bank are involved, the victim is then asked to withdraw money to either keep it safe or assist the police with their investigation.
- A business such as a jewellers or currency exchange is fraudulent and they require the victims' assistance to help secure evidence by purchasing jewellery or exchange a large amount of currency to hand over to the police
- The victims' card has been compromised and used to purchase goods by a suspect, the victim is requested to withdraw their money to keep it safe or hand over their bank card to the police

- Occasionally the victim will be told to dial a non-emergency extension of '161' to receive confirmation of the individual's bogus identity, the bogus official will advise the victim to lie about the reason for the withdrawal or purchase if challenged by staff, as the staff member is involved in the fraud

- A courier attends the victim's home address to collect the goods the same day. Often the victim is given a code word for the courier as a way of authentication

What you need to do

- Do not supply any personal information to anyone calling you on the telephone or attending your home.

- Inform Action Fraud of the fraud attempt (

Your bank or the police will never:

- Phone and ask you for your PIN or full banking password
- Ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them for safe-keeping
- Ask you to transfer money out of your account
- Send someone to your home to collect cash, PINs, cards to cheque books

(1st July 2019)

(iNews, dated 1st June 2019 author Simon Rushton)

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Conmen are walking the streets dressed as police officers and demanding money from people they stop.

The fraudsters have realistic uniforms and some have even carried out searches on their victims in Manchester.

The crooks also claim to be issuing fixed penalty notices and then demand immediate payment, Manchester Evening News reported.

Police warning

Detective Sergeant Jonathan Barnett, of Greater Manchester Police's City of Manchester division, said: "We are aware that this may cause concern to members of the local community but I want to reassure people that we are doing everything possible to trace those responsible.

"We are keen to make people aware of these incidents so they are informed and can remain vigilant.

"It is important to remember that officers would never demand money to be paid on the spot and if you are given a fixed penalty notice, you will be given a form which explains how to pay and your legal rights.

"As well as this, officers will always carry official ID, which can be verified by any member of the public by calling 101.

"I'd also like to take this opportunity to appeal to anyone who may have witnessed any of these incidents to come forward. If you saw anything, no matter how insignificant you think it may be, please get in touch with us."

GMP warned that the bogus police officers have even threatened the victims with arrest.

In one incident, after the Spice Girls concert at the nearby Etihad Stadium, a young woman was approached buy a fake officer who demanded cash.

(1st July 2019)

MAY 2019

(South Wales Argus, 30th May 2019)

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A FAKE email scam has been targeting TalkTalk customers.

Action Fraud, the UK's national fraud and cyber reporting centre, has received more than 100 reports this week about fake emails claiming to be from TalkTalk.

The emails state that the recipient's TalkTalk account is in credit and that they're owed a refund. The links in the emails lead to malicious websites.

People are advised to not click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails and never respond to messages that ask for your personal or financial details.

If you are unsure whether the email is genuine, contact the company directly.

Gwent Police said that should you receive an e-mail from a suspected fraudster, report the person to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or

(1st June 2019)

(Mirror, dated 28th May 2019 author Emma Munbodh)

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Brits are most likely to fall victim to fraud during the month of June, figures suggest.

A Freedom of Information request by credit referencing agency ClearScore found more crime reports for scams were made to Action Fraud in June 2018 than any other month last year.

The figures found fraud incidents were 37% higher in June than December, the month when the least reports were recorded.

Separate research also found almost one in five of those who found an error on their credit report identified signs of fraud.

These signs include higher levels of debt on your credit card than expected, new lines of credit you didn't apply for or applications for credit that you don't recognise.

In the run up to June, ClearScore is urging people to check their report for signs of fraud - which could save victims thousands of pounds.

 It comes after the Financial Ombudsman reported a 43% increase in fraud complaints last year, totalling over 12,000.

Victims of fraud can not only lose money, but can also have difficulty getting approval for loans, credit cards or a mortgage until the matter is resolved, due to the impact on their credit score.

Justin Basini, CEO and co-founder of ClearScore, said: "Fraudsters are becoming more and more sophisticated. A major problem is that so much attempted fraud goes unnoticed and once people do realise, it's too late.

"When this happens, innocent people are left thousands of pounds out of pocket. Keeping an eye on your credit report is a simple, free way to check for the tell-tale signs someone is trying to defraud you - vigilance is the first step towards protecting yourself."

How to spot signs of fraud on your credit report

One of the simplest ways to keep an eye out for fraud is to check your credit report regularly.

Keep an eye on your report like you would your bank statement - it often contains the first signs that you've been a victim of identity theft. It's also an opportunity for you to correct anything that doesn't look right, for example an incorrect address.

1. Track changes to your report

Each time your report is updated, make sure you recognise everything that's changed. For example, if you see a new credit account that you weren't expecting, it might be because someone has taken out credit in your name.

2. Check the balances on your accounts

On your credit report, look for information about any credit and current accounts you hold. They tend to be split into sections like 'credit cards', 'loans', 'mortgages'.

Firstly, check the overdraft balances on any current accounts listed. If anything looks strange here, it's best to compare the figures to your bank statement and speak to your bank if you're still suspicious.

Then check that everything else is in order, such as the mortgage and utility sections. If you see something you don't recognise, like a telecoms account that's been recently opened but you don't remember opening it, get in touch with the provider for further information.

3. Do you recognise everything in your searches?

In this section, you'll be able to see a list of everyone who's looked at your credit report. This includes hard searches, which show up when a lender checks your report after you've applied for a credit product with them.

Pay particular attention to credit application searches in this section; an unexpected hard search is often the first sign that someone's committed fraud against you. If you spot a search you don't recognise, this could be because someone has applied for credit in your name. If this is the case you can contact the credit reference agency to get this removed from your report.

uaware comment

Other credit score companies are available.

(1st June 2019)

(Telegraph, dated 26th May 2019 author Jack Hardy)

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Banks should not guarantee refunds for all fraud victims to encourage the public to be less careless, a police chief has claimed.

Commander Karen Baxter, the national coordinator for economic crime at the City of London police, suggested there should be "consequences for extremely irresponsible behaviour" if people ignore safety advice.

Her intervention comes just days before a voluntary code of practice offering greater protection against fraud is adopted by major banks including Barclays, HSBC and TSB.

The new rules will mean customers duped into transferring money to scammers posing as trusted parties - known as "push payment" fraud - will be covered for their losses.

While most banks are expected to ask customers to demonstrate they took reasonable care before giving refunds, TSB is to offer a "fraud guarantee" to all victims.

This allows any customer who has been scammed - even one deemed negligent - to get their money back, except in instances where guidance has been repeatedly ignored.

Ms Baxter expressed scepticism of the move, claiming a greater degree of "personal responsibility" was needed to stop the public growing complacent about fraud.

She told The Sunday Times: "If we are not diligent around money and the economy, we all end up paying for it. I'm not sure that's a good message."

Previously, banks have not always refunded customers who fall victim to push payment scams, as they authorised the transfer of money to the criminal themselves.

Around £1.2 billion was stolen through fraud last year, including £354 million through authorised push payments, according to banking trade body UK Finance.

Ms Baxter said she welcomed to code, but indicated a guaranteed refund policy was not "encouraging the best responsible behaviour".

She added: "When people are being offered things that are too good to be true, things that they are advised against doing but they still go ahead, I think we have to have some really difficult conversations."

TSB's offer of greater protection against fraud follows a high-profile IT meltdown suffered last year, which saw fraudsters successfully target customers who had been locked out of their online account.

A spokesman for the bank said: "We know our customers never want to become victims of fraud and they want us to help fight back against this type of crime.

"Prevention is absolutely key to tackling fraud so that's why we share our fraud prevention knowledge, face-to-face in communities right across the UK as well as through digital channels."

(1st June 2019)

(Mirror, dated 26th May 2019 author Dean Dunham)

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Social media is often disgruntled customers first port of call when they want to make a complaint about goods or services these days, but after hearing Andrea's story this week I would urge caution when doing this.

Andrea from Milton Keynes had a shock last month when she discovered that her bank account had been cleared out by fraudsters.

This was devastating news and left Andrea desperately short of money. Whilst she was assured that she would be reimbursed the money by her bank, it was explained that this would have to go through a process and could take up to two weeks.

She therefore decided to obtain a short-term loan to tide her over. To her horror she was refused, on the basis that she already had three loans and was in default on all of them.

Andrea did not understand this as she had not taken out any loans.

However, it soon became clear that her identity had been stolen and that fraudsters had taken out loans in her name.

After some investigation it became clear what had happened.

In December 2018 Andrea had experienced problems with her broadband.

She decided to take to Twitter to complain to her provider Virgin. She received a very rapid response from @virginCSmedia, whom she assumed to be the customer service team of Virgin.

The response asked for her name, address and account number in the first instance to which she responded.

A new message was then sent stating that they were having trouble locating her account so they would need some further information.

They asked for her date of birth and place of birth, which she provided. The next message confirmed that the account had been located and asked for Andrea's phone number.

Andrea then received a call from someone purporting to be a Virgin customer services agent. The man on the phone said that he needed to ask a security question first.

He then proceeded to ask Andrea for the bank details of where her direct debit is paid. She gave this information.

Andrea took screenshots of the Twitter communications at the time so that she had a record of what had been said.

This was a good idea but didn't stop her getting scammed.

The account has now been suspended, and Virgin Media have said "any accounts claiming to be us are reported immediately through the appropriate channels", but it's a clear warning to never trust anyone who contacts you directly and asks for bank details or any other personal information.

(1st June 2019)

(Manchester Evening Standard, dated 23rd May 2019 author Saffron Otter)

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Greater Manchester Police have warned about a scam where people are pretending to offer people low cost government loans - and using the details to apply for Universal Credit.

Officers in the region say Trading Standards have been made aware of the scam which is targeting people in the North West.

As a result they have urged people to 'never give personal or financial information to anyone you do not know.'

A post shared by a number of GMP Twitter accounts says: "Trading Standards have been made aware of a scam being operated across the UK, and appears to be particularly prevalent in the North West of England."

It adds: "The scam is targeted at anyone of working age. Never give personal or financial information to anyone you do not know".

What is the scam?

Fraudsters are targeting people of working age and claim that they're able to offer them a low cost government loan.

The scammer will then use their victim's personal details to apply for Universal Credit, then request a substantial advance payment, of which they'll take a cut for themselves.

The result is that the victim's current benefits will be stopped, and replaced by Universal Credit.

The victim will then be required to pay back the so called loan in full from future Universal Credit payments.

Personal information will also be compromised and the scammers will have access to their benefit account and banking information.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a government payment to help with living costs.

It is paid monthly and eligible to those on low income or out of work. Universal Credit replaces such benefits including: Child tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance and Working Tax Credit.

If you currently receive any of these benefits, you cannot claim Universal Credit at the same time.

Ten golden rules to prevent fraud

Greater Manchester Police say there are ten rules to prevent fraud.

1. Be suspicious of all 'too good to be true' offers and deals.

2. Don't agree to offers or deals immediately. Insist on time to get independent or legal advice before making a decision.

3. Don't hand over money or sign anything until you've checked someone's credentials and their company's.

4. Never send money to anyone you don't know or trust, whether in the UK or abroad, or use methods of payment you're not comfortable with.

5. Never give banking or personal details to anyone you don't know or trust.

6. Always log on to a website directly rather than clicking on links in an email.

7. Don't just rely on glowing testimonials. Find solid, independent evidence of a company's success.

8. Always get independent or legal advice if an offer involves money, time or commitment.

9. If you spot a scam or have been scammed, report it and get help. Contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

10. Don't be embarrassed about reporting a scam. Because the scammers are cunning and clever there's no shame in being deceived. By reporting it, you'll make it more difficult for them to deceive others.

(1st June 2019)

(Oxford Mail, dated 22nd May 2019 author Indya Clayton)

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A WOMAN from a village near Witney is concerned about the vulnerable falling into a trap after she believes she received a 'sinister' scam phone call yesterday.

Dot Holloway, 71, from Minster Lovell, received the call at 3.30pm. The automated voice on the phone said: "There is a court injunction against you. This is an important message. Press one to access the solicitor who will be acting on your behalf."

 She put the phone down and immediately contacted three neighbours who she feels are particularly vulnerable and would fall victim to the scam.

She said: "This is an obvious scam. I'm concerned that anyone who is vulnerable or has a nervous disposition will think they have to 'press one' but they don't - it's completely made up."

Mrs Holloway blocked the number which tried to call again and hour later.

 She alerted BT to the call who said they were not aware of this type of scam, and tried contacting the police but said she 'gave up' when she spent two hours on the phone waiting to get through to them.

Mrs Holloway said: "You can't stop all the scams but this is one that needs to be stopped. It has to be taken seriously because there's a sinister element to it."

(1st June 2019)

(Daily Record, dated 22nd May 2019 author Vicky Shaw)

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Planning a holiday is one of life's most exciting joys, so it can be ­heartbreaking to discover that your big break doesn't really exist and you've in fact been the victim of a scam.

Would-be holidaymakers and travellers were conned out of £7million by ­fraudsters in 2018, according to Action Fraud.

The average amount lost was £1380 per person but as well as the financial cost, victims have also reported the significant emotional impact caused by this crime.

More than half (53 per cent) of the crimes reported were related to the sale of airline tickets.

The next most common fraud related to the sale of accommodation.

What's more, the actual total number of losses relating to travel fraud may be even higher, with many victims feeling too ­embarrassed to report what happened.

As holiday season approaches, Action Fraud has teamed up with Abta - the Travel Association and Get Safe Online - to highlight the warning signs of ­travel-related fraud. Here are some tips…

1. Stay safe online

Pay close attention to a company's web address to make sure it is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name - such as going from to .org.

2. Do your research

Don't just rely on one review - do a thorough online search to check the company's credentials.

If a firm is defrauding people, there is a good chance that consumers will post details of their ­experiences, and warnings about it.

3. Ask yourself if the deal is too good to be true

It's easy to let the ­excitement of what looks like a "dream holiday" at a bargain price cloud your judgment.

Be wary if you are contacted out of the blue by a travel agent or firm you've not dealt with before, offering a trip at a low price.

Fraudsters will often use fake online adverts, bogus sales calls, emails and texts offering very cheap deals to tempt you in to booking a holiday with them.

4. Look for the logo

Check if the company is a member of a recognised trade body such as Abta. If you have any doubts, you can verify membership of Abta online.

5. Pay safely

Wherever possible, pay by credit card and be wary about paying directly into someone else's bank account. If it's a scam, the fraudster may completely cut off contact after their victim has paid up - and they later discover the holiday doesn't exist.

Generally speaking, people paying by credit card have protections under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if something goes wrong with a purchase.

This means it's possible to put a claim to the credit card company if you don't get the goods or service you purchased with your card.

6. Watch out for holiday club fraud

This may happen when a fraudster contacts you out of the blue, perhaps on the phone or by offering you a ­scratchcard in the street, and says you've won a holiday.

To claim the "prize", victims may be asked to watch a presentation, often in a fancy hotel, to learn more about their holiday.

The presentation may be deliberately long and victims may be offered free champagne or other alcohol, before being asked to sign a contract.

It later turns out the holiday isn't free and instead the victim finds out they are expected to pay for flights and other extras.

When they try to book holidays, people may also discover that destinations are not guaranteed and may be unavailable when they want to visit them.

7. Check the ­paperwork

You should study receipts, invoices, as well as terms and conditions.

Be very wary of any companies that don't provide any at all.

When booking through a holiday club or timeshare, consider getting the contract ­thoroughly vetted by a ­solicitor before signing up.

8. Get help and report any suspect contact

Victims should contact their bank and report it to Action Fraud. For more advice on how to stay safe when booking or researching travel online, visit

(1st June 2019)

(Mirror, dated 22nd May 2019 author Sophie Curtis)

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Personal details of more than 4,500 TalkTalk customers have been discovered online - despite TalkTalk denying they had been stolen.

The details, which were found as part of a BBC Watchdog investigation, are part of the 2015 data breach, when almost 157,000 TalkTalk customer details were stolen.

They include full names, addresses, email addresses, dates of birth, TalkTalk customer numbers, mobile numbers and bank details of thousands of customers.

This information is likely to have been online since the 2015 breach, without the knowledge of the people involved, according to Watchdog Live.

It was freely and easily available and did not have to be found by searching the "dark web". The BBC consumer show uncovered it using a simple Google search.

The 2015 breach left substantial amounts of sensitive personal information potentially exposed to fraudsters.

While all TalkTalk customers were advised about the risk of scam calls, thousands were reassured by the chief executive at the time that "none of your personal information or sensitive financial data was taken".

Following Watchdog Live's investigation, TalkTalk has contacted the affected customers and made them aware their details were compromised back in 2015.

"A recent investigation has shown that 4,545 customers may have received the wrong notification regarding this incident," the company said in a statement.

"This was a genuine error and we have since written to all those impacted to apologise.

"99.9% of customers received the correct notification in 2015. On their own, none of the details accessed in the 2015 incident could lead to any direct financial loss."

However, online security expert Scott Helme said that with the information Watchdog has found, a fraudster could sign up for services, set up direct debits and purchase goods on their victim's behalf.

He said a scammer could also pretend to be their bank with this information.

The 2015 attack saw the personal details of nearly 157,000 customers accessed, including the bank account number and sort code of over 15,000 customers.

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) subsequent investigation found multiple failings in TalkTalk's security processes.

The ICO issued a record fine of £400,000 to TalkTalk  in 2016, as a reflection of "the seriousness of the event".

Watchdog presenter Steph McGovern spoke to a number of customers affected, none of whom were aware that their details had been compromised.

For the last two years Alan - whose name has been changed to protect his identity - has had his phone, email and his bank account bombarded by a series of fraudulent attacks.

Alan said he felt "extremely uncomfortable" after Watchdog Live showed him his bank account number, sort code and other personal information being so easily accessible online.

He added: "I think they've failed their customers on a gigantic scale."

Watchdog Live also spoke to Maureen, who was shocked after finding out that her details were breached in 2015. At the time Maureen was told by TalkTalk that her details had not been stolen.

Maureen has been in touch with TalkTalk on multiple occasions, most recently in May of this year, to raise her concerns that her details had been compromised.

 But TalkTalk continued to insist that they had not. Watchdog Live's investigation found Maureen's sensitive data through a simple online search.

"I've been asking this question since 2015," Maureen told the programme:

I knew something was not right and I kept insisting and they avoided every single time I asked the question, have my details been compromised?"

(1st June 2019)

(South Wales Argus, dated 22nd May 2019)

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 USERS of Snapchat and Instagram are being blackmailed for money with the threat of having their personal photos shared publicly if they refuse to pay.

Those using the apps are being told to stay alert to any emails or text messages asking for their 2FA (Two Factor Authentication) codes that can be used to hack into their account.

Action Fraud (the UK's National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre) recommends not responding to messages that ask for your login details or two-factor authentication codes. 

Use the report functions within Snapchat and Instagram to alert them of spam messages or accounts that have been hacked.

Any instances of fraud or Cyber Crime can be reported to Action Fraud. Call them on 0300 123 2040.

Alternatively, visit or visit

(1st June 2019)

(Mirror, dated 22nd May 2019 author James Andrews)

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While banks drag their heels over new rules, losses from bank transfer fraud are spiralling out of control, Which? has warned.

Figures from the consumer association show a staggering £674 is lost each minute to push payment fraud, working out at £40,445 an hour, £970,685 a day and £29.5 million a month.

Which? head of money Gareth Shaw said: "For too long, victims of bank transfer fraud have lost life-changing sums and subsequently faced a gruelling battle to get their money back."

There is a plan in the works to crack down on this - or at least get customers their money back if they are hit - but it's still not fully adopted.

"Banks must offer much greater protection to consumers, while quickly and fairly reimbursing those who are unfortunate enough to fall victim," Shaw said.

"Failure to do so will require swift intervention from the regulator- as these devastating scams can't be allowed to derail lives any longer."

How push payment fraud works and the plans to stop it

Push payment fraud is when a criminal convinces someone to transfer them cash - often by impersonating the police, a the tax man or even the customer's bank itself.

They can be incredibly convincing and have a string of tricks to make you believe you're acting in your own interest.

However, as it's you making the transfer, banks have previously said it's not their fault and refused to reimburse victims.

Last year, less than a quarter of the money lost to this sort of fraud was returned to consumers.

Which?  is calling for all banks to urgently reassure their customers they will be better protected against fraudsters by signing up to a new voluntary industry code, which comes into effect next week.

The code is designed to offer better protection and ensure people who lose money through no fault of their own are swiftly reimbursed.

But so far just eight banks have signed up to it.

New rules to make sure victims of "push payment" fraud are refunded by their bank - instead of just 1 in 5 of them

UK Finance, which represents British banks, said protecting customers as one of the industry's "foremost priorities" in response.

"It is vital that we get the right outcome for customers by ensuring that customers making payments are not penalised for the criminal actions of others even in circumstances where the payment services provider has done everything reasonably expected of it to protect the customer under the Code," said UK Finance chief executive Stephen Jones.

He added: "The new Code delivers a commitment from all firms who sign up to it to reimburse victims of authorised push payment scams in any scenario where the customer has met the minimum standards expected of them under the Code."

There is also even stronger protection in the works, with the payment system regulator taking steps to prevent you ever transferring cash to someone you don't know by accident.

But the introduction of this "confirmation of payee" system has been delayed until March 2020.

Jones said: "The industry will continue to fight fraud on every front to protect customers and prevent this kind of crime - investing in advanced security systems and new ways to track stolen funds, preparing for the roll out of 'confirmation of payee' capability across payment systems, assisting law enforcement in tackling the criminals and supporting the government in improving how intelligence is shared."

Which? was less impressed. "This new date is nine months later than its original deadline of July 2019, and is likely to result in an additional £109m being lost to scams," it said.

The consumer association issued fives tests to check if banks were doing enough:

Banks must promise to protect their customers by signing up to the Code with the regulator pledging to conduct a one-year review on its effectiveness.

The regulator must ensure all banks introduce vital name-check security (confirmation of payee) no later than its new deadline of March 2020. The latest delay will cost people an additional £109m in losses while they wait for this important measure.

No blameless scam victim should ever be denied reimbursement again, and full refunds should be issued swiftly.

Banks must show they are serious about protecting consumers by immediately agreeing a long-term funding solution for no blame refunds.

Banks must publish victim and reimbursement figures on a regular basis to allow effective monitoring in the fight against transfer fraud.

"Until these steps are taken, the devastating effect of bank transfer scams will continue to cause growing financial and emotional harm to UK Consumers," Which? chief executive Anabel Hoult wrote in a letter to UK Finance's Jones.

Who's signed up to the new code so far

These are the banks that have committed to signing up to the new code surrounding payment fraud:

- Barclays
- Lloyds Banking Group
- Metro Bank
- Royal Bank of Scotland
- Natwest
- Santander
- Nationwide

(This is money, dated 21st May 2019 author Amelia Murray)

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Banks will next week enter a milestone agreement that will see every blameless fraud victim refunded all of their stolen money.

It spells a landmark victory for Money Mail following years of campaigning for those tricked out of life-changing sums.

But, today, as figures from consumer lobby group Which? reveal fraudsters are stealing £674 a minute - almost £1million a day - we call on our biggest banks to ensure they keep working to better protect customers.

The voluntary code - which HSBC, RBS, NatWest, Lloyds, Nationwide and Santander have all signed up to - promises reimbursement for victims provided they have shown a reasonable amount of care.

Average losses are around £2,920 per victim, while fraud complaints to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) are at an all-time high - up by 40 per cent to more than 12,000 in 2018/19.

The new code, compiled by a steering group of campaigners and banks, will oblige members to refund customers tricked into transferring money to fraudsters.

For years they have been able to shrug off responsibility when customers were deceived by crooks posing as legitimate organisations, such as their bank.

Experts say the code is the first key step to tackling the fraud epidemic, but there are a number of issues still to be addressed and it is not retrospective.

But while the code will end the pain of fraud for millions, there are still delays to a key security check that could prevent the crime in the first place.

A long-awaited safeguard - Confirmation of Payee - will ensure that when customers transfer money, the payee's bank account number and name have to match.

But this has been delayed by nine months leaving millions of people vulnerable to scams.

In the absence of the check, fraudsters posing as legitimate companies and individuals are able to trick people into transferring money into their accounts.

Regulators wanted the new check by July, but it has emerged that banks now do not have to fully implement the new system until March next year.

Experts at Which? estimate that fraud victims could lose as much as £109 million because of the delay.

Gareth Shaw, head of money content at Which?, says: 'Confirmation of Payee would cut fraud losses in half overnight.'

Banks which have signed up to the code have all offered an initial contribution to a fund which will see 'no blame' customers reimbursed until the end of this year.

But a long-term funding model has yet to be agreed. One proposal is a fee paid by banks on transactions, which could see the cost passed on to customers. Only Lloyds and Nationwide have promised to absorb the costs.

Under the new code banks must make a decision to reimburse within 15 working days or 35 in exceptional circumstances. The payment must then be made 'without delay'. Mr Shaw says: 'By adopting this code, banks must offer much greater protection to consumers, while quickly, and fairly, reimbursing those who are unfortunate enough to fall victim.

Failure to do so will require swift intervention from the regulator - as these devastating scams can't be allowed to derail lives any longer.'

Under the code, banks can refuse to refund scam victims when they have ignored warnings or when they have been 'grossly negligent'.

Fraud expert Richard Emery, from consultancy 4Keys International, says 'gross negligence' could involve an individual making a conscious, voluntary decision with a clear understanding of the risk.

But he says customers refused payouts on these grounds should take their case to the FOS where they will have a good chance of having their complaint upheld.

He adds: 'Any bank that relies on the gross negligence argument will have an uphill battle trying to prove this.'

Only individuals, charities and businesses with fewer than ten staff, and a turnover under £2 million, are covered by the code.

Last month, TSB introduced its own Fraud Refund Guarantee, which covers all types of scams.

As of April 14, customers who fall victim to scams are reimbursed up to £1 million. It will cover the costs of the scheme itself, but won't pay out if customers are repeatedly conned because they did not follow the bank's advice.

Stephen Jones, boss of trade body UK Finance, says firms who sign up to the code will commit to reimbursing victims of scams in any scenario where the customer has met the minimum standards.

He says a long-term funding agreement for the 'no-blame' scenario will be decided by January 2020.

He adds: 'Banks follow all the requirements set by the government and regulators and will also reflect the decisions and guidance of the Financial Ombudsman Service in deciding how the threshold of gross negligence should be interpreted in individual cases.'

(1st May 2019)

(Reuters, dated 21st May 2019 author Huw Jones)

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Scams in Britain involving currencies and crypto assets like bitcoin totalled £27 million in the last financial year, with average losses of 14,600 pounds per victim, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said on Tuesday.

Reports of scams more than tripled in the year that ended in April to 1,800 as fraudsters often used social media to promote their "get rich quick" online trading platforms, according to an FCA statement.

"Investors will often be led to believe that their first investment has successfully made a profit," it said.

The fraudster then contacts the victim to invest more money with a false promise of greater profits. The customer account is later closed and the scammer disappears, the FCA said.

The FCA said it would run advertsising to raise awareness of online trading scams.

"We're warning the public to be suspicious of adverts which promise high returns from online trading platforms," said Mark Steward, the FCA's executive director of enforcement and market oversight.

(Metro, dated 23rd May 2019 author James Hockaday)

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People who've lost millions of pounds to cryptocurrency 'get rich quick scams' say UK authorities have been far too slow to react.

Members of a victim support group have accused police of 'sitting on its hands' as the ponzi schemes have grown.

It comes after a warning this week claiming cryptoasset and foreign exchange (forex) investment scams in the UK more than tripled last year.

While victims and experts welcome the statement by Action Fraud UK and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), they say far more action should have been taken years ago.

People are losing £14,600 on average to 'get rich quick scams' involving online investments and lost more than £27 million in total in 2018/19.

Reports of cryptoasset and forex scams more than tripled in a year, jumping from 530 in 2017/18 to more than 1,800 the following year.

Criminals promote the trading platforms through social media and images of luxury items like expensive watches and cars.

Punters are persuaded to invest with promises of eye-watering profits and are encouraged with handsome commission payments to recruit family and friends.

Eventually the returns stop and customer account is closed and the scammer disappears with the money.

Victims of cryptocurrency investment scheme USI-Tech say it's been an uphill struggle to get authorities to act and accuse them of 'sitting on their hands'.

Jason Everett from the USI Tech Now What!? Facebook group said: 'This fraud left a lot of people devastated and their life savings gone - and vulnerable people were deliberately targeted.

'But Action Fraud and the police simply do not care and spend more time finding reasons and making excuses not to investigate and prosecute.'

He says USI Tech victims are often told there isn't much UK authorities can do because the company is registered in Dubai.

But Jason, who lost £3,000, says many of the people duping victims with these sorts of pyramid schemes are UK based promoters.

Accusing authorities of 'sitting on their hands', he added: 'I've gone into battle with Action Fraud, I've collated 130 reports, they don't want to do sod all about it'.

Victims Zahid Malik and Becky Turner, who lost £10,000 and £1,500, complained to Action Fraud after hearing nothing back from them for months.

Only then were they told the complaints had been passed to various police forces.

Action Fraud is a reporting centre run by the City of London Police, working alongside the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.

Although the centre doesn't have investigative powers, many victims feel left in the dark after making complaints and don't know who's supposed to be looking into them.

Blockchain technology consultant Jon Walsh called the police and Action Fraud's response to the scandal 'disappointing' and says they 'don't understand these scams yet'.

He added: 'They need multiple complaints before they act and even then they still don't. 'By being reactive and not proactive the scammers breathe'.

Jon says his long term goal is to get the law changed so that people promoting the scams are held criminally negligible - meaning they could be prosecuted even if they didn't know they were breaking the law.

He says the FCA needs to start regulating cryptocurrencies, but because they aren't regulated or backed by central banks, they aren't considered a legitimate form of money.

Jon added: 'I accept that we want to have a softly softly approach with new technology in order to not stifle innovation but it still needs doing. Technology can move much faster than regulations can. 'We're seeing significant losses here. We need action now.'

Jen McAdam, whose family lost £216,000 to the OneCoin scheme said: 'For two years they couldn't prevent so many people from losing millions in the UK. They're two years behind. I still want to know why. 'For me it's fantastic that the warning has come out but it's two years too late.'

An Action Fraud spokesperson said people who have reported 'will have received correspondence informing them of the status of their report'.

They added: 'Those reports that contained sufficient information will have been passed onto local forces or law enforcement agencies for intelligence purposes.

'While not all reports can be passed on for investigation, some may be passed on for intelligence purposes, which can help build a picture of how and where fraud and cyber crime is happening.

'The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) continues to assess all crimes reported to Action Fraud to ensure that we alert the public, and the wider policing world, to emerging fraud and cyber threats to protect the UK.

'We continue to ensure that vulnerable victims are referred to local forces for immediate support and all victims receive updates as their crime progresses through the review process.'

An FCA spokesperson added: 'We have been providing warnings to consumers about how to avoid frauds and scams via our Scamsmart website for over three years now. It is wrong to suggest otherwise.'

FCA Scamsmart website :

Tips for avoiding scams

- Don't assume it's real, no matter how 'professional the website looks
- Avoid uninvited investment offers

- Research the company thoroughly and seek independent advice

- Check to see if financial services are authorised by the FCA and don't use contact details provided by the firm

(1st June 2019)

(Irish Mirror, dated 21st May 2019 author Emma McMenamy)

Full article [Option 1]:

Note : This fraud easily transportable across borders.

A staggering 180,000 Irish holidaymakers have fallen victim to fraud while booking their trip, according to new figures.

Research carried out by iReach, which provides a range of market intelligence services in Europe, found that in the past 12 months alone it has affected over 25,000 bookings.

The average amount of money per booking that each person lost was roughly €451.

Those booking train tickets online were the hardest hit at 35%, followed closely by hotel reservations at 32%.

People booking apartment online were the third worst hit, affecting 23% of correspondents.

Only 16% of respondents said they were scammed on bus tickets and even less, 15%, said they were targeted while buying flights.

Of those who were hit by fraud, 59% said they managed to rearrange a legitimate replacement booking while a further 7% claimed under holiday insurance.

The survey, carried-out in the run into the summer months, asked 1,001 adults in Ireland about their experiences with booking fraud.

Overall, research found that there were personal losses of almost €12million within the last year alone.

A spokesperson for iReach said: "Due to the rapid development of new technologies, such as the widespread internet and social media platforms, and the associated new opportunities for fraudsters, it is likely that these numbers will continue to rise in the future."

The vast majority of people questioned (59%) said they made their booking on an online website at 59%, a smartphone at 36% or via e-mail at 20%.

When it came to payment, a massive 64% said they paid by credit card while only 20% indicated that they ever paid cash.

And 47% of those that ever experienced a booking fraud said that they have been deceived at least two times or more.

Spokeswoman for iReach, Antonia Schultz-Mosgau that modern technology has a massive part to play with booking fraud.

She said: "Due to the rapid development of new technologies, such as the widespread internet and social media platforms, and the associated new opportunities for fraudsters, it is likely that these numbers will continue to rise in the future.

"Try not rush (or be forced into a decision) and always remember, if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is."

She said that there are a few ways to avoid being scammed: "Not using cash is critical and check if credit cards have any purchase insurance.

"If no credit card, then have a look at payment engines such as PayPal which has some protections but is not perfect.

"Finally, search for reviews on the tickets or property or even the booking site itself, as this might highlight problems faced by others. Report any problems as soon as possible."

(1st June 2019)

(Cornwall Live, dated 20th May 2019 author Graeme Wilkinson)

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Police have warned how people in Cornwall have been targeted by a threatening bailiff telephone scam.

Fraudsters pretending to work for a court threaten to visit homes to reclaim a bogus debt.

The police said businesses and individuals have be targeted and urged people not to be pressured into handing over money.

Callington Police said: "The fraud starts by the victim being cold-called by someone pretending to be a bailiff working on behalf of a court or other organisation, attempting to recover funds for a non-existent debt.

"Fraudsters request payment by bank transfer. Never use this method of payment for anything if you can avoid it as there I no way to recover the money.

"If refused, they threaten to visit the people's homes or place work in order to recover the 'debt' that is owed."

People are urged not to be pressured into taking action but to instead request details in writting and then make proper checks.

The police issued the following advice:

- Make vigorous checks if you ever get a cold call associated with a bailiff. Don't be afraid to hang up and use a different phone to call whoever it is you are being told you owe money to. Don't use numbers provided by the "bailiffs" during the cold call.
- If you work for a business and receive a call or visit from bailiffs or debt collectors, be sure to speak with your manager or business owner first. Never pay the debts yourself on behalf of a business you work for.

- Request details of the debt in writing to confirm its legitimacy

- Do not feel rushed or intimidated to make a decision based on a phone call

- If you have been affected by this or any other type of fraud, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or

(Daily Post, dated 21st May 2019 author Sarah Hodgson)

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Businesses are being warned of a new scam in which fraudsters try to scare workers into handing over cash.

The con-artists are contacting businesses by phone and claim that they are collecting business rates and council tax on behalf of Flintshire County Council.

They go on to say that the company is in arrears and enforcement agents and vans will be sent to the business to remove goods to the value of the debt.

Flintshire Trading Standards said the callers may seem convincing as they appear to know the names and full details of the business and its owners and other details including how much council tax and rates for the business are and even how much the first payment for this year should have been.

However, it is all just a clever rouse as all the information has been found online in a bid to trick the victim.

But businesses are being urged to be on guard and not fall for the scam - however convincing it may seem.

Flintshire Trading Standards said: "This is a scam and the scammers aim to contact businesses when they are busiest and easily distracted, if a business should receive a call such as this do not agree to pay anything over the phone, terminate the phone call, and contact Flintshire County Council finance to check if there are any problems.

"Businesses will be aware if are in arrears, at least two letters will have been sent by Flintshire Revenues department to the business pointing out they are in arrears. No matter how convincing the scammer may sound, no vans will show up to take your goods away."

(1st June 2019)

(Forbes, dated 19th May 2019 author Suzanne Rowan Kelleher)

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It's become painfully clear that hotels are not doing enough to protect their guests' privacy.

In recent years, we've seen high-volume data breaches at a slew of major hotel brands, including Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, InterContinental, Sheraton, Westin, Starwood, Wyndham, Omni Hotels and Mandarin Oriental.

Then, last month, a report by the cybersecurity software company Symantec revealed that a majority of hotels inadvertently leak guests' personal data to third parties when they send out confirmation emails. The study looked at more than 1,500 hotel websites in 54 countries ranging from small, independent properties to large five-star resorts and chains, and found that two out of three hotels send messages that can make it easy for third parties to view guests' full names, email addresses, credit card details and passport numbers.

If there's a silver lining, it's that most of the danger outlined in the Symantec report falls into the category of targeted attacks. "These are scary, but very rare," says Max Eddy, a software analyst at PCMag specializing in security services. "Targeted attacks don't scale well, and most attackers are out to get as much monetizable information as possible as quickly as possible."

At the very least, travelers should make sure that the hotel's confirmation e-mail links to a secure site whose address begins with https, advises Navin Manglani, Professor of Technology at the NYU Stern School of Business.  "Also, if the website gets redirected from an https site to an http site, that might be a red flag to not continue viewing the information or not enter any additional information."

Since hotels have done little to earn the trust of travelers, it's up to each of us to protect ourselves. Here are a few easy steps that can make a big difference:

Install an extension to thwart formjackers.

Earlier this year, Symantec highlighted formjacking in its Internet Security Threat Report

as one of the most serious and lucrative types of cybercrimes. Formjacking works like an ATM skimmer on websites that require users to fill out online forms. A cybercriminal places a small piece of code on an e-commerce website and then simply waits. When the victim enters a credit card number or other personal data, the code sends that information back to the criminal. It's particularly dangerous because it's nearly impossible for victims to detect.

To make the personal information you enter through online forms less vulnerable, Manglani suggests downloading a browser-based script blocker such as ScriptSafe for Chrome, JSBlocker for Safari or NoScript for Firefox.

"These tools are designed to stop formjackers from stealing the data you enter by blocking the JavaScript code that sends your data to ancillary parties." Manglani says a script blocker may also may prevent formjackers from stealing information pre-populated into your confirmation.

Never use free Wi-Fi without a VPN.

In general, it's wise to get into the habit of using a virtual private network (VPN) whenever you are relying on open Wi-Fi networks in airports, hotels, coffee shops and so on.  Free Wi-Fi networks are handy but notoriously risky; a VPN boosts security by creating an encrypted tunnel between your computer or your phone and a server.

"Using a VPN - particularly on unsecured, public networks but any network that you don't manage yourself - is always a good idea since it prevents network traffic from being observed as easily," says Eddy.

When possible, pay with a digital wallet.

A few major hotel chains and online booking sites such as Expedia and allow guests to pay with digital wallets such as PayPal, Apple Pay or Google Pay.

"This is a more secure option than credit cards, since less of your personal data is shared and the transaction is secure and encrypted," says Manglani.

None of these steps are prohibitively expensive or require more than a few minutes to set up. Besides, it's become untenable for travelers to simply sit back and do nothing.

"We trust companies to be good stewards of our data," says Eddy. "And these hotel sites are clearly failing at it."

(1st June 2019)

(Which?, dated 17th May 2019 author Amelia Wade)

Full article [Option 1]:

A member got in touch with us after they were approached by a man at a parking meter. Have you heard of the 'Lebanese Loop' parking meter scam?

A member was stopped by a man who pleaded with them to help him with a parking meter that wouldn't accept a foreign card.

Unfortunately, they offered to use their card as the man said he'd be able to pay them back in cash.

He insisted on pressing the buttons, but let them type in their own Pin - which the member thought they had concealed from him.

Transaction void

The man then said that the transaction was void, and the card wouldn't come out of the machine. He rang what he said was the number given on the meter and gave the member his phone to speak with the meter personnel.

They said that if a second credit card was inserted, it would force the first one out.

Of course upon trying this, the card did not come out. After the man left the member tried calling the number on their own phone - it was an automated message.

In 10 minutes the thieves had withdrawn £500 on each card. Fortunately, the bank refunded the amount.

What is a 'Lebanese Loop'?

It's not too often you meet a scammer in 'real life' - more often they lurk behind a computer or on the end of a phone.

Since contacting us, the member reported the crime to the police and has told friends and family to watch out - spreading awareness is vital.

There have been other reports of this in London. A police warning described a suspected 'Lebanese Loop' - a device that captures cards while the suspect watches you enter your Pin.

Action Fraud told us the scam isn't that common, but if it happens to you, contact your card provider and the police. If you're ever entering your pin anywhere, even if it's not in front of people, make sure you conceal it.

(1st June 2019)

(Daily Post, dated 16th May 2019 author Joel Leaver)

Full article [Option 1]:

Action Fraud has warned the public of a terrifying new scam in which victims are sent their own passwords as evidence of a hack.

Fraudsters claim to have gained access to the victim's device following the viewing of pornographic material, relying on the premise of a surveillance hack to threaten the individual.

Tech experts however believe this isn't a genuine case of surveillance, unlike the recent WhatsApp spyware attack, instead noting that filming of the victim is unlikely to have taken place.

This latest scam comes just days after we warned of a similar con doing the rounds this month - the HMRC 'springtime tax scam'.

Over 250,000 people are said to have been targeted with the offer of a tax rebate.

So what exactly is the new phishing scam? And how should you respond if you receive the email?

What is the 'sextortion scam'?

The 'sextortion scam' is essentially a blackmail scheme through which scammers attempt to threaten victims into payment by claiming to have footage of their private online activity.

This is done through an email which includes the victim's own password in the subject line - suggesting that the sender has access to their computer or device.

The fraudsters claim that the password was obtained through surveillance software installed on the victim's device through pornographic videos online.

The email threatens that if the victim doesn't provide a payment, a recording of them watching this sexual content will be leaked to their social media and email contacts - purportedly obtained through the hack too.

This latest scam was first identified back in July 2018 by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, a police unit who focus on cyber crime in the UK.

Since then, there have been a high numbers of reports to Action Fraud, with many victims receiving multiple emails over a short period of time.

In fact, this month alone, the organisation has already received over 1,400 reports to its website.

How have they got my password?

The purpose of the scam is to trick the victim into believing their password was obtained through surveillance software installed in pornographic videos.

Action Fraud however explained that the scammers instead likely obtained the victims' passwords from an old data breach - such as the one which affected Facebook in September 2018.

The cyber crime organisation said it suspects this after running some of the victim's email address through a dedicated database, which checks if an account has been ever been comprised in such a way.

They found that almost all of the accounts they tested were at risk.

How do I protect myself?

Although there's a very real possibility that your information may have been passed on through a data breach, there are a number of ways to protect yourself from falling victim to the scam.

Firstly, Action Fraud recommends that everyone ensure they have the latest software and app updates installed as well as making sure anti-virus software is up-to-date.

The organisation explained that anyone who does receive the email should not reply, as it highlights their vulnerability and may mean they are targeted again.

Recipients shouldn't pay the criminals either and should instead flag the email as spam if they continue to receive it multiple times.

Action Fraud also advises performing password resets immediately, if you receive a scam such as this, particularly on accounts where you've used the password mentioned in the email.

Anyone who has received the email should either contact their local police force, if they've already paid the fine, or Action Fraud, if they have yet to provide the scammers with payment details.

(1st June 2019)

(Chronicle Live, dated 15th May 2019 author Katie Collings)

Full article [Option 1]:

Residents in Northumberland are being warned over scam phone calls from people claiming to be from BT.

Northumberland County Council have received numerous complaints about hoax calls and messages telling people that that unless they take action, their broadband they will be disconnected in 48 hours.

In order to make the call look more genuine the displayed telephone number appears to be local, however this is likely to have been bought by someone who is calling from abroad.

It is not possible to call the number back, but the message requests that the recipient needs to press a number to be redirected.

BT states on its website that "Fraudsters are known to make calls claiming to work for BT, when it's actually a scam. They may ask you for personal information, want access to your computer and in some cases, ask for your bank details.

"Don't be fooled, this is fraud. We take these cases very seriously. So please let us know if you've been the victim of a scam call so we can work to stop fraudsters in their tracks."

Northumberland County Councillor John Riddle, cabinet member with responsibility for planning, housing and resilience added: "There have been a significant number of reports in the Bellingham area, and another in North Northumberland from residents who have received these calls.

"Please be on your guard and do not press any numbers that will connect you to these scammers."

To reduce the risks of falling for email scams BT has issued the following tips:

They say they will never call you out of the blue and:

- Tell you that your service has been hacked
- Try to remotely take control of your device
- Tell you we've found a problem with your computer
- Ask you for an urgent payment and threaten to disconnect your service
- Ask for payment details to activate Caller Display, Call Protect or any of our free services.

If you receive one of these calls and would like further advice you can contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0345 404 0506, or report any potential fraud to 'Action Fraud' at, or by calling 03001232040.

Alternatively BT state that you can report a scam to them at    

Useful advice for consumers and businesses is available on the Take Five - To Stop Fraud website at

(1st June 2019)

(Independent, dated 15th May 2019 author Ben Chapman)

Full article [Option 1]:

Complaints about banking scams and fraud have surged 43 per cent to an all-time high, the finance industry's adjudicator has said.

Payday loan criticism also more than doubled last year, with a "startling" 40,000 new disputes opened. The "unacceptable" rise pushed the total number of complaints to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) up 14 per cent to 388,392 - the biggest annual total in five years.

Scams where fraudsters convince victims to transfer money out of their accounts are now one of the fastest-growing types of fraud, the FOS said. Advanced push payment (APP) fraud can leave people without their life savings and with no chance of redress because banks do not have a duty to refund money in such cases.

A new voluntary code to help victims of APP fraud is being introduced in May as part of efforts to tackle the issue.

Caroline Wayman, the FOS's chief ombudsman and chief executive, said: "People manage their money in a variety of ways, and fraud and scams are becoming ever more sophisticated.

"We know from the complaints we see that banks aren't always treating victims of fraud fairly. They must do better."

On banking complaints generally, she said: "Too often we see that the interests of consumers are not hardwired into financial services. The behaviour we've seen from some businesses is simply not good enough."

Payday loans accounted for 39,715 new complaints to the FOS in the 12 months to March, marking a 130 per cent rise from a year earlier.

Regulators have cracked down on payday lenders like Wonga, which fell into administration last August. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) capped interest rates and charges on payday lending but this has sent many companies out of business, leaving those who have complained that they were mis-sold loans unable to claim compensation.

In February, the House of Commons Treasury Committee said the government may have to step in to help 10,500 Wonga customers who have been "cast aside".

The situation "cannot be right", said Nicky Morgan, chair of committee, in a letter to the FCA. "These people have been left to fend for themselves by Wonga, the FCA and the FOS," Ms Morgan said. "They've been allowed to fall through the cracks with nobody taking responsibility for their mistreatment.

Ms Wayman told the Treasury Committee in January that customers who had open complaints will not be able to have their issues resolved. The customers, many of whom are considered vulnerable, are also unable to obtain redress through the Financial Services Compensation Scheme because high-cost credit firms like Wonga are not covered.

(1st June 2019)

(Mirror, dated 5th May 2019 author Danya Bazaraa)

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A Royal Marine wept after a man who stole his identity in order to send lewd images of himself to women was jailed.

Graeme Brandon pretended to be "The Marine" while sending explicit messages to women as well as pictures of his private parts.

"The Marine" said the thought of people doubting his innocence was 'unbearable' and his mental health has been affected as a result of the horrible ordeal.

He says he has had threats from people who thought he was responsible.

Brandon pretended to be "The Marine" after stumbling upon the commando's Facebook account.

The painter and decorator used Gumtree to obtain mobile numbers of 27 random women before sending them explicit messages via WhatsApp.

The 44-year-old spent a year sending almost 30 messages, many of which contained snaps of his private parts, while using "The Marine" identity and profile picture.

A court heard the messages left the women, who were aged between 27 and 75, feeling 'distressed and violated', with the finger of suspicion pointed at the serviceman.

"The Marine" had his car vandalised by vigilantes and the mental stress of being wrongly accused led to him to quit the armed forces.

He attended Bournemouth Crown Court in Dorset and broke down in tears after seeing the man who ruined his career sent to jail for 30 months.

He said: "The thought that people were doubting me was unbearable.

"There have been incidents when I was out with my family that people recognised my face and started shouting things like 'Paedo' towards me.

"I have had my car damaged, nails in tyres and wiper blades pulled off.

"I have had numerous threats from people who contacted me believing I was responsible and I have felt helpless in trying to clear my name and trying to convince people I was not responsible.

"As a direct result of what has happened it is hard to put down into words the effect this had had on my life and my mental health."

Mark Gammon, for the Crown Prosecution Service said afterwards: "Identity theft is an insidious crime, which has a traumatising and long lasting impact on victims' lives.

"Graeme Brandon stole someone's identity and used it to send pictures of his private parts to a number of women, causing them shock and upset.

"Not only did he cause the women to be disgusted and shocked when they received these unsolicited indecent pictures, but he also showed cowardice by using someone else's identity.

"This case has had a devastating impact on the man whose identity was stolen by Graeme Brandon.

"The victim had a successful career in the Royal Marines and was about to be deployed to a foreign country when people from his community and friends started angrily to contact him saying that they had received pictures of an explicit nature.

"He and his wife started suspecting family and friends as they could not understand how their pictures could have been accessed from their Facebook account.

"Graeme Brandon's deplorable actions had a detrimental effect not only on the victim's career but also on his mental health.

"His wife's career was also affected as well as their everyday lives, as their friends and their community thought he was guilty.

"We hope that this conviction and sentence will bring some comfort to the male victim and his family and to all the women to whom he sent the unsolicited indecent pictures."

The court heard that Brandon, from Bournemouth, had never met "The Marine" but stole data and a photograph from his Facebook page and began posing as him online in early 2017.

He obtained details of the women through Gumtree after they had advertised items to be sold.

As well as the indecent photos, Brandon also threatened some of the female victims by telling them he 'knew where they lived' and that he was 'coming to get them'.

Dorset Police launched an investigation and traced the mobile phone number used back to Brandon.

He was arrested in October 2017 but denied any knowledge of the offences and was released on bail.

But he continued to send a further seven messages and was arrested again in March 2018 when police searched his home and found two pay-as-you-go phones used to send the messages hidden behind a radiator.

Thomas Evans, defending, said Brandon's father died shortly before he committed the offences.

He said: "He was grieving and drinking heavily at the time and did not think about how his behaviour would impact his victims."

Brandon pleaded guilty to 28 counts of sending indecent images and one offence of unauthorised access to computer data.

(1st June 2019)

(Guardian, dated 4th May 2019 author Simon Hattenstone)

Full article [Option 1]:

'I told Barclays about a £4,000 scam within minutes of it happening - but they said they could do nothing'

Jean Bishop was called on her mobile from someone claiming to be from Barclays. When she asked how she could be sure it was genuine, she was told they would call her back from Barclays Premier banking, which they did. The Barclays Premier number showed up on her phone. She was told they were concerned about activity on her bank account and asked her to move her money to a safe haven account. She agreed to move £4,000 of the £16,000 in her account and was told she would get a text to confirm it had been moved, which she did. But at this point she became suspicious and used another phone to call the real Barclays fraud team to ask if the first call was genuine. It wasn't.

While the fraudster was still on the other line, Barclays identified the receiving bank, Metro. Despite this, Barclays told her it would not refund the money because she had authorised the payment.

Bishop does not understand why Barclays could not trace the fraudster, who was still on the line, and why the Metro account was not instantly frozen and investigated by both the bank and the police.

Barclays' investigation team told her that when it contacted Metro there was no money in the account and it would not refund her. She claims she asked Barclays when exactly it had contacted Metro, and the bank said it could not tell her. "When the fraud was reported we send a funds remaining enquiry (FRE) to the beneficiary bank … They did confirm that no funds remained in the account when the FRE was sent," she was told in a letter.

On 27 April, after the Guardian contacted Barclays, Bishop received a letter saying the bank had reviewed the original investigation, and that there was a change of outcome as a result. She was told that at the point she contacted the fraud team, £300 of her money had been spent but the rest remained, which was now being refunded. This was despite Barclays having told her in the final resolution letter that no money was left in the receiving bank's account. Bishop believes the bank acted with gross incompetence at best. Barclays apologised and offered her £150 as compensation.

Bishop said after the fraud she couldn't stop crying. "I felt ashamed that I fell for the trick and I lost confidence in my own decision-making and became suspicious of everyone who called me - including my own GP." She told the Guardian: "I am appalled at how the banks are treating their customers. Their own investigation has been shown up to be incorrect. This could have cost me - and nearly did, if I hadn't gone to the press - £3,700. Their failure to accept any responsibility in these cases of sophisticated fraud is nothing short of shocking."

Barclays said: "At the point Mrs Bishop notified us that she had been the victim of a scam, £300 had unfortunately already been spent. However, having reviewed this case further, we acknowledge that we could have acted faster in referring her to our specialist fraud team and have therefore agreed to return the remaining £3,700 with our apologies - alongside an offer of £150 for the distress and inconvenience caused."

###'The call from NatWest came just days after they sorted out a fraud. Of course I thought it was genuine - but lost £20,000'

Helen Silva was defrauded out of £19,949 in December 2018 after being the victim of number spoofing.

The number she was spoofed on was a special NatWest 0845 number. The previous week she had had several genuine interactions with NatWest staff regarding potential security threats to her accounts on that number. So she was already on high alert to security threats. But, she says, at no time was she warned that fraudsters might use that very same spoofed NatWest security phone number to steal her money.

The fraudster ran through details of recent transactions, standing orders and direct debits, which only someone with access to her account would know. She was convinced that the call was genuine because she believed only NatWest would be able to access such details. At no time did she disclose her pin or security credentials, she says. She was tricked into transferring £19,949 to a new account.

Silva told the Guardian: "This has had a significantly negative impact on me and my husband's mental health, our plans for the future and our trust in anyone. It has also adversely affected our three children and our wider friends and family. We have lost nearly £20,000 of long-term savings in a cruel and sophisticated criminal act and no one seems to care."

Four months after she was spoofed, she received a curt letter from NatWest saying: "As previously advised, as you authorised the transaction for the sum of £19,949, the bank accepts no liability. However, we have contacted the beneficiary bank and were able to recover partial funds. I confirm the total amount of £16.08 has been credited back to your bank account."

The letter was dated 1 April 2019. When Silva read that she had been refunded £16.08 she initially thought it was an April fool, but she soon discovered it was genuine.

We asked NatWest why she had not been refunded when others who had been similarly scammed had been, and why NatWest had not warned her and other customers that its numbers were arguably vulnerable to number spoofing.

On 16 April, NatWest told the Guardian: "On review, we have decided to refund Mrs Silva in full for her loss as a gesture of goodwill, and we wish to apologise for any distress caused to her while we reached this decision."

###'I sent £30,000 to Metro and Barclays accounts after what appeared to be a genuine call from NatWest'

On 22 June 2018, Bill Edmonds received a call from a NatWest number stating that his account was in danger of being hacked and, as NatWest had stopped fraud successfully on this account before, the safest thing would be to transfer his money to a new account. Six months earlier he had received another call on this number telling him of a fraud that had been successfully intercepted. He had no reason to distrust the number. After all, the number was a perk of his NatWest Platinum account, for which he paid £20 a month.

Edmonds set up a new account on 23 June 2018. When he logged on to his old account, it said "suspended", and he was informed by the fraudster that this was done by NatWest to prevent fraud.

On 23 June and 25 June, he transferred the money out. He was then advised by the fraudster to visit a NatWest branch to check the new account had been set up. He did so on 26 June, when he discovered he had been a spoofing victim and that his funds had been transferred to Barclays and Metro accounts.

In total, he transferred £17,562.41 on 23 June to the Barclays account, and £12,346.65 to the Metro account on 25 June. He says he was provided with no emotional or monetary support, even though his account had just been emptied.

On 11 July he received £17.57 from Metro, but the NatWest case handler only became aware of this because Edmonds told him. On 29 August he received £2,787 from Barclays - again, this was only discussed with the case handler because Edmonds informed him.

Later in July, NatWest wrote to Edmonds stating: "Whilst I fully sympathise you have been a victim of a scam, the bank has made no error and the correct processes have been followed." The bank did apologise for the poor service Edmonds received but told him it would not refund his money.

We asked NatWest why it did not question him about the withdrawals when they were so out of character, and why NatWest had taken no action to warn customers that this special Platinum number was arguably vulnerable to fraud. When he received a new card, the information leaflet for the debit card stated: "If we think someone else is trying to use your card we may contact you by phone or text." The number cited in this leaflet was the same (albeit spoofed) number through which he was defrauded.

NatWest told Edmonds that the account had been renamed "suspended accounts" by the bank in an attempt to investigate the fraud when in fact it was the fraudster who renamed it "suspended accounts".

On 17 April this year, Natwest agreed to refund Edmonds' money. NatWest said: "We sincerely sympathise with Mr Edmonds, who has been the victim of a scam, and appreciate this has been a very difficult time for him. We take fraud and scams very seriously and, having been asked to revisit this case by the Financial Ombudsman, we have decided to refund him in full for his loss as a gesture of goodwill. We wish to apologise for any distress caused to Mr Edmonds while we reached this decision."


There is nothing to stop fraudsters changing the caller ID to mirror that of your bank. If the receiving mobile already has the bank's number in its contacts list, the handset will show that NatWest, Metro or whoever is calling.

Similarly, texts from fraudsters using a spoofed number, will show up as being from the bank - often appearing alongside legitimate texts sent out by the bank.

Which? recently warned consumers to be on their guard against this growing problem. It says texts have been particularly effective at duping customers because of the way smartphones group messages that claim to come from the same source.

If you receive a voice or automated call - either at home or on your mobile - that claims to be from your bank, hang up. Having cleared the line, phone the bank yourself on the number shown on your bank card. Texts should be treated as equally suspicious.

The banks have said they can't prevent scammers using technology to impersonate them, as they don't control the gateways through which spoofed texts are sent.

(1t June 2019)


So we have had personal banking fraud, fraud on vehicle exhaust emmissions, fraud on what meat is being put in our pies, temporary staff employment fraud and now...... space craft fraud ????

(The Times, dated 3rd May 2019 author Jacqui Goddard)

Full article [Option 1]:

A metals manufacturer that provided faulty rocket parts to Nasa, resulting in the loss of two satellites worth $700 million, has been prosecuted after an investigation found that it falsified thousands of test results.

Hundreds of clients suffered combined losses of billions of dollars as a result of Sapa Profiles Inc (SPI) faking certificates to show that the aluminium it supplied had passed quality testing.

"When testing results are altered and certifications are provided falsely, missions fail," Jim Norman, Nasa's director for launch services, said. "Our trust was severely violated."

The faulty aluminium was used in the construction of the Taurus XL rocket that launched Nasa's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) in 2009 and the $424 million Glory satellite in 2011. Both aimed to gather climate science data by observing the Earth from space.

Years of scientific work was lost, along with the hardware after the rocket fairing - a clamshell like structure meant to protect the satellite as it passed through the atmosphere - failed to open and seperate on command during ascent. The rocket was too heavy to get into orbit and was dragged down causing it to break up and burn.

The remains of the OCO crashed into the southern Indian Ocean, near Antartica. Glory's pieces are believed to have fallen into the Pacific Ocean.

Two accident investigation boards failed to establish the root cause of the malfunctions, but seperate inquiries opened in 2012 b two NASA branches - the launch service programme and the Office of the Inspector General and the US Department of Justice found thousands of falsified documents.

They revealed how SPI, based in Oregon, altered test reults relating to the metal's strength and reliability under presure, and produced fake certificates to Orbital Sciences Corporation, the rockets manufacturer.

Records of the test results obtained by NASA's Office of the Inspector General revealed that SPI made alterations to more than 2,000 test results between 1996 and 2006, affecting more than 200 customers. SPI's own investigations revealed that its employees altered more than 4,100 test results from 2002 to 2015, affecting more than 250 customers.

Employees who raised concerns were ignored, according to court documents. They included a lab technician who told the plant manager he was dreading the daily practice of being asked to fake tests, pass failing material or enter fake data.

The investigations resulted in criminal charges, civil allegations and an agreement by Norsk Hydro SA, SPI's parent company, to pay $46 million in reparations to the US government and other commercia customers.

SPI's test laboratory manager pleaded guilty to fraudulently altering failing test results to make thempass and to training and directing lab employees to change test reults. He is serving a three-year prison sentence.

"Corporate and personal greed perpetuated this fraud against the government and other private customers," Brian  Benczkowski, assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice's criminal division, said.

A spokesman for Norsk Hydro said the case had been settled. "Since learning of the misconduct and reporting it to the government and customers, we have invested significant time and resources to completely overhaul our quality and compliance organisations," he said. "We are committed to serving the needs of our customers and conducting business with the highest level of ethics and integrity."

See also (uaware)

(Sky News, dated 1st May 2019)

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(1st June 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 3rd May 2019 author Terri-Ann Williams)

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A love rat conman who defrauded women he met online has been jailed for six years after he tricked them into handing over £800,000.

Keyur Vyas had pretended to be in a relationship with six different women, who he committed fraud against.

An investigation into the 32-year-old's activities was launched in October 2014 after women began to report him to the police.

Between 2014 and 2017, Vyas, from the Tower Hamlets area of London, befriended women online with the pretence that he would build a relationship with him.

The trickster had been working as a recruitment agent, but had convinced the women he was an affluent man working finance.

He wined and dined the women and would use his commonalities such as religion and his wish to start a family to get them onside.

Once he gained their trust, Vyas would encourage the women to invest in various business ventures for a large return.

Instead of investing the money, he would gamble it away, would put pressure on the women and became abusive.

The victims would then invest more money on the promise that they would get their money back.

He employed fear tactics and would warn them that if they were to go to the police, then they would lose all of their money.

When they didn't receive their money back, the women began to report their concerns to the police.

At Kingston Crown Court Vyas pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud by false representation in March 2019. Two charges will lie on file and the total loss for all the charges is approximately £808,942.

Detective Constable Andy Chapman of the Central Specialist Command said: 'Vyas used a tried and tested technique to commit fraud. He used the trust he had gained to get them to invest in non-existent companies.

'He went as far as having fake contracts drawn up with outlandish conditions, but essentially he used the relationship to get their money'.

'Vyas was selfish and cruel in his actions by emotionally involving the victims and conning them out of a combined loss of approximately £639,133.00.

'Unfortunately we see cases like this fairly often and my advice to anyone in an online relationship whatever the nature is never to send personal details or money to someone who you have never met in person.'

(1st June 2019)

(Mail on Sunday, dated 24th March 2019 author Laura Shannon)

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Complaints about rip-off mobile phone text scams have soared by 44 per cent in just six months, alarming new figures have revealed.

Thousands of people are caught out by surprise charges on their mobile phone bills every month.

Spurious companies are charging customers up to £4.50 per text message - via their mobile phone bills - for useless and unsolicited subscriptions to services such as quizzes, competitions or money-saving deals.

Victims are supposed to have signed up using their smartphones, but many are in the dark about how the charges have been triggered.

The Phone-paid Services Authority - the regulator for premium services charged to a phone bill - is fielding thousands of complaints a month from angry consumers who say they never gave consent to be charged.

The most recent figures show complaints between the first and second half of 2018 soared by more than two-fifths (44 per cent) to 6,700. These figures only relate to those who knew to complain to the regulator and took the time to do so.

Many more will have complained to their mobile networks and gone no further. Others may not even know they have been affected until they spot the small, but regular charges on their bills.

For more than a year, The Mail on Sunday has repeatedly highlighted the blight of rip-off texts - and readers continue to come forward to describe their experiences.

They include one person paying for texts from an unknown company based in Cyprus and a grandmother being charged for a text-based subscription service despite never using the internet on her phone.

Customers' experiences all follow the same pattern. They do not know how they came to receive the messages, deny ever signing up to a service and have no use for the messages. Meanwhile, the companies behind them remain cloaked in secrecy.

Mobile networks often allow the charges to be added to bills via the 'Payforit' platform - owned by Three, EE, O2 and Vodafone.

When customers complain to their mobile networks, they are routinely redirected to contact the 'service providers'. Often these companies are based overseas with contact only possible via a general email address from which replies are not always forthcoming.

When a response is generated, customers are usually told no refund will be issued because they willingly signed up and agreed to the terms and conditions.

Elaine Cottam, 64, was charged £4.50 each for three texts from a provider she had never heard of. She only noticed the additional payments when querying charges for phone use abroad.

The married retiree, from Cleveleys in Lancashire, says she is 'appalled' at how easy it was for the company to take her money.

Elaine was unaware what the text service was even for. She contacted her network, Three, which pointed her towards a Cyprus-based company called Panadema. A spokeswoman at Three says Elaine signed up to a 'money-off alerts' service.

But the 'service' simply provided links to deals on the popular VoucherCodes website, including money off shoes and pizzas. Deals on the VoucherCodes website, which is not linked to the service, can be accessed and searched easily for free.

Three's spokeswoman adds: 'The online advert clearly stated the service would cost £4.50 per message. The customer contacted us to query the charges, and we were happy to provide a credit of £20 as a goodwill gesture.

'We also placed a cap on her account so that she would no longer be able to send or receive premium rate text messages.'

Elaine says: 'Whatever the advert was I cannot remember seeing it, and no way would I have willingly signed up to this.'

Meanwhile, 73-year-old grandmother Pauline only spotted charges on her bill after reading about scam texts in The Mail on Sunday.

She says: 'Thank goodness I read the article because I have been charged twice. I did not agree to anything and don't know how they got my number. This is a terrible practice.'

Pauline has never used the internet on her phone and is on a pay-as-you-go tariff, only using it to stay in touch with her family. She contacted her mobile network, which has now blocked any further charges from premium rate services.

Most customers affected by scam texts discover after much frustration that offending companies are not answerable to anyone, unless enough people complain. This then triggers an investigation by the regulator.

After raising a dispute with the company and being rejected, customers can only then hope that their mobile phone operator will reimburse them. Unfortunately, mobile networks do not always play ball.

As a result of the surge in complaints, the regulator is now looking at tighter rules to tackle the issue. It says more than 95 per cent of complaints it receives are about text subscriptions and that some services are 'causing significant harm to consumers'.

Only last week the regulator issued its latest fine - a £375,000 penalty - to subscription provider Best VIP Games for misleading consumers.

Incoming reforms could include a 'two-factor authentication' process before payment is taken. Customers who sign up would have a PIN sent to their mobiles, which they then confirm with the service provider.

A spokesman for the Phone-paid Services Authority says: 'We're proposing new requirements that we hope will make it clearer for consumers what they are paying for and how, and prevent them from being charged without their consent.'

To find out which company is behind a premium rate text message - usually from a five-digit shortcode number - use the 'service checker' tool at

From here you can also find further details about the regulator's consultation on new rules, which closes on April 16.

(1st June 2019)

(Telegraph, dated 28th March 2019 author Laurence Dodds)

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The Chinese parent company of Grindr is scrambling to sell it off after a US government panel branded its ownership as a national security risk, according to reports.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has reportedly told Kunlun, a Chinese gaming company, that it must unwind its 2018 acquisition of the popular gay dating app.

Kunlun was previously preparing to float Grindr on public markets, but is now searching for a buyer in order to get rid of it as quickly as possible, Reuters said.

The exact nature of the the Committee's concerns is unclear, but over the last two years it has begun to heavily scrutinise the handling of users' personal data to Chinese firms. Its judgement underscores the escelating suspicion shown towards Chinese companies by America, which is leading a global campaign to lock Chinese investors and technology out of Western markets.

Grindr, based in Los Angeles, is a popular LGBT dating app which uses location tracking to help users find and contact romantc or sexual partners in proximity.

As a result, it holds personal data on around 27 million users, including where they live, with whom they have slept, their messages to partners, their sexual or gender identity and, in some cases their HIV status.

Oren J Falkowitz, a former analyst at the US National Security Agency, said such data would be "of high interest to foreign intelligence services".

"Tech platforms are collecting a ton of information about sensitive, private things that could be used for blackmail or coercion," he said.

"Someone could figure out who is susceptible to financial blackmail, who is susceptible to marital blackmail."

But he said its real utility was likely to improve the accuracy of phishing attacks against soldiers, government officials and employees of defence companies, who might be lured or panicked into clicking a link which would infect their computer with malware.

He said there were "endless examples" of Chinese state hackers using such tactics.

Kunlun bought a majority stake in Grindr in 2016 for $93 million (£70 million), and bought the company outright in 2018 but did not submit either acquisition for review by the committee.

US Cyberspace command warned American soldiers last year to be on the lookout for all types of "sextortion scams", telling them never to send compromising  photos or videos of themselves to anyone.

Last November the US military police said it had uncovered a sextortion scheme using dating apps that had taken more than £420,000 from 400 members of the military. It was organised by inmates at a prison in South Carolina who had used contraband mobile phones to masquerade as attractive women.

Kunlun and Grindr both declined to comment. A spokesman for the US Treasury, which chairs the committee said it would not comment on individual cases.

(1st June 2019)

APRIL 2019

(Daily Mail, dated 29th April 2019 author Tom Kelly)

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Banks are failing to block payments into fraudsters' accounts up to two months after being alerted about them by previous victims, the Daily Mail has discovered.

NatWest and HSBC allowed transfers to be made into the accounts eight weeks after they had been used when fleecing victims of thousands of pounds in a tax scam.

Last month the Mail exposed a gang of criminals who impersonate HMRC officials and cold-call tens of thousands of UK residents demanding 'repayment' of tax debts. The callers, operating from the Indian city of Ahmedabad, warn victims they face immediate arrest if they refuse to transfer money across.

A flood of victims contacted the Mail to say they had been conned and warned their bank about the existence of the fraudsters' accounts.

But two months after the alerts were issued, following concerns from readers the Mail made a number of test payments of £1 to the same account numbers.

Payments from Lloyds and Santander accounts did not go through, but attempts to move cash from NatWest and HSBC to seven accounts run by the conmen saw some allowed through. Victims described the failure to stop the payments as 'astonishing' and accused the banks of a 'shocking failure to protect their customers'.

Gareth Shaw, head of money at consumer group Which?, said: 'It's alarming that banks have neglected to do even the bare minimum by failing to stop payments to accounts used by scammers months after victims reported them as fraudulent. This worrying inaction could have left people vulnerable to falling victim and allowed fraudsters to easily re-offend.'

Britain is in the grip of a so-called 'push payment fraud' epidemic, where sophisticated scammers convince victims to transfer money to their accounts, costing people £1million a day.

When the Mail made four payments from a NatWest account to a fraudsters' account eight weeks after one victim made her original payment in January, three were allowed to go through.

Our reporter later received a call from the NatWest fraud team - but only because we had made a £1 payment, which is sometimes used by fraudsters ahead of bigger payments, not because of concerns over the accounts being paid into. And more than two months after another victim lost £12,040, the Mail was able to make a payment from an HSBC account to one of three accounts the fraudsters had used to fleece her.

Banks have the capability to block accounts, and several other payments made to known fraudsters' accounts were prevented from going through.

NatWest and HSBC both declined to say why they had not blocked subsequent payments to the fraudsters' accounts and referred all queries to the banks that received them. The recipient banks said the fraudsters' accounts had been frozen by the time the Mail reporters made payments. NatWest and HSBC were unable to say where the money had gone.

A NatWest spokesman said: 'We take our responsibility to prevent fraud and scams very seriously and invest heavily in our security systems and processes. To help reduce this type of criminal activity, we work closely with the other banks, police and industry bodies.'

An HSBC spokesman said: 'Where a report of a fraudulent payment or scam is received, we take appropriate and timely action. We work with the authorities and alongside others in the industry to identify and address the ever-changing techniques used by fraudsters and to protect our customers.'

A spokesman for one of the fraudsters' banks, APS Financial, said: 'When alerted to fraudulent activities we'll take appropriate action. Regarding the payments made by Daily Mail reporters, none of these were applied to the accounts in question, all of which are blocked.'

(1st May 2019)

(Guardian, dated 27th April 2019 author Rupert Jones)

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More than a quarter of millennial festivalgoers have fallen victim to a ticket scam, according to new research this week.

With con artists using a range of methods to tempt music fans, from offering nonexistent tickets on social media to directing people to fake websites, falling victim to this sort of scam has never been easier, says Barclays, which issued the findings.

The warning comes ahead of the festival season, when thousands of tickets will be snapped up.

However, with some events sold out already, many people will inevitably be left disappointed and will be doing whatever they can to secure a ticket.

According to the research, victims are at risk of losing £179 on average.

The nature of the fraud can vary, but it usually involves tickets being sold that either don't exist, are counterfeit or never turn up.

Buying a ticket from a tout on social media was identified as carrying one of the greatest risks of being scammed. Yet 40% of 25- to 34-year-olds admitted they would be prepared to turn to social media sites in order to get their hands on a ticket, says the bank.

There have also been warnings about fans putting themselves at risk by sharing images of event tickets that can be used to create fakes. Scammers can mock up counterfeit tickets by copying the barcode. It means that when the genuine holder arrives at the event, he or she is left stuck outside because someone who bought one of the fakes has already used it to get in.

Here are some tips for protecting yourself against ticket scams:

- Do your research and make sure you use a legitimate website or company. Only buy tickets from the venue box office, promoter, official agent or reputable ticket resale site that has been approved by the event organiser. For example, Twickets, the "ethical" resale online marketplace that enables fans to buy and sell tickets at no more than their original face value, has partnered with several leading festivals.

- Remember that paying by credit card offers greater protection than other methods in terms of fraud, guarantees and non-delivery.

- Before entering your payment details, ensure the website is secure. There should be a padlock symbol in the browser window frame. The web address should begin with "https://".

- If you buy tickets from an individual, for example on eBay, never transfer the money directly into their bank account. "Scammers love bank transfers - the money goes straight into their account, and then the seller can disappear. By the time you realise something is wrong, it may be too late," says Barclays.

- Don't click on social media, text or email links or attachments offering tickets, as they could connect to fraudulent or malware sites.

- If you become a victim of ticket fraud, report it to Action Fraud on or by calling 0300 123 20 40.

(1st May 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 26th April author James Burton)

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The departing boss of bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland has insisted that fraud victims should not be entitled to automatic compensation.

Ross McEwan said that customers must take more responsibility for their actions if tricked into giving their savings to a conman.

He warned that it is not RBS's job to give a refund to those who are reckless. His comments infuriated campaigners who believe many vulnerable individuals get scammed after they have been forced online because their local branch has closed.

Mr McEwan - who this week said he is standing down as chief executive - said his priority is to educate customers, rather than automatically compensate them.

He said: 'At this stage we're thinking about how we work with customers. We've got a big programme of education. We, including the media, have a major job to do of educating people not to give details away.

'We have to do this with customers - they can't just say "Oh, it was the bank's fault I gave my details away". This is a collective responsibility.'

Mr McEwan insisted that RBS already refunds victims of the most sophisticated frauds. Each scam is assessed case by case, he added.

But campaigners last night declared this is not good enough and said that NatWest owner RBS must do more.

Gangs typically have highly-sophisticated methods and in-depth knowledge of the bank's procedures, making them seem very credible.

Critics also argue that large banks are responsible for the fraud epidemic because they have shut hundreds of branches and launched aggressive marketing campaigns to persuade customers to go online.

It can mean that older people who are not used to the internet have little choice other than to open a digital account - making them easier targets for the con artists.

RBS alone has axed around 1,400 branches across Britain since it was rescued with £46billion of taxpayers' money in 2008.

The Mail is campaigning for compensation for fraud victims.

James Daley, of consumer group Fairer Finance, said: 'Ultimately I don't think it's acceptable to allow individuals to lose everything because of a scam - it undermines confidence in the whole system.

'Let's hope Ross McEwan's replacement has more progressive views on this.'

Scam victims lost a total of £345million to so-called authorised push payment fraud last year, where a customer is tricked into transferring the money to a criminal. Only £83million of this money was recovered, according to trade body UK Finance.

The crooks often pose as respectable figures such as a policeman or member of the bank's staff.

They often use legitimate accounts to receive the money. Campaigners say these accounts should be rigorously policed and shut down if suspected of accepting the proceeds of fraud.

TSB earlier this month became the first bank to guarantee it will refund those hit by fraud in almost all cases, and the rest of the industry is under heavy pressure to follow suit.

The largest High Street banks, including RBS, have pledged to introduce a compensation fund. However, this is only guaranteed until the end of the year while a permanent solution is sought.

Gareth Shaw, of Which?, said: 'TSB has rightly recognised that the industry is far better placed to spot scams than customers, and that victims deserve refunds.

'Other banks must now follow their lead.'

RBS said it is concerned that automatic compensation could lead to payouts for customers who are negligent with their bank details. Sources said it did not want to stop victims of complicated scams from having redress.

(1st May 2019)

(Sunday Post, dated 21st April 2019)

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Duncan Sillars was duped out of £3,000 when he was emailed by fraudsters as he was recovering from a stroke.

The former civil servant, 55, from Dundee, received a genuine-looking email from what he thought was a reputable company.

"They said they were working for Disney and that I had won a holiday," said Duncan.

"The email led me to a professional-looking website which gave me a number
to call.

"The person at the other end of the phone asked for credit card details in case I ran up additional bills at the Disney resort.

"That seemed plausible at the time.

"Then, just after I came off the phone, I realised I had done something foolish and called my credit card company.

"£3,000 had been taken from my account. I felt awful."

The credit card firm refunded Duncan five months later, but not before it checked his mistake was genuine.

Duncan said he had to prove that he was not trying to defraud the card company.

"I made a stupid error when I was not at my best," he added.

"If I had not been recovering from a stroke at the time, I would have been a bit wiser."

He tracked the fraudsters down to the USA.

"They were in a tiny office in a back lane," he added. "That will come as no surprise to anyone."

After the money was repaid, he was then hounded by the fraudsters.

"They called me constantly, trying to extract more money from me.

"The bottom line is that these people never give up."

Duncan now works in a call centre advising customers.

"If something looks too good to be true, it always is," he said.

"Scammers' stories change but their motives are always the same."

(1st May 2019)

(Sunday Post, dated 21st April 2019 author Krissy Storrar)

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Crooks armed only with phones and computers are plundering ­fortunes from private individuals and firms targeted with an arsenal of scams and cons.

International fraud experts warn official figures only reveal a small part of the global crime wave as a Sunday Post investigation reveals the scale of the bank robbery and how the criminals launder their dirty millions.

Dr Anton Moiseienko, research fellow at the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, said: "The number of prosecutions is certainly the tip of the iceberg.There are specific ­challenges regarding reporting and the cross-border nature of cybercrime, which means that a lot of the attacks would be carried out by people who the UK law enforcement would have a very limited ability to apprehend.

"That combined creates ­formidable challenges for law enforcement."

Dr Moiseienko said the international nature of crime - with criminal gangs operating from abroad, or laundering stolen cash outside the UK - made them harder to stop.

He said: "In relation to people who carry out cyber attacks and steal money from UK customers, for example they take over bank accounts, a lot of those organised crime groups are based overseas.

"Therefore, one of the approaches law enforcement has been trying to take has been to make it more difficult for the money to leave the UK, so making it more difficult to misuse the financial system in order to channel the proceeds of crime and get them from the UK to an overseas destination.

"If the criminal is based overseas your ability to apprehend them and bring them to justice is limited, especially depending on the arrangement in place in the UK and the country concerned.

"But following the money and preventing the money from leaving the UK can be a promising avenue."

Crooks carry out a wide range of frauds, including phishing or vishing scams, the use of ransomware and hacking bank accounts or ATMs.

Vishing involves phoning ­victims and tricking them into parting with bank or credit card details, which allows the criminals to transfer funds out of their account. Phishing is its online equivalent, usually involving fake emails.

It can result in authorised fraud, where the bank customer is persuaded to make the transfer to the criminal, or unauthorised fraud where the conman uses the details to gain access to the customer's account.

Ransomware targets firms' or individuals' computers, shutting them down, and the crooks demanding a payment to remove the virus.

Last month UK Finance, the trade association for the banking industry, published The Fraud The Facts 2019, which revealed the extent of the problem in the UK.

It found that, across the UK, criminals reaped £1.2 billion through frauds and scams.

But the banks themselves managed to stop a further £1bn being stolen, through greater diligence and hi-tech security systems.

Experts estimate about 10% of the stolen cash has been taken from Scottish firms and private bank customers.

In the report, Katy Worobec, UK Finance's economic crime managing director, said: "Fraud poses a major threat to the UK. It's a crime the finance industry is committed to tackling, but it's also one that requires the combined efforts of every sector, both public and private, to overcome. Last year, the advanced security systems and innovations in which the finance industry invests to protect customers stopped more than £1.6bn of unauthorised fraud.

"But, despite this, criminals stole £1.2bn through fraud and scams.

"These crimes can have a ­devastating impact on victims.

"And, even if the customer gets the money back from their finance provider, the organised criminal gangs that perpetrate these frauds still profit from the proceeds… money that may go on to fund illicit acts that damage our society - crimes such as terrorism, drug-trafficking and people-smuggling." Last year, £844.4m was stolen in unauthorised financial fraud involving payment cards, remote banking and cheques - an increase of 16% from 2017.

The report revealed a further £354.3m was seized via 84,624 incidents of authorised push payments - whereby customers are tricked into transferring funds.

Financial institutions are continuing to develop ways to detect fraud, including the use of behavioural biometrics.

Some banks already have software that identifies customers' typing and swiping habits and even how they grip their smartphone when logged into a banking app.

A global digital identity tool is also in use, analysing billions of transactions worldwide plus geographical, device and historical data to build a picture of customers' normal behaviour.

New rules requiring additional verification on high-value transactions will come into force in September.

As banks, businesses and the public become more aware of online scams, the fraudsters have changed their tactics.

Hence the number of fraudsters impersonating bank or building society employees fell in 2018, with criminals increasingly ­pretending to be organisations such as HMRC, online retailers or ­telecommunications firms.

And the true financial cost of fraud is far greater than the sums stolen.

Dr Moiseienko added: "The cost of cybercrime is not the same as the criminal revenues from cybercrime.

"So a criminal might steal £1 but the cost of remedying the vulnerability and dealing with the business disruption would be £10 or £20 for the company concerned.

"That makes it even more ­difficult to measure the cost of cybercrime."


Phishing - Tricking someone into sharing financial or personal information by posing in an email as a bank or other trusted institution

Vishing- The telephone equivalent of phishing with plausible callers, sometimes armed with personal details, tricking victims into revealing passwords

APP - Authorised Push Payment is the fastest growing type of swindle when victims are duped into sending their money into another account

Smishing - Someone trying to trick you into giving them private information such as passwords via a text

(1st May 2019)

(The Times, dated 20th April 2019 author David Byers)

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Consumer groups have condemned banks for refusing to follow TSB and automatically refund victims of push-payment fraud.

Leading banks say they will not replicate the offer of a "fraud refund guarantee" to ensure that their customers are reimbursed if they are tricked out of their money by scammers.

Banks are obliged to refund scam victims only when fraudulent transactions are made without a customer's authorisation. TSB, however, whose customers were left vulnerable to fraud after an IT problem last year, has said that victims of push-payment scams, who are convinced by fraudsters to transfer funds to their accounts voluntarily, will also be refunded, as long as their losses are less than £1 million.

About £354 million was lost last year through this type of scam, but banks returned only £83 million to customers, according to UK Finance, the industry trade body.

TSB's refund guarantee began on April 14 and will not apply to those who lost money after the IT meltdown last year, which left 1.9 million customers unable to access their accounts.

Times Money contacted NatWest, Barclays, Santander, Metro Bank and Lloyds, and was told that none of them would introduce a similar guarantee, which analysts say could cost TSB tens of millions of pounds.

Some banks did say that they would review claims on a case by case basis, and support a voluntary code that is being introduced on May 28.

It says that victims of push-payment fraud should be reimbursed unless a customer specifically ignores a banks warnings about a scam, or has been grossly negligent in transferring the money.

Under the terms of the code, the banks will decide whether or not to refund a victims within 15 working days of the scam being reported, or up to a maximum of 35 working days "in exceptional cases".

Jenny Ross of the consumer group Which? says all banks should offer the same guarantee as TSB.

"Other high street banks are leaving their customers unprotected. All banks must follow TSB's lead and ensure that their own customers are not left paying for the cost of this crime".

Meanwhile, Action Fraud, the national reporting service run by City of London Police, is warning of a new type that targets users of social media sites Instagram and Snapchat.

Action Fraud says victims have been tricked into revealing access to two factor authentication codes used to protect their social media accounts. Fraudsters then demand money in return for not posting personal photographs on the internet. Action Fraud says you should never reveal your two-factor authentication codes to anyone.

Instagram has a Q&A page with a link where users can report blackmail attempts. The company says:" Your private content is your own. Instagram wants you to know that it's wrong and against our rules for someone to share, or threaten to share, your intimate images, videos or messages without you consent."

(1st May 2019)

(BBC News, dated 17th April 2019 authors Matthew Cannon, Francesca Gillett and Patrick Evans)

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"I've learned never to rely on reviews for anything," says Iain Taylor, from East Sussex.

In his spare time and to supplement his income, the 44-year-old says he writes fake reviews online in exchange for money and free products.

"I have written reviews from numbing creams to eBooks to downloadable independent films," he says.

"I think it's bad - but I think everyone's doing it," says Mr Taylor, describing himself as "cynical".

"Since I started doing it I tell my family and friends not to trust reviews.

"If you are going to buy something you should do more research than look at a couple of five-star reviews on Amazon."

He says writers are paid to buy the product and then leave a review, meaning the review can be verified.

'Too focused on statistics'

Another person, a woman who preferred to remain anonymous, writes fake online reviews of the restaurant where she works - a chain pub in Nottingham.

"I feel like there's significant pressure to get positive reviews on either Facebook, Google or TripAdvisor," she says.

"The manager has actually told us to ask customers to do the review in front of us after their meals which I find hilarious.

"Anyway, I feel like it gets the managers off my back about it if I write a few for myself here and there. I do get a few genuine ones but a few more won't hurt, eh?"

She adds: "I think it does make me look like a better employee, obviously."

The murky world of fake online reviews hit headlines again on Tuesday, after consumer group Which? claimed that Amazon's website is flooded with fake five-star reviews for products from unfamiliar brands.

Amazon said it was using automated technology to weed out false reviews and that it had invested "significant resources" to protect its review system "because we know customers value the insights and experiences shared by fellow shoppers".

"Even one inauthentic review is one too many," it added.

Online reviews are valuable to businesses. The government's Competition and Markets Authority has estimated that such reviews potentially influence a mammoth £23bn of UK customer spending every year.

'You can't win'

One company, in Bingley, West Yorkshire, has decided not to use review websites because of the risk of competing with fake reviews.

Helena Gerwitz, head of marketing at Feature Radiators, says: "We work in a really niche industry.

"When new websites pop up, they might suddenly have 200 or so reviews. That's a lot of reviews since we know they have only been going since last month."

She believes the volume of the high-rated reviews that some competitors have cannot be legitimate.

Ms Gerwitz adds: "We have had chats about it - do we need to go down this route? - but my boss is very much 'we don't want to do that'. It's unethical, it's not true.

"We could set up a review account and know that we would do it legitimately but it would look bad as we wouldn't pay people to put out reviews, so relative to the other sites we would look terrible.

"So we have decided not to do them but then people think there is something to hide. You can't win. It's really frustrating."

'Lose faith in online shopping'

Even verified reviews might not be all they seem. Some consumers fear their personal data might have been used by sellers to gather fake "verified reviews".

Known as "brushing", the scam sees sellers obtain people's name and address to send the goods which they did not purchase.

On Amazon, this leaves a paper trail showing the goods had been bought on the site and had been delivered.

The seller then uses the individual's details to set up a new account which it uses to post glowing reviews of its products.

Amazon says it is "investigating" complaints of "unsolicited packages" which would breach the company's policy.

Architect Paul Bailey, from Billericay, in Essex believes he may have been targeted. Last month he received a number of unexpected "gifts", including a key-ring, a phone case, a tattoo removal kit and a charcoal toothpaste set.

"I think when the first parcel arrived it was a case of bemusement, then I checked with my wife if she'd used my account to buy something.

"When the second item arrived later that day I thought it was perplexing but amusing. Then it became quite chilling."

Mr Bailey says he cannot be sure where online sellers have obtained his data but says it has "made me lose faith in online shopping."

He added: "We all know there are laws in place over how data is handled but it's made me very, very nervous to the point I'm going shopping back on the High Street - even though it tends to be more expensive."

A spokesman for Amazon added: "We have confirmed the sellers involved did not receive names or shipping addresses from Amazon.

"We remove sellers in violation of our policies, withhold payments, and work with law enforcement to take appropriate action."

Titilope Omitogun, 24, from south London, is another person to have been targeted by online review scammers.

One morning last month, she woke up to approximately 50 emails from Amazon saying "thanks for your review". She had not posted one.

The posts, which had been made on a range of items including a telescope and screen protectors, all gave the maximum five-star rating.

"They were quite realistic so I think it was a real person doing it and not a robot," she said.

After contacting Amazon, the company told her it believed her account had been hacked. Her password was changed and she has had no such problems since.

The psychology of online reviews

Nathalie Nahai, the author of Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion, says online reviews work because people try to take an "effortless route" when they have to make decisions.

"When it comes to purchasing, especially for items which are easy to buy, we expect this level of convenience and ease," she says.

"Part of that expectation is met by peer reviews… we can outsource our decision-making."

"Above a certain threshold, people will go for a slightly lower rating," Ms Nahai explains, citing a study where a product with more reviews but a 4.3 rating was more popular than the same product with fewer reviews and a 4.4.

Interestingly, she says there is "a certain leniency we give to bad reviews".

"We tend to distrust perfect ratings because it looks too good to be true," she says. "A five-star rating is less worthy than a 4.8 or 4.7."

It could also be the order of the reviews that matters.

Consumer psychologist Cathrine Jansson says some sellers might be aware of what is known as the primacy and recency effects. These theories state that people tend to remember the first and last items in a series better than those in the middle.

"It's the first five or six reviews that people tend to read and then if they're really interested they'll scroll to the last one.

"So some sellers will make sure it's really good reviews at the top and that people see a really good one last."

There are, however, many reasons why people will also post genuine online reviews, says Nisa Bayindir, director of global insights at market research company GlobalWebIndex.

"There are other key motivations at play. For example, we know that consumers buy products and brands that preserve, enhance or extend their self image.

"This dynamic comes alive with online reviews. People may leave genuine and positive reviews online to show appreciation and commitment to the brands that are in tune with their personalities and values.

"This of course includes the basics such as product quality, attentive customer services and good value for money. "

She says that brands should focus on "building credibility" but acknowledges that fake reviews may be around for cheaper goods for the foreseeable future.

She adds: "Sometimes people are just happy to pay a smaller amount of money for a mediocre experience."

Is posting fake reviews illegal?

Trading practices in the UK are covered under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

Under this legislation, a trader commits an offence if they "engage in a commercial practice which is a misleading action" which cause the average consumer to buy something they would not have otherwise.

These actions include "the nature of the sales process" but do not specifically refer to reviews.

Trading watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), took its first action against a company for posting fake reviews in 2016.

It ordered marketing company Total SEO to remove more than 800 fake reviews which were posted for 86 small businesses on 26 different websites between 2014 and 2015. It warned those who write or arrange fake reviews risk acting unlawfully.

(1st May 2019)

(GIZMODO, dated 17th April 2019 author Dell Cameron)

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uaware note : This is a scam in operation in the USA, but is sadly internationally transportable.

If you thought face-to-face confidence scams were obsolete thanks to the wonders of modern connectivity, well, think again. Today's grifts have only gotten creepier.

Bloomberg reported today on the rising trend of con artists portraying themselves as medical professionals while offering residents of low-income communities a few bucks in exchange for a DNA swab and some personal health information. In some cases, the perpetrators have even placed advertisements on Facebook offering "free cancer screenings."

"Would you give a DNA sample to a guy in a white van if he offered you $20?" a Kentucky news anchor asked his viewers this month. "That's an actual thing happening right now in some of Louisville poorest neighborhoods."

At first, reporters in Kentucky seemed mostly puzzled by the men in white vans; though it was obvious they weren't on the level. State Attorney General Andy Beshear warned last week that the men likely planned to use their victims' insurance and personal information to file bogus Medicaid reimbursement claims. "Scammers are exploiting Kentuckians' medical needs in an attempt to take in illegal profits," he said.

The information could also be used to steal their victims' identities, leaving them saddled with debt.

The swabbers in Kentucky falsely represented themselves as being affiliated with Passport Health Plan, a local Medicaid insurer. The residents who were targeted, most of whom were black, took part in the "screenings" because they were struggling to get by. They later told reporters that something "didn't feel right."

The men, for instance, appeared to have no paperwork to prove they were actually affiliated with Passport. In a statement to Bloomberg, the insurance company said it was "in no way affiliated with this activity."

Scammers are also targeting residents of senior-living communities, Bloomberg reported. State insurance officials in Nebraska, for example, received similar reports and last month warned residents that the conmen were approaching seniors at assisted living facilities, offering to swab their cheeks "for genetic material purported for DNA checks for cancer."

"They are preying on poor people," Louisville Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith told Bloomberg. She also shared a business card reportedly obtained from one of the scammers. The website listed on the card didn't exist and no one answered calls at the phone number provided.

Sexton Smith also showed reporters a screenshot of a Facebook post for "free cancer screenings" that offered $20 to anyone with Passport insurance. Users were instructed to come to an intersection in Louisville's Smoketown neighborhood, just southeast of downtown.

"Kentuckians should rely on the advice of their primary care physicians-not someone who is calling them by phone or driving by in an unmarked vehicle," Attorney General Beshear said in a statement.

(1st May 2019)

(Guardian, dated 16th April 2019 author Rebecca Smithers)

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Amazon's customer review system is being undermined by a flood of "fake" five-star reviews for products from unfamiliar brands, a new investigation claims.

The consumer group Which? analysed the listings of hundreds of popular tech products in 14 online categories including headphones, dashcams, fitness trackers and smartwatches, checking for telltale signs of suspicious reviews.

Its researchers found that top-rated items were dominated by brands with names such as Itshiny, Vogek and Aitalk, which in many cases had thousands of unverified reviews - meaning there was no evidence that the reviewer had even bought or used the item.

Many items also boasted a high number of five-star ratings posted in a short space of time - another indicator suggesting inauthentic reviews.

With headphones, all the products on the first page of results sorted by average customer review were from little-known brands and 87% of more than 12,000 reviews for these products were by unverified purchasers.

Seventy-one per cent of the headphones had perfect five-star ratings, while some included reviews for unrelated products such as soap dispensers. One set of headphones made by the brand Celebrat had 439 reviews. All were five-star, all unverified, and all arrived on the same day.

Which? found similar results when searching for smartwatches, with unverified reviews making up 99% of reviews for the top four products.

"Our research suggests that Amazon is losing the battle against fake reviews, with shoppers bombarded by comments aimed at artificially boosting products from unknown brands," said Natalie Hitchins, the head of home products at Which?.

"Amazon must do more to purge its websites of unreliable and fake reviews if it is to maintain the trust of its millions of customers. To avoid being misled and possibly buying a dud product, customers should always take reviews with a pinch of salt and look to independent and trustworthy sources when researching a purchase."

Neither Which? nor the Guardian were able to contact any of the brands cited in the report, or to identify the source of the suspicious reviews.

Amazon said in a statement: "[We] invest significant resources to protect the integrity of reviews in our store because we know customers value the insights and experiences shared by fellow shoppers. We have clear participation guidelines for both reviewers and selling partners and we suspend, ban and take legal action on those who violate our policies."

A Guardian analysis also recently found that some items on Amazon are bundled together when they share a title, even if they are a different translation of a book or a remake of a film, making it difficult for readers to know which version they are buying.

(1st May 2019)

(Guardian, dated 13th April 2019 author Miles Brignall)

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More Guardian Money readers have come forward to say they too have been scammed by fraudsters who "spoofed" their bank's phone number. In some cases they have lost more than £40,000.

Two weeks ago Money featured Jane Holden, a Cambridge businesswoman who lost £90,000 after falling for a highly sophisticated fraud. She had taken a call that showed up on her handset as coming from Metro Bank's 0345 business banking number. Partly as a result of this - and the fact the fraudsters had so many of her banking details - she thought she was talking to the bank. Since the piece appeared, a host of victims have come forward to say "me too".

Last week, the Guardian featured a NatWest customer who lost £10,000 in similar circumstances. In both cases the bank only refunded the victims following Guardian Money's intervention.

But now four more victims of the scam, who all bank with Metro, complain they were taken in by the fact that the fraudster appeared to be calling from their bank. The fraudsters refer to the fact that they are calling from the number that appears on the back of the customer's bank card.

There is nothing to stop a fraudster changing a phone's caller ID to mimic that of a bank or other government agency. It has been highly lucrative for the gangs, who target banks that still rely on SMS texts to verify the account holder.

Peter Giles is among the Metro Bank customers contacting Money this week. The businessman from Surrey suffered an almost identical fraud as Jane Holden, although in his case he "only" lost £19,900.

Like her, he received a number of calls that showed up as from Metro. When answered, he was told that there was a suspected fraudulent hotel booking on his account. Like her, he checked the number matched Metro's and went through security as "normal", only handing over two characters from his passcode.

Giles says they clearly had access to his account and were able to read out legitimate transactions that he had made. "Thinking I was talking to a bank employee, and busy and hassled with my work on a Monday morning, I gave her the codes thinking this was to set up a payment to re-credit the account - not appreciating at the time that one of them was to set up a phone banking app," he says.

Once they had access to the account, £34,000 was removed, although Metro later refunded some of the money, leaving him with a near £20,000 loss. "It was very professional and sounded exactly as if I had been talking to the bank," he says.

Simon Jones, from Berkshire, similarly lost £15,000 from his Metro account after falling for the same scam, while Colin Brown had over £3,500 stolen from his Metro account.

In each case Metro claimed that the customers had been "grossly negligent" and therefore it would not refund all their money.

Another Metro Bank business customer who lost £41,000 told us this week that she has been forced to take her case to the Financial Ombudsman.

"The way Metro Bank dealt with me as a customer and victim of fraud, is nothing short of disgusting. I was made to feel like a criminal throughout the whole episode. It is simply unacceptable," she wrote.

Last August the Financial Ombudsman Service put banks like Metro on notice that blanket refusals to refund in such circumstances will no longer be tolerated.

The chief ombudsman told the banks that it was not fair to automatically call a customer "grossly negligent" simply because they've fallen for a scam.

Banking regulations state that the bank must refund any payment that was not "authorised" by the account holder. Account holders whose account has been emptied by a fraudster cannot be said to have "authorised" such payments, therefore should be refunded.

Despite this, Metro Bank is still refusing to refund the latest cases.

"This type of fraud is a serious, industry-wide issue. We have a range of safeguards in place to help defend them against fraud, which we constantly review and update in light of increasingly sophisticated tactics from fraudsters.

"We investigate each claim that is referred to the bank and our decisions are based on the merits of each individual case," it says.

(1st May 2019)

(Telegraph, dated 10th April 2019 author Hayley Dixon)

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An airport parking scammer has been sent to prison in one of the first cases of its kind after he made £1.4million leaving holidaymakers' cars in muddy fields with keys in the window.

Asad Malik, 38, used fake reviews and photographs of secure car parks hundreds of miles away to trick customers into leaving their vehicles with him when they flew from Gatwick.

The company then dumped them in muddy fields, on street corners and even outside a mosque.

One owner found their car had been driven 185 miles while they were on holiday, others came home to find damage or unpaid parking tickets whilst Keegan Bowes saw his Mini on a TV news bulletin while he was in Spain.

Jailing Malik for 14 months, Judge Paul Tain said that the way the company was run was "almost as if it was a joke".

Despite concerns about the industry, it is believed to be one of the first times that an airport parking boss has been jailed for scamming customers.

Malik, from Crawley, used a photograph of a hospital car park 400 miles away in Scotland to trick travellers into believing their cars were safe when they left them with London Parking Gatwick and another service called Easy Meet and Greet Gatwick.

The websites claimed the cars would be parked in secure compounds with CCTV by professional chauffeurs.

But the company was busted when Trading Standards found hundreds of cars at several locations parked in muddy fields and even in bushes.

Some cars were left unlocked with windows open and keys were left in plastic wallets stuck to the windscreen.

Some cars came back damaged and others were not returned at all, the court heard.

A jury at Brighton Crown Court found him guilty of three counts of defrauding or misleading customers, in breach of consumer protection laws.

Judge Tain said: "It was almost as if it was a joke. One example was a customer complaining about cigarette ash in the car, and were told it must have blown in through the window of another car. Another reported their clutch was burnt out.

"That exemplifies the approach being taken, customers that had difficulties were fobbed off in the hope they would go away."

The Pakistani businessman had worked for BT and as a taxi driver in Crawley after completing a masters in Satellite Communications and Space Studies at the University of Sussex in Brighton.

He set up his first Gatwick valet parking firm in October 2014 and in 20 months of trading he tricked thousands of customers and more the £1.4million passed through the accounts.

Malik was also disqualified from acting as a company director of any business for the next four years.

(1st May 2019)

(Guardian, dated 8th April 2019 author Sally Weale)

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Seventy-five bogus universities have been closed in the past four years, amid warnings that the business in fake degrees is undermining the reputation of the UK higher education system around the world.

The university watchdog the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (Hedd), which monitors fake degrees, has built up a register of 243 bogus institutions.

There is growing concern about students being mis-sold fraudulent degrees, with more than 200 potential cases of degree fraud under investigation since 2015.

Among the fake universities that came to Hedd's attention was Manchester Open University, which was advertising degrees for fees of up to £35,000 on its website.

It claimed to have a campus on Oxford Road in the city, with 2,000 students from 90 different countries studying degrees in history, English and medicine, but officials called in to investigate were unable to find a trace of the institution.

In another case, Oxbridge University of Kilmurry, which offered masters, doctorates and professional qualifications on its website, was found to be registered in Gambia.

Jayne Rowley, the chief executive of Hedd, said: "Among the suspicious employers and fake certificates, we hear from genuine universities who spot fakes using their branding to attract students, collect personal information and course fees.

"This is damaging the reputation of our higher education system, but it is a global issue. The majority of websites are based outside the UK and therefore we need to collaborate more internationally."

According to Hedd, bogus universities and degree mills attempt to make money from enrolment fees, premium phone lines and course fees. "This type of fraud is becoming more sophisticated," Hedd's guidance to higher education providers states, "with credible websites and verification services often modelled on their authentic counterparts - including the direct lifting of content and sections of material from genuine university websites."

As well as reducing the number of fake institutions through investigation and awareness-raising, Hedd also hopes to combat degree fraud by getting employers and universities to make more verification checks when recruiting students and graduates.

"We need to focus more on prevention," said Rowley. "If every employer properly checked the degree qualifications of every candidate there wouldn't be a market for this type of fraud."

(1st May 2019)

(Guardian, dated 6th April 2019 author Simon Hattenstone)

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A second fraud victim - duped into believing he was talking to his bank after his mobile caller ID showed the call was from the bank - has been refunded following the Guardian's intervention.

Bernard Hill* lost £10,150 when he was "number spoofed" earlier this month. His NatWest premium account was cleaned out after fraudsters rang him on a number showing up on his handset as the bank's genuine number.

As Money revealed last week, criminal gangs are increasingly manipulating caller ID to make calls and send texts that appear to be from the bank. Metro Bank initially refused to refund a Cambridge businesswoman the £90,000 she lost, but later refunded her after the Guardian pointed out its stance likely contravened guidance from the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Hill says he was phoned on his special NatWest Platinum Reward number (part of a service for which he pays £20 a month) and told that he had to move his money into a new account as fraudsters were trying to hack it. In fact, the person giving him this advice was the fraudster. Bernard moved the money, believing he was talking to NatWest staff.

He later received a curt email from NatWest informing him that he would not be refunded because it was not the bank's fault that he had been spoofed. It concluded: "I appreciate that you will be disappointed with this outcome," with a list of ways he should keep himself secure in future. Hill, who had banked with NatWest for more than 30 years, was devastated - and angry. To advise him how to keep his money safe after he had lost it all, seemed to be rubbing salt into the wound.

In January Which? published a warning stating that "between May 2018 and the first week of January 2019, its helpline spoke to 42 victims of spoofing - and of the 19 cases where the fraudster pretended to be their bank, 18 banked with NatWest or Royal Bank of Scotland".

RBS was quoted at the time as saying: "Keeping our customers safe and secure is of paramount importance to us. We understand that it can be traumatic for customers who fall victim to fraud and we have invested heavily across all our channels to continuously enhance security features."

Yet there was no evidence that RBS had done anything to keep Hill and other customers secure. In the six weeks between publication of the Which? article and Hill being defrauded, it had failed to warn customers that its phone numbers were vulnerable to spoofing.

This week, RBS told Hill that his money would be refunded. He notes that the special phone number now carries a warning about number spoofing.

NatWest says: "We appreciate this has been a very difficult time for Mr Hill and we will be refunding in full as a gesture of goodwill. Keeping our customers safe and secure is of paramount importance to us. Phone number spoofing is an industry-wide issue and we are working with telecoms providers to address it."

* Not his real name

(1st May 2019)

(Mirror, dated 4th April 2019 author Andrew Penman)

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A fraud family that netted more than £10million is horrible proof that you can't be too ­careful with online payments.

The gang sent emails with ­attachments which, when opened, allowed them to steal passwords.

They then sifted through messages to find ones from ­businesses and friends or family discussing payments.

The final step was to send their own spoof messages that appeared to come from the genuine intended recipient asking for the money to be paid into a different bank account, which is why the scam is known as diversion fraud.

Among the victims was a small builder's firm from South West England that lost £13,000 and had to shut down as a result.

Much of the stolen money was laundered by buying baby milk which was then sold in Nigeria.

Detectives uncovered 165 bank accounts used by the crooks, sometimes set up with fake details, and other times by people prepared to act as money mules.

Now 11 of the gang are facing jail following a six-month trial at Blackfriars Crown Çourt, South London, and will be sentenced at a date yet to be set. A total of 228 frauds were discovered and 69 victims gave evidence.

One of the key figures was Andrew Chukwu, who lived in a £860,000 house in Essex despite having a ­business with an annual turnover of less than £17,000.

When raided by detectives, his wife Grace, whose only legitimate income came from a salary as an NHS nurse, was found to have a shoe collection "to rival Imelda Marcos", wife of the former dictator of the Philippines. The couple also struggled to explain how they could pay for their three children to be privately educated.

His co-defendants, ­Emmanuel, Christian and ­Bonaventure, who spelt their surname Chukwuka, are his brothers.

Detective Constable Chris Collins, of the Metropolitan Police's Falcon Fraud Squad, said: "They have shown themselves to be unscrupulous fraudsters who have not given a second thought to the misery their actions have inflicted.

"I hope this conviction sends a strong message to online fraudsters: even though you think you are committing fraud at your keyboard in privacy, we have the ways and means of tracing you and we will seek to bring you to justice."

He advised anyone carrying out business by email to verify bank accounts by contacting the intended recipient before transferring money.

Frauds like this work when banks only check the account number and sort code when processing payments and don't check that the name is genuine.

This makes it possible for crooks to set up spoof accounts in the names of real businesses or ­individuals.

The Payment Systems Regulator, part of the Financial Conduct Authority, is currently wading through banking industry responses to its consultation on introducing a "Confirmation of Payee" safeguard.

"We are currently working through the responses to our consultation on the implementation of Confirmation of Payee and so no decisions on timing have been made," said a spokesperson.

"We are taking into account the feedback provided by industry, and the technical complexities to be addressed, so further work will be carried out to ensure this important tool is delivered as soon as possible.

"The PSR still wants to see Confirmation of Payee brought in as soon as possible and also make sure that when it is introduced, it is an effective way to stop this crime taking place."

(1st May 2019)

(Inverness Courier, dated 4th April 2019 author Andrew Dixon)

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POLICE are urging businesses to be on their guard following a recent report in Inverness of a fraud commonly referred to as "ringing the changes".

This type of fraud involves a person asking a member of staff to exchange a large sum of money for them into notes of smaller denominations or a different currency.

While doing this they deliberately confuse the staff member assisting with the transaction in order to obtain more money than they started with.

An incident was reported around 3.30pm yesterday at a business in Keppoch Road where a mid-three figure sum of cash was stolen using this method.

Police want to speak to a man in connection with the incident, described as being in his mid-30s, around 5ft 4in and of thin build. He spoke with a eastern European accent, and was wearing a dark jacket, jeans, a hat and had dark hair.

Enquiries are ongoing and police are urging businesses to be on their guard against any further suspicious behaviour.

Inspector Les Davidson said: "All business owners and their staff should be alert and aware to this type of scam. In particular you should watch out for anyone asking for a large sum of money to be exchanged into smaller notes or into a different currency.

"These unscrupulous criminals employ sleight of hand to leave with more money than they started with and it is possible they will target a busy period which can provide an ideal opportunity to confuse or distract you.

"It is better to be safe than sorry and if you are in any doubt consider asking another colleague for assistance or politely decline the request and notify the police.

"This type of criminal often travels widely, employing this scam and I would urge people throughout Inverness and across the Highlands to be aware of the risk.

(1st May 2019)

(Which?, dated 2nd April 2019 author Gareth Shaw)

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A new report has found that when it comes to fraud, the police aren't even putting their fists up to defend the public. Should it be a higher priority?

The police are fighting a losing battle against fraud.

The watchdog that oversees the performance of the police force, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, found that fraud is often deprioritised against other crimes.

Many forces don't have enough resource to adequately investigate fraud and, in the instance of one police force, simply file away the overwhelming majority of cases without further investigation.

A fraud epidemic

We are in the midst of a fraud epidemic - around 3.3 million incidents were reported in the past year, and the estimated cost of fraud is in the billions - but it's clear that the police are struggling to pull together the will and resource to tackle this emerging threat. And they claim there is no strategic leadership from government to help them in their fight against fraud.

Our own research has found that 96% of reported fraud cases go unsolved.

n September last year, we found that just one in four cases that have been reported to Action Fraud in the past four years were forwarded onto local police forces, and we estimated that less than 1% of the those have been solved, and 3% were still being investigated.

Despite the fact that fraud and cyber-crime offences are now 10 times more common than burglary, it is clearly not getting the attention it desperately needs.

Just two weeks ago, the banking industry reported that criminals successfully stole £1.2bn through fraud and scams.

On the pages of Which? magazine and online, we repeatedly follow the stories of people who've lost life-changing sums of money to scams.

###Victims left feeling abandoned

Too often, victims are left feeling abandoned and confused as investigations drag on with little sign of progress.

To show they are serious about winning the battle against increasingly sophisticated fraudsters, the government, police and banking industry must establish a more coordinated approach and make scams a top priority.

This is a threat to public safety - failing to stem tsunami of scams we face will make beating the fraudsters near-impossible in the future.

Do you think fraud should be a higher priority for the police?

Note : At this stage of the article Which? asks for the readers opinion on the level of priority.

(1st May 2019)

MARCH 2019

(Guardian, dated 30th March 2019 author Miles Brignall)

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The number ID flashes up on your phone identifying the call as coming from your bank. But beware - caller ID can be easily spoofed by fraudsters, as one Cambridge businesswoman found to her cost after crooks convinced her she was talking to her legitimate bank, and then emptied her account of £90,000.

The businesswoman also accuses her bank, Metro, of lax security procedures that enabled the crooks to set up payments to accounts at Barclays, through which the money was siphoned from her account.

Jane Holden says the fraud started with a phone call to her mobile which showed it was from Metro's 0345 business banking number.

Although Metro has now agreed to refund her the £90,000 following the Guardian's intervention, she says the episode has left her shocked at how vulnerable bank customers are. She says she now plans to move to another bank.

Her case started in late February when, while abroad, she realised that she had missed four calls to her mobile all from the same number, 0345 080508, which she knew to be Metro Bank's business call centre.

When they rang again in the evening and she was able to answer, the caller claimed to be from the bank's fraud team.

"I was told it was concerned about fraudulent hotel bookings I had made using," she says.

"I questioned how I could verify they were calling from the bank and they directed me to the Metro website to check any number calling is genuine, which I did. The number on my phone also matched that on the back on my bank card."

She had also received, during the day, a confirmation booking text that appeared to have come from

"It was by this point I was convinced I was talking to the bank. They then said they needed me to clear security to discuss further, and asked me for characters from my password and from my memorable word, just as my bank does.

"They must have had access to my online banking membership number as I don't know this, and I was not asked for it.

"To cancel the hotel bookings they said they would send me 'a payee code' as the fraudulent payments had been set up as 'faster payments'.

"I received three text messages which I read back to them. It all happened very fast," she says.

Unknown to her, the fraudsters had changed the phone ID on their system to show Metro Bank's number on her handset, which is easily done. They had also faked the text.

Armed with the codes she had read out, they set up payments out of her account. With access to both her personal and business account they were able to subsequently take £90,000 through a series of payments - all paid to one of three Barclays accounts that they used to launder her money.

"They somehow had my mobile and the whole of my debit card number - not just the last four digits - you have to have ones from the middle to make the payments," she says. "All along, the person I spoke to was very professional and sounded exactly as though they worked in a bank fraud call centre.

"I am an internet-savvy businesswoman who runs a successful business, and this can happen to anyone. It was a terrible moment when Metro told me that they believed I had been grossly negligent and would not refund me. I later found out that the fraudsters also changed my internet banking password and memorable word while logged in, allowing them to access my account multiple times. And yet Metro sent no text notifications. I'd have thought that was a basic security measure."

Metro Bank told Money: "We take our customers' security extremely seriously and have a range of safeguards in place to help defend them against fraud, which we constantly review and update in light of ever-changing and increasingly sophisticated tactics from fraudsters.

"We have taken the opportunity to undertake a further review of this case as we always want to do the right thing for our customers. I can confirm, as a result of this case being reviewed, and revisiting the facts available to us, we will be offering a full refund to the customer."

* Jane Holden is not her real name

The warning signs

Fraudsters using fake - or spoofed - phone numbers to help convince their victims is not new, but it reached an epidemic in recent months due in part to the ubiquity of smartphones.

It is surprisingly easy for a fraudster to change their phone's caller ID to mimic that of a bank or other government agency. There is nothing to stop a fraudster inputting any bank's customer service number which is automatically displayed on the mobile handset.

If the receiving smartphone has that bank's customer service number in their phone's contacts list, the handset will recognise that and tell the person that NatWest or whoever is calling.

Similarly, texts that come in from the fraudsters using a spoofed number, will show up as being from the bank - often appearing alongside legitimate texts sent out by the bank. Last week, Which? warned consumers to be on their guard against this growing problem. The same goes for trusted organisations like HMRC, the DVLA or TV Licensing or well-known brands such as Apple or PayPal.

It says texts have been particularly effective at duping customers because of the way smartphones group messages that claim to come from the same source.

If you receive a voice or automated call - either at home or on your mobile - that claims to be from your bank, hang up. Having cleared the line, phone the bank yourself on the number shown on your bank card. Texts should be treated as equally suspicious.

The banks have said they can't prevent scammers using technology to impersonate them, as they don't control the gateways through which spoofed texts are sent.

A genuine bank will never contact you asking for your pin, full password, or to move money to a safe account.

Should banks refund customers in cases such as this?

Last autumn, the Financial Ombudsman Service put banks like Metro on notice that blanket refusals to refund in such circumstances will no longer be tolerated. Instead, banks will have to take into account the "evolution and sophistication" of fraud.

The chief ombudsman, Caroline Wayman, told the banks that it was not fair to automatically call a customer grossly negligent simply because they've fallen for a scam.

"That's especially true in light of the sophisticated way criminals exploit banks' security systems - and convince customers that their money is at risk," she said at the time.

Banking regulations state that the bank must refund any payment that was not "authorised" by the account holder. Account holders whose account has been emptied by a fraudster cannot be said to have "authorised" such payments, therefore they should be refunded.

A year ago Money featured the case a Kent-based businessman, who lost £20,000 after fraudsters were able to go into the Brixton, south London branch of mobile phone company EE and take over his phone account, which they used to set up a series of new online payments, that subsequently emptied his Metro account. Metro told him that it would not refund him claiming he had been grossly negligent. FOS later ruled against Metro and ordered the bak to refund him.

He said then: "I've used internet banking for over 15 years and have never been a victim of online fraud; however after only seven weeks of being a Metro customer I have fallen victim to online fraud. I wish I read reviews online before opening the account as I see this appears to be a bigger problem with Metro," he told Money.

(2nd April 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 22nd March 2019 author Annie Palmer)

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A new report has uncovered a massive advertising fraud scheme that made scammers serious cash, fooled marketing companies and killed users' smartphone batteries.

The scheme operated via fake banner advertisements that were secretly hidden behind legitimate banner ads in Android apps, according to BuzzFeed News.

This scam was previously spotted by at least two ad fraud detection firms, Protected Media and online media verification firm DoubleVerify's ad fraud lab.

Fraudsters were able to hijack in-app ads in apps using Twitter's MoPub ad platform.

App developers say they've received complaints of their apps draining consumers' phone batteries, BuzzFeed said, but they often can't explain the source of the battery drain.

Meanwhile, fraudsters rake in cash as their fake ads auto-play in the apps.

The ads aren't actually seen by anyone, as they're hid behind real ads, but the scammers still end up making money off of ad views.

Brands end up losing out on money because they purchase the ad spots thinking they'll be placed as a normal ad in an app, only for it to be hidden out of view.

In total, the scheme is said to have led to the creation of 60 million fraudulent video ads per month, according to DoubleVerify.

Video advertising solutions company Aniview and its subsidiary OutStream Media were identified as being part of the scheme.

Aniview denied any involvement, saying its systems were 'exploited' by a bad actor, according to BuzzFeed.

'BuzzFeed brought to our attention that there is an abuse activity, as an immediate action, we stopped this activity and started and continue an internal incident review,' Aniview CEO Alon Carmel told the site.

'...To be crystal clear, another customer on Aniview's [self-serve] platform used this [video ad] player and is responsible for this activity and we took actions immediately to stop this activity.

'We are fighting against bad activities, pushing and focus on clean and legit activities and should not be blamed or framed for bad use of our platform,' he added.

Protected Media claims Aniview is one of several other ad tech companies that have participated in these types of illegal ad schemes.

'Fraudsters are purchasing cheap in-app display inventory and are filling it with multiple video players behind innocuous fake branded display ads,' Asaf Greiner, CEO of Protected Media, told BuzzFeed.

A report from DoubleVerify also breaks down exactly how the ad fraud scheme works.

'Bad actors are seeking to maximize revenue and profits by stuffing multiple players into the ad slot, intentionally using incorrectly-sized players, and/or using hidden players - practices that are decidedly fraudulent,' the firm explained.

This is just the latest example of this kind of ad fraud scheme.

Last November, Google and the FBI busted a major ad-fraud operation that hijacked almost two million devices.

The scam was detailed in a 13-count indictment that brought charges against eight people surrounding their involvement in a digital advertising fraud scheme referred to as '3ve' and Methbot.


Methbot was a sprawling advertising fraud scheme.

It involved scammers collecting false clicks on ad campaigns by linking them to false IP addresses.

The operation netted the scammers as much as $5 million a day.

Security vendor WhiteOps eventually shut the scheme down in 2016.

Similarly, 3ve was an ad fraud operation that distributed malware on millions of devices to generate fake clicks on ad campaigns.

Scammers infected some 2 million devices and created 60,000 fake accounts with digital ad companies.

It raked in an alleged $29 million.

(2nd April 2019)

(The Sun, dated 21st March 2019 author Emma Pietras)

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EASTERN European gangs are flying into Britain to steal thousands of bank account details from our cash points before returning home "millionaires", according to police.

One criminal gang alone harvested details worth more than £3million in the space of a few days after cloning card and pin numbers with a skimming device.

This shocking scale of fraud is revealed in a new ITV documentary, Fraud: How They Steal Your Bank Account, as it follows detectives from a specialist police unit in a bid to tackle Britain's fastest growing crime.

Detective Superintendent Perry Stokes says: "They are basically coming over for a very short period of time, a couple of weeks, to commit wholesale ATM fraud. It's almost like a fraud holiday."

Detective Sergeant Phil Elms adds: "You have these guys coming over into the UK for a week and can go back millionaires, effectively."

With exclusive access to the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), the documentary, which airs tonight, sees officers receive a tip off that Oleg Borta, the head of European operations for a major international crime syndicate is en route to the UK.

After landing in London, the team's surveillance team follow Moldovan Borta as he travels around the country collecting skimming devices from cash points.

Skimming gangs now target cash machines in provincial towns because there are fewer police and CCTV cameras.

They track Borta to what the team suspect is the gang's UK safe house in Purfleet, Essex, before detaining him at the airport as he goes to pick up an accomplice.

Detectives carry out a search of the safe house and discover a bag full of skimming equipment as well as secret cameras to record pin numbers and a laptop used to store people's details.

A forensic analysis of the gang's phones and computers reveal they had cloned 11,000 bank card details.

Detective Constable Andy Lovett says: "It's over £3 million of estimated losses and this is just from one criminal gang. There's several of these gangs all over the country that are operating so this barely touches the surface of what's happening in the UK."

Borta and his accomplice Vasilii Mereacre are arrested, later pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud.

They were sentenced to seven and five and a half years respectively.


The DCPCU, made up of detectives from The City of London and Metropolitan Police, is funded by the banking industry and has made £600 million in savings from reduced fraud activity since it was set up in 2002.

But as banks work hard to toughen security at cash machines, criminal gangs are turning to alternative avenues to steal our money, including corrupt bank staff who can steal account details to order.

Det Supt Stokes explains: "What's the Holy Grail to them is actually getting hold of physical cards. So we've seen a migration for criminal gangs looking for vulnerabilities.

"We've seen people working in a position of trust, might be a bank employee, actually targeted by the organised crime group and recruited, almost groomed to pass on the information."

Officers investigating a series of bank card thefts from housing estates across east London find a victim who took pictures of the gang as they stole her card from her communal post box.

Detectives discover the gang were tipped off about the victim's card being delivered by corrupt bank employee Zuned Ahmed.

Detective Fiona Roope explains: "He accessed her account and requested a passcode, a card and a PIN for her savings account.

"And then a card and PIN has been issued and intercepted by the people that she has then taken photographs of. And then later on a loan of £35,000 has been agreed."

The officers discover Ahmed also illegally accessed 26 other victims' accounts, allowing the gang to steal more than £160,000.

Police learn Ahmed had been working at Barclays just three months and started stealing accounts as soon as he got the job.

Ahmed is arrested and later pleads guilty to fraud by abuse of position, receiving a reduced sentence of 33 months.

Detective Roope says: "The majority of the time it's the bank insider that obviously gets found out or arrested and charged - and the people higher up in the organised crime gangs are the ones that get away with it, don't get their hands dirty."

How to pot a cash machine skimming device

Skimming devices are attached to the cash machine to record the details from the magnetic stripe of a card while a miniature camera captures the PIN being entered.

A fake magnetic stripe card is then produced and used with the genuine PIN to withdraw cash.

The clip-on skimmers don't tend to sit perfectly on to the machines they are attached to.

It can be a good idea to check the cash machine next to yours and wiggle the equipment to check there aren't any rogue parts which have been attached by a crook.

Covering the keypad with your hand can also stop thieves being able to steal your pin using a hidden camera.

How to keep safe at an ATM

- Try and use ATMs in well-lit areas which are visible to other members of the public.
- Shield the screen and keyboard so thieves can't 'shoulder surf'.
- Put your cash, card and recepit away immediately.
- Memorise your PIN, never write it down and carry it with you.
- Check your ATM receipts against your monthly bank statements.
- If you notice anything suspicious related to your account, cancel your card immediately.

(2nd April 2019)

(City AM, dated 21st March 2019 author Jessica Clark)

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The theft of personal information following data breaches drove an increase in money stolen through fraud to £1.2bn last year.

A number of well known companies suffered high profile data breaches in 2018, including Facebook, Google, and British Airways.

Unauthorised fraud, where the account holder is not duped into approving a payment, was up 16 per cent compared to 2017, according to the latest data by UK Finance.

The money lost to cheque fraud soared by 109 per cent to £21m and losses from unauthorised transactions on payment cards were up 19 per cent to £671m.

Meanwhile, £354m was lost through authorised push payment scams, which trick customers into authorising a payment to another account which is controlled by a criminal.

However, the banking and finance industry was able to prevent a total of £1.66bn worth of fraud last year.

UK Finance managing director of economic crime Katy Worobec said: "Fraud is a crime that is a major threat to us all - it can have a devastating impact on victims and the money stolen funds even more damaging criimes such as terrorism, drug trafficking and people smuggling.

"Every business, from online retailers to social media companies , as well as the public sector, has a duty to work together to beat fraud and prevent stolen data getting into the hands of criminals. "

(2nd April 2019)

(Mirror, dated 20th March 2019 author Louie Smith)

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A fraudster banked more than £100,000 by blackmailing married men in an internet sex racket.

Shannon Lee, 21, contacted victims through the controversial sugar daddy dating website SeekingArrangement.

Using pictures of women lifted from the internet, she posed as 'Sophie'.

She lured her victims on the Las Vegas-based site into sex chats, an internet con known as 'catfishing'.

Lee switched communication on to the encrypted mobile message service WhatsApp and threatened to expose the "embarrassing" exchanges to wives, family members or friends.

Jobless Lee, from Netley, Hants, pressured one victim into paying by telling him: 'Tick tock, time is almost up."

She sent threats to others, including: "You'll make the transfer or you'll be exposed. I've told you how things will happen. You've got until 11.22pm.

"I don't care what's criminal, I need to keep a roof over my head and I've given you an option."

Payments of £100,000-plus were found in her account, including £40,000 from one man targeted from 2016 to 2018.

Southampton crown court heard she was arrested after a victim, a foreign student in the UK, reported the scam.

Judge Peter Henry described Lee, who admitted fraud and blackmail, as "cold, callous and vindictive" before jailing her for 32 months.

He added: "You admitted you were enjoying the thrill of putting pressure on these men. You admitted you were being greedy and excited when you were scamming these people. You were controlling these men."

(2nd April 2019)

(ZD Net, dated 19th March 2019 author Danny Palmer)

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The most common subject lines used in phishing emails targeting businesses show how cyber criminals are exploiting urgency, personalisation and pressure in order to trick victims into clicking on malicious links, downloading malware or otherwise surrendering confidential or sensitive corporate information.

Cyber criminals are well aware that people respond to dozens if not hundreds of emails a day - and this is reflected in the most common subject lines used when conducting business email compromise attacks.

After analyzing 360,000 phishing emails over a three-month period, researchers at cybersecurity company Barracuda Networks have detailed the most common lines used in phishing attacks - these subject lines are the most common because it's highly likely they're often the most successful bait for reeling in victims.

According to Barracuda's spear phishing report, by far the most common subject line used in attacks is simply 'Request' - accounting for over a third of all the phishing messages analysed. That's followed in popularity with messages containing 'Follow up' or 'Urgent/Important' in the subject line.

The simple trick attackers are using here is to make potential victims think they need to open and respond to the email as a matter of urgency - especially if the message is designed to look as if it comes from one of their colleagues, or their boss. That could nudge the victim into responding quickly, without thinking, especially if it claims to come from a board-level executive.

The top subject lines according to Barracuda analysis are based around the following key phrases:

1.  Request
2.  Follow up
3.  Urgent/Important
4.  Are you available?/Are you at your desk?
5.  Payment Status
6.  Hello
7.  Purchase
8.  Invoice Due
9.  Re:
10. Direct Deposit
11. Expenses
12. Payroll

'Are you at your desk' uses the trick of familiarly to try and coax victims into falling for the attack, while subjects suggesting the email is part of a previous conversation are also used for a similar goal - to trick the user into trusting the sender.

Many of the most-used subject lines also refer to finance and payments; if the recipient thinks they might lose money if they don't respond, they'll likely jump to it. The same also goes for messages about payments - an employee might think it will look bad if they leave somebody without being paid, especially if the request comes from someone who is their senior.

"Increasingly the social element is becoming the key "attack vector" in cybersecurity attacks. In the past, attackers sent ransomware emails, which actually took over the computer and encrypted the files, asking for a ransom," Asaf Cidon, VP for content security at Barracuda Networks told ZDNet.

"But today, they don't even need to send ransomware. They can simply use social manipulation to get the recipient to send a ransom - which is far cheaper, more effective and harder to detect."

To avoid falling victim to phishing attacks, cybersecurity researchers recommend the implementation of DMARC authentication to avoid domain spoofing, along with the deployment of multi-factor authentication to provide users with an extra layer of protection. Those techniques should be combined with user training and the use of security software.

(2nd April 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 15th March 2019 author Angelique Ruzicka)

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Fraudsters are increasingly targeting businesses with fake invoices in order to scam them out of cash, data suggests.

One in seven small-to-medium sized firms in Britain has fallen victim to an invoice scam in the last 12 months, Barclays says.

With businesses likely to have numerous staff working in accounts along with a healthy bank balance, they are in the crosshairs of fraudsters.

Essentially, invoice scams attempt to trick companies into paying out on what looks like a legitimate bill addressed to them.

More than a quarter - 28 per cent - of reported invoice scams resulted in losses of more than £5,000, according to the high street bank.

Criminals tend to get hold of genuine business invoice details, including payment details, and pose as legitimate business suppliers to take payment from an unknowing business owners or their employees.

These staff members believe they are paying a genuine invoice and then willingly transfer company money directly to the criminals.

Ian Rand, chief executive of Barclays business banking, said: 'Fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated with the methods they use to target Britain's hard-working SMEs and unfortunately, we know that impersonation fraud and invoice scams are on the rise.'

The bank's figures also reveal that hotspots for scams include the West Midlands, the South West, the East and London.

Statistics reveal that many scams could be easily avoidable - only a quarter of employees processing an invoice double-checked with a colleague before making a payment.

Meanwhile, a similar number said they were scammed because they trusted the email address it was sent from.

The bank highlighted that the impact of such scams on businesses and individuals is considerable, with nearly one in five SME leaders admitting they have had to cover the full cost of a scam.

Despite this, due to lack of time, only 19 per cent say they conduct invoice training for all staff to help them spot a fake invoice.

Often scam victims find it difficult retrieving the money or getting their banks to reverse the transaction as transfers are often conducted instantaneously.

Banks have been hesitant to award refunds as they claim those who transferred the money to a fraudulent account acted negligently.

But banking fraud victims who lose cash to push payment scams may soon be able to get their money back if their bank subscribes to a new code this year, which has been published by the Authorised Push Payment Scams Steering Group.

This new rule could also pave the way for business owners to get their money back too.

When asked if there are ways that SMEs can get their money back from the bank, a Barclays spokesperson responded: 'We take each specific case of fraud or scam very seriously and will continue to look at customer issues on a case by case basis.

'We are invested in helping people arm themselves with the knowledge and the tools to stop scams from happening in the first place, which is why we are issuing warnings like this.

'We have no higher priority than the protection of our customers' funds and have invested significantly in fraud and scam prevention initiatives.

'Alongside our prevention work we also help arm the public with information and tools to spot and stop fraud and scams, including major TV advertising.'

The spokesperson adds that once the scam is realised it is vital that it gets reported to the bank as soon as possible either by contacting the fraud department or visiting a local branch.

'When a customer is tricked into paying their money to a criminal, the bank has no way of intervening in advance, and therefore we urge people to check payment details very carefully and to call the company in advance of large payments if they are in any doubt.'

Rand adds: 'We want to arm businesses with as much information as possible on common scams so that they can avoid falling prey to fraudsters.

'Our network of over 1,500 relationship managers are delivering advice clinics to SMEs across the country - arming them with valuable information on all aspects of business resilience, including digital safety.'

Six top tips to help businesses avoid invoice scams

o help businesses stay vigilant, Ian Rand warned against the dangers of invoice scams, issuing top tips to SMEs on how to stay safe:

1. New invoices should always be checked

Call the business on a trusted number on your company files and not that on the invoice or email to check the account details are accurate

Don't assume an email, call or text is genuine - especially if something doesn't look right or the payment details are different.

Be on your guard - only 24 per cent of SMEs surveyed said they would call the supplier or partner they are dealing with to check that the request is legitimate.

2. Train staff to detect fake invoices

One in ten SME employees said that they would not know how to spot a fake invoice. Find out more about how to recognise scams and protect against them on the Barclays fraud advice website.

3. Check new bank details on invoices

Barclays advises having a clear procedure for making payments in your firm and get a second opinion.

A third (33 per cent) of CEOs, founders or managing directors do not get oversight on invoices before they are approved. If you're ever unsure about the invoice you are dealing with, it's always best to get a second pair of eyes.

4. If you feel pressured or anxious, take your time and always ask for support

When asked how falling victim to an invoice scam impacted the business, sadly, 15 per cent said it had a significant impact on their mental health and 13 per cent said the experience had such a severe impact that the employee responsible left the business.

A legitimate company will not mind waiting, especially if it avoids putting employees in an uncomfortable position.

5. Get help from your bank

Talk to your Barclays business team or relationship manager for guidance on how to recognise and protect against common scams.

6. Act swiftly

SMEs should get in touch immediately with Barclays via their business team or the direct call feature in their mobile banking app if they feel they have been the victim of a scam.

(2nd April 2019)

(Telegraph, dated 15th March 2019 author Adam Williams)

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Consumers will be unable to check whether their financial adviser is reputable for an entire year, despite the City watchdog announcing the launch of a new industry database.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) plans to introduce a directory that will allow consumers to check whether their adviser is licensed to offer financial services.

This is intended to supersede the much-criticised FCA register. Telegraph Money has repeatedly reported on failings with the register, which in some instances have cost investors tens of thousands of pounds.

The launch of the FCA directory is a response to this criticism. However, a year-long information black hole will be created as the majority of advisers will be removed from the register in December 2019 even though the new directory will not appear until December 2020.

In this period customers will have no easy means to check whether their adviser is legitimate. Only senior managers, such as company owners, will be verifiable.

Ben Yearsley of Shore Financial, an adviser, described the 12-month gap as "just plain daft". He said it would leave consumers in the dark about whether their adviser was reputable.

A spokesman for the FCA said it was "aware of the issue" and was taking steps to ensure "appropriate public information" was available.

(2nd April 2019)

(Cornwall Live, dated 14th March 2019 author Max Channon)

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Hundreds of people have fallen for a TV Licensing scam - which  has netted fraudsters more than £800,000 in less than year

Bogus emails, purporting to be from the TV licensing authority, attempt to trick victims into handing over their bank details - sometimes by claiming their direct debit has been declined

One such email reads "We're sorry to let you know that the TV License could not be automatically renewed. Something's gone wrong with your payments.

"As we couldn't take the latest payment from your bank account, this amount will also need to be paid when you set up your new Direct Debit.
"Remember, if you don't keep up with your payments, we may be forced to cancel your license or pass your details to a debt collection agency."

 "To change your payment method, have a look at all your options.  So, all you need to do is make sure there's enough money in your account.  Or , if you prefer to pay the missed amount now, you can sign in online and pay using your debit or credit card.   While you're signed in, please make sure we have your correct bank details."

The email urges the recipient  to click a link to set up a new direct debit.

The national Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre, Action Fraud, says: "An ongoing TV Licensing phishing campaign, first identified by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) in September 2018, continues to be reported to Action Fraud in high numbers.

"Fraudsters are sending the public fake TV Licensing emails that are designed to steal their personal and financial information. Since April 2018, Action Fraud has received over 900 crime reports with victim losses totalling more than £830,000."

How you can protect yourself:

- Don't click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails and never respond to messages that ask for your personal or financial details.

- Don't assume a phone call or email is authentic, even if someone knows your basic details (such as your name or address). Remember, criminals can spoof phone numbers and email addresses to appear as companies you know and trust, such as TV Licensing.

- Your bank will never call and ask you for your PIN, full banking password, or ask you to transfer money out of your account.

What to do if you've fallen victim:

- Let your bank know as soon as possible and monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.
- If you suspect your identity may have been stolen you can check your credit file quickly and easily online. Use a reputable service provider and follow up on any unexpected or suspicious results.
- If you have been a victim of fraud or cyber crime, report it to Action Fraud at , or by calling 0300 123 2040.

(2nd April 2019)

(This is Money, author George Nixon / Mail Online, author Charlie Bayliss dated 5th March 2019)

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Victims of authorised push payments may be entitled to get their money back if their banks sign-up to new industry rules from the end of May.

Under a voluntary code of practice, customers will be reimbursed in the event of an APP scam, even in cases where no one is found to be at fault.

Consumers may also be entitled to a refund if their bank failed to set-out standards and customer did everything asked of them

The new legislation will come into effect on May 28. People who have fallen victim to the scam before the legislation came into effect may not be eligible to claim their money back as the ruling is not retrospective.

From the day their application to their bank is submitted, customers should be entitled to their compensation within 15 working days.

The new code has been agreed and published by the Authorised Push Payment Scams Steering Group, set up at the start of 2018 and made of up representatives from banks and consumer groups.

It was designed to offer a greater level of protection to victims of APP scams.

These are scams in which a customer is tricked into authorising a payment to a scammer directly, often posing as the 'fraud team' of their bank. 

It is unclear just how many of these scams have taken place, but one Metro Bank customer, who wanted to remain anonymous, was scammed out of £20,000.

He told The Guardian: 'I've used internet banking for over 15 years and have never been a victim of online fraud; however after only seven weeks of being a Metro customer I have fallen victim to online fraud.

'I wish I read the review before opening the account as I see this appears to be a bigger problem with Metro.'

Another APP victim was Angelene Bungay, of Shrewsbury, who was conned out of £13,000 by someone posing as a builder carrying out her loft conversion. Her bank refused to pay out. 

Figures from September 2018 published by trade body UK Finance revealed consumers lost £92.9million to these scams in the first half of last year.

The final version came after a draft code published last September was put out to consultation.

Payment providers who sign up to the code will commit to protecting their customers from APP fraud and to prevent accounts from being used to launder the proceeds of APP fraud.

In a response to that consultation published at the end of January, some of the UK's biggest high street banks - including Barclays, Lloyds, Nationwide and Santander - criticised the draft, arguing that the changes could lead to payment providers being held liable for fraud even if they were not responsible for it.

Barclays said in its response: 'We disagree with the notion that payment service providers should accept all liability for a scam in the instance that "no blame" can be attributed to either party.'

Lloyds added: 'We believe it does not necessarily follow that a payment service provider should directly bear the cost or reimbursement in such 'no blame' cases'.

However, the banks do not appear to have got their way, with Hannah Nixon of the Payment Systems Regulator saying that they 'had done the right thing for their customers in backing this measure.'

The final published code states: 'When a customer has been the victim of an APP scam firms should reimburse the customer' providing they took sufficient care and heeded any warnings.

The steering group behind the code said that 'the precise long-term funding arrangements' for reimbursing customers in scams where neither bank nor customer were to blame "are in the process of being agreed".'

It is a blow for the banks who had reservations about that part of the code.

The group added: 'The PSPs, supported by the Payment Service Regulator, have committed to work together to introduce a longer-term funding mechanism for January 2020.'

A number of PSPs will fund an initial contribution to allow victims in a 'no blame' scenario to be reimbursed between May and December this year.

Ruth Evans, independent chair of the Steering Group, said: 'APP fraud is a crime that can have a devastating impact on victims and this voluntary code is a major milestone in protecting customers.

'With payment service providers and consumer groups working together to create a lasting and fair solution for all, the code will also help to stop these scams occurring in the first place.

'For the first time under the code any customer of a signatory payment service provider will be fully reimbursed if they are the victim of an APP scam, met the standards expected of them and their provider did not meet the standards expected of them under the Code.

'We now want to encourage as many payment service providers as possible to sign up to the Code before it comes into effect.'

Nixon, the managing director of the PSR, added: 'The code is a testament to the significant work that has gone into protecting people from APP scams.

'It shows that by bringing together consumer and industry representatives, very positive outcomes can be achieved.

'We're particularly pleased that the steering group has been able to navigate and agree a way to reimburse victims when neither victim nor bank has done anything wrong.

'This was a tough issue that rightly involved much discussion, but the banks have done the right thing for their customers in backing this measure.

'We will continue to engage with developments in the code and longer-term funding mechanism closely so that consumers get the protection and benefits intended.

'We will consider whether any further steps would help bring this about.'

Gareth Shaw, head of money at consumer group Which?, who were represented on the steering group, said: 'The publication of this code is a significant step - but it will only be judged a success if the action taken by banks results in fewer scams and if all victims are treated fairly and reimbursed swiftly.

'It is now vital that all banks, building societies and other payment service providers sign up to the voluntary code and ensure that victims are not forced to clear unreasonable hurdles to prove they are not at fault when they have been targeted by fraudsters.

'The banks must also ensure a long-term funding solution is in place by 1 January 2020, so there can never be a return to the days when people were losing life-changing sums of money through no fault of their own.'

Six ways to outfox the cyber-criminals (Compiled by Laura Shannon)

- ASSUME any caller claiming to be your bank or utility provider could be a fraudster.

It might sound unfair and the call may be genuine - but being sceptical from the start could help protect you.

- CALL your bank back on a different phone line if you are not sure a call is authentic.

Use the phone number on the back of your credit or debit card. If calling from the same phone wait at least five minutes for the current call to be disconnected. Otherwise a fraudster could simply stay on the line while you dial.

- KNOW the hallmarks of fraud. There will be convincing lies throughout a scam and the perpetrators will sound intelligent and authoritative.

But typical requests include being asked to: provide a code, a PIN, move money to a different account, repay a sum accidentally put in to your account, reveal passwords or allow remote access to your computer. Do not comply.

- BE careful about what links you click on emails, or what attachments you open. Scammers know how to imitate your friends or big brands in messages.

These links could contain viruses that, once on your computer, allow fraudsters to spy on you when you enter log-in details for online banking. Or they will pose as big brands and demand personal information that you should not surrender.

- UPDATE anti-virus software on your computer and regularly change passwords on online accounts.

- LEARN more ways to protect yourself with help from websites such as and

(2nd April 2019)

(Telegraph, dated 5th March 2019 author Sam Barker)

Full article [Option 1]:

Bank customers are falling prey to a new fraud where criminals hack the codes financial firms send via text messages to verify transactions.

As an anti-fraud measure, some banks send customers a unique code by text message that must be entered to allow a transfer or payment.

These messages are designed to boost security, but now criminals have worked out how to intercept and exploit them.

Earlier this month hackers broke into messages sent by Metro Bank, allowing them to steal money from accounts where they had already gathered users' details.

A Metro Bank spokesman said a small number of people were affected and all were compensated.

Telegraph Money can reveal the problem also hit Santander.

A Santander spokesman said: "In the small number of cases where Santander customers have been affected they have been contacted and fully refunded for any loss."

Criminals have been exploiting an agreement called System Signalling 7 (SS7), which lets users of different mobile phone networks call and text each other.

These hackers can read text messages, listen to calls and track where mobile phones are.

The roll-out of more secure 5G networks this year is expected to limit vulnerability, but for now the problem is likely to worsen, for two reasons.

First, the ability of criminals to carry out SS7 frauds is increasing.

Michael Downs, of Positive Technologies, a software firm, said: "It's not simple, but it's a lot easier than it was two years ago. You are going to see more of these attacks."

Second, opportunities for hackers will grow - ironically as tougher new payment laws come into force.

From September, new European Union laws will mandate an extra security check when using a credit or debit card to buy something online worth €30 (£25.63) or more.

Banks will have to add a second level of security, known as Strong Customer Authentication.

As well as "something you know" such as a password, banks have to choose a second check based on "something you have", such as a mobile phone or other device, or "something you are", such as your fingerprint.

As a result, more banks will rely on sending out verification text messages.

Fraudsters can work around the new system even without SS7 access.

Two small businesses that bank with Metro and use the new system were hit by scammers on Jan 23, losing £20,000 between them.

The firms are The Foxglove pub in London, and a gin distillery called Pocketful of Stones, in Penzance.

Paul Motley, 54, co-runs the distillery with Shaun Bebington, 39, and both men also run the pub with Kimberley Daal, 28.

Fraudsters initially moved £8,000 from the distillery account into the account of the pub, then took £20,000 in total from the pub account.

The attack nearly bankrupted the pub, which opened six weeks earlier.

To transfer the money, either the fraudsters or Mr Motley needed to input a code from a text sent by Metro.

Mr Motley said he never received this text. Metro Bank will not refund either business.

A spokesman claimed the attack was not an SS7 fraud and that Mr Motley somehow revealed his security details to the fraudster, making it his fault.

Mr Motley said the idea he had authorised the fraud was "ridiculous".

###What are banks supposed to do when customers report fraud?

The Payments Systems Regulator, the independent watchdog, has laid out the correct actions banks should take when their customers report a bank transfer scam in its response to the supercomplaint made by Which? in September 2016, which demands banks take more responsibility for money lost in such cases, as they do with card fraud and unauthorised payments.

The PSR said when a scam victim contacts their bank, it will first collect information from the customer to "enable it to investigate the matter further" and then contact the fraudster's bank and "attempt to recover the payment on behalf of their customer".

The Financial Ombudsman, the independent resolution service, said when the customer's bank is alerted to a problem with the payment it would usually expect them to act quickly to try and recover the funds or alert the receiving bank.

(2nd April 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 2nd March 2019 authors Tom Kelly and Samantha Partington)

Full article [Option 1]:

Scam callers posing as tax officials targeted at least 60,000 households in just six months.

About 328 victims a day are reporting the telephone fraudsters, who are threatening homeowners with jail unless they repay fake tax debts, HMRC said.

The figures are a rise of 360 per cent on the previous six months and many more are believed to have been targeted but not alerted the taxman.

The elderly and vulnerable are the main victims of the swindlers who usually phone the 26 million homes with a landline.

Those who are not ex-directory are especially at risk because their details are available online.

The shady scheme is part of a massive increase in bank transfer scams which costs customers £1 million a day.

Victims are tricked into making payments into accounts controlled by criminals.

HMRC urged people to stay vigilant and asked them to alert anyone they know with a landline about the scam.

It said in the past year it had helped close more than 450 phone lines the fraudsters use to steal money.

The explosion in tax fraud calls followed a clampdown on similar email and text scams, where swindlers sent messages claiming to be from the taxman to trick victims into paying them.

Treasury minister Mel Stride said: 'We have taken major steps to crack down on text and email scams leaving fraudsters no choice but to try and con taxpayers over the phone.

'If you receive a suspicious call to your landline from someone purporting to be from HMRC which threatens legal action, to put you in jail, or payment using vouchers, hang up and report it to HMRC who can work to take them off the network.'

Pauline Smith, head of the UK's national fraud and cyber reporting centre Action Fraud, said: 'Fraudsters will call your landline claiming to be from reputable organisations such as HMRC.

'Contact like this is designed to convince you to hand over valuable personal details or your money. Don't assume anyone who calls you is who they say they are.

'If a person calls and asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, be cautious and seek advice.'

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, added: 'Scammers will use any means possible to cheat people out of their money and we'd urge everyone to be cautious.

'If there are any niggling doubts it is always sensible to end the call and contact the company or government department separately using a phone number taken from a piece of official correspondence or their website.'

In the first six months of last year, £145 million went missing in bank transfer fraud - almost £1 million a day and 50 per cent more than in the same period of 2017, according to trade body UK Finance.

About a quarter of the total losses - £36.6 million - was the result of impersonation fraud. HMRC said it received more than 60,000 reports of phone scams in six months up to January 2019 - a rise of 360 per cent on the six months prior.

It stressed it would only ever call to ask for payment on debts that people are already aware of.

Taxpayers will either have previously received a letter about it or have themselves called HMRC to say they owe some tax.

'Households with a landline number should be vigilant of phone calls from fraudsters pretending to be the tax authority,' a spokesman for HMRC said.

'A rising number of criminals are turning to the traditional method of cold-calling publicly available phone numbers to steal money from taxpayers.'

HMRC said controls introduced in the phone industry have stopped about half a billion scam emails and reduced reported instances of HMRC-branded phone text scams by 90 per cent.

(Hastings and St Leonards Observer, dated 3rd March 2019 author John Holden)

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Households with a landline number should be wary of phone calls from fraudsters pretending to be the tax authority, HM Revenue and Customs has warned.

A crackdown on email and SMS phishing has pushed fraudsters back to the more traditional method of cold-calling publicly available phone numbers, which are often landlines.

According to Ofcom, almost 26 million homes have a landline, many of which could be at risk from scams - especially if they are not ex-directory.

Phone scams often target the elderly and vulnerable using HMRC's brand as it is well known and adds credibility to a fraudster's call.

Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said: "Fraudsters will call your landline claiming to be from reputable organisations such as HMRC. Contact like this is designed to convince you to hand over valuable personal details or your money.

"Don't assume anyone who calls you is who they say they are. If a person calls and asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, be cautious and seek advice."

HMRC has warned it will only ever call asking for payment relating to a debt the recipient is already aware of, having received a letter or after alerting the HMRC to owed tax, for example through a self-assessment return.

HMRC received more than 60,000 reports of phone scams in the six months up to January 2019, an increase of over 3.5 times compared to the preceding six months.

During the last 12 months, HMRC has worked with the phone networks and Ofcom to close nearly 450 lines being used by fraudsters using boiler room tactics to steal money.

Financial secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride MP, said: "We have taken major steps to crack down on text and email phishing scams, leaving fraudsters no choice but to try and con taxpayers over the phone.

"If you receive a suspicious call to your landline from someone purporting to be from HMRC which threatens legal action, to put you in jail, or payment using vouchers, hang up and report it to HMRC who can work to take them off the network."

If anyone is ever in doubt about who they are speaking to, HMRC advises ending the call and contacting the department using one of the numbers or online services available from

(2nd April 2019)

(The Times, dated 2nd March 2019 author David Byers)

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The personal finance expert Martin Lewis has attacked Facebook's record on tackling fraud as new figures show that the amount of money being lost to scammers is soaring.

An investigation by The Times reveals that users of social networking sites have been conned out of at least £4.4 million after investing in "get rich quick" schemes that falsely claim to be endorsed either by Lewis or the BBC TV show Dragons' Den since April, when the entrepreneur started legal action against Facebook.

The findings pose fresh questions over the determination of the world's largest social network to fulfil its promise to the founder of Moneysavingexpert to deal with adverts that exploit Lewis's image to defraud victims.

In January £1.38 million was taken from victims using the Dragons Den or Lewis scam, a 13 fold increase from April last year. Lewis, who has been voted the most trusted man in Britain and whose newsletter has 13 million subscribers, announced that he would sue Facebook for defamation over the adverts.

He settled the case in January in return for Facebook agreeing to donate £3 million to setting up a new citizens advice scam-action group and creating a dedicated scam reporting button.

"This is horrific," Lewis told The Times. "I am so sorry for any individuals who have given money to these disgusting, despicable schemes. We need to improve corporate behaviour from social companies to combat this. If you carry these adverts, you must be responsible - if not legally, then certainly morally."

The Times's investiagtion shows how the problem appears to have got rapidly worse since April, when Mike Schroepfer, Facebook's chief technology officer, told MPs that the company had removed "thousands" of adverts promoting investment schemes using fake endorsements from Lewis. Since the start of the month a total of £4,421,256.39 has been reported as having been lost by fraud victims who said they responded to adverts on social media sites that used either the image of Lewis, or Dragons Den.

The figures supplied by Action Fraud, th reporting service run by City of London police, showed that 401 victims had been conned out of and average of £11,025.58 each by these scams during this period.

The figures also show that the fraudsters are persuading their victims to part with dramatically larger amounts of money today than they were in April. Paul Carroll, head of fraud at the Nationa Fraud Intelligence Bureau, said a large number of scam adverts bearing images of Lewis or Dragons Den were displayed on Facebook or Instagram, which Facebook owns.

Facebook and Instagram said yesterday that they were taking action to tackle the adverts. "Fraudsters are continuing to adopt more sophisticated techniques to con people, and we are taking action to stop them," a Facebook spokesman said.

Police inundated by wave of scams

"New technology can be your worst enemy," says Inspector Paul Carroll, chairman of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, which is dealing with a growing caseload of social media investment scams.

According to Experian, the ratings agency, the annual cost of fraud to the public is £190 billion. Mr Carroll and his 90 staff have a mountain of work ontheir hands.

The bureau collates and analyses cases reported to Action Fraud, the reporting service, and if there is enough evidence forwards them to police. It says there has been a particular rise in push-payment fraud, in which the email accounts of businesses are hacked and their customers are sent fake invoices, and pension scams to which victims lose an average of £91,000 each.

As much of digital fraud is committed from outside the EU, prosecution rates are extraordinarily low.

Figures released by Action Fraud show that 237,000 of the 293,900 fraud reports made in 2017-18 were dropped by the NFIB.

Mr Carroll describes it as "a wave that keep coming".

(2nd April 2019)

(ZD Net, dated 28th February 2019 author Jack Schofield)

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Agari threat researchers say the the fraudster group they call Scarlet Widow has switched from phishing large corporations to attacking "more vulnerable sectors such as school districts, universities, and non-profits, which tend to be more poorly defended".

And instead of demanding bank drafts, it's collecting money via Apple iTunes and Google Play gift cards before trading them for cash.

In a typical scam, a member of staff gets an email that pretends to be from their boss or another senior figure. It asks them to buy gift cards and send them photos of the backs, for reasons that will supposedly be explained later. Agari says the gift cards are being traded on Paxful a legitimate US-based peer-to-peer cryptocurrency exchange at a reduced rate, then the resulting bitcoins are sold on for cash received via bank transfers.

Gift cards can't easily be blocked or tracked by the banks, though it does mean the average "win" is smaller when they do manage to scam a victim.

It seems this technique is becoming increasingly common. America's FTC said last October that "when people report paying a fraudster with a gift or reload card, about four times out of five the fraud they report is an imposter scam - in fact, gift cards and reload cards are now the number one reported method of payment for imposter scams." (In imposter scams, the fraudsters may pretend to be businesses, bosses, colleagues, family members, friends, or even government agencies.)

Agari says that Scarlet Widow's targets have included "dozens of small-town schools and school districts in Indiana and Wisconsin plus charities, hospitals, churches and a number of universities in the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand. Names and email addresses are often obtained by scraping websites and directories.

The hit-rate for this particular type of phishing - or Business Email Compromise (BEC), as Agari calls it - must be very low, but apparently it's successful enough to be profitable. It should be possible to reduce it with a bit of user education, ie by telling staff that anyone who asks them to send company money using gift cards can be assumed to be a scammer. (They should already know that CEOs and department heads etc typically have more than one debit or credit card, so they're unlikely to need $1,000 worth of iTunes vouchers in a hurry.)

(2nd April 2019)


(Action Fraud, dated 21st February 2019)

Action Fraud have received several reports where fraudsters are claiming to be landlords of properties offered for rent online. Prior to a viewing the suspect requests that the individuals pay a deposit and sometimes a month's rent upfront, claiming that this money will be put into the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, and is therefore protected under government legislation.

After the individual pays the money, the suspect sends a bogus email purporting to be from the Tenancy Deposit Scheme confirming they have received their deposit. However, this is not the case as the money was sent directly to an account associated with the suspect and the victim is left out of pocket and without the home they had thought to be putting a deposit on.

What You Need To Do

- Always make sure you, or a reliable contact, has viewed the property with an agent or landlord before agreeing to rent a property.
- Don't be rushed or pressured into making a decision. Only transfer funds when you're satisfied a genuine property, safety certificates and valid contract are in place.
- Only pay for goods or service by bank transfer if you know and trust the person. Payments via bank transfer offer you no protection if you become a victim of fraud.

- Once you've paid your deposit, you can check whether it's protected by entering your tenancy deposit certificate code on TDS website (

(10th March 2019)

(This is Money, dated 20th February 2019 author George Nixon)

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Personal login details for some of the world's biggest brands, including Amazon, British Airways, Facebook and Netflix - as well as for the viral free video game Fortnite - are available for as little as £7 on the dark web, data shows.

Analysis of listings on five major dark web marketplaces; Berlusconi, Dream, Empire, Tochka Free and Wallstreet Market, found personal details for everything from shopping sites and streaming services, to identity documents to bank details are on sale.

It means your entire personal identity could be bought for around £800, comparison service Top10VPN claims.

Bank details remained the most coveted and expensive item according to the latest dark web market price index, listing for nearly £350.

However, credit and debit cards and driving licence and passport details were available for far less.

Credit cards could be found listed for an average of £24.91, debit cards £5.69, driving licence for £13.28 and passport for £9.93.

The virtual private network comparison service said a series of data breaches over the last 12 months contributed to the 'thriving' online black market trade in personal details, while it found that some products had jumped in value, often by huge percentages.

Details for British Airways accounts could be purchased for an average of £31.94, a whopping 375 per cent increase in value since 2018.

The report says: 'Criminals need to travel too. In accessing BA accounts, fraudsters can siphon off points that can be used on multiple airlines - making these logins even more valuable.'

The airline said last year that around 244,000 payment cards were put at risk by a data breach that occurred between 21 August and 5 September 2018, meaning scammers could potentially get hold of customer's names, email addresses, and credit card details - including the three digit CVV code on the back of the card.

The airline's owner International Airlines Group added that up to 77,000 customers who made reward bookings using a payment card between 21 April and 28 July 2018, a month before the larger breach, could also have had their personal and card details stolen.

Other details that spiralled in price over the last 12 months include logins for the dating website, which rose 168 per cent to around £6, as well as personal details for accounts with tech firms Amazon and Facebook, ride hailing app Uber, and streaming service Netflix.

Both Facebook and Uber faced scandals over data breaches in 2018, with Facebook announcing last September that almost 50million accounts were vulnerable to a takeover by hackers, while Uber was fined nearly £115million by UK and US authorities following a 2016 data breach that affected 35million customers and 3.7million drivers.

The price of Facebook details increased by 86 per cent to £6.96 in 2019, and Uber details by 52 per cent to £7.61.

The comparison site said the Facebook price increase reflected its 'heightened potential for fraud as its users increasingly tether payment details to the site to play in-app games and use the Marketplace.'

Meanwhile, for Uber, it added: 'As with stolen BA details, hacked Uber accounts allow users to get around using someone else's details.

'There have also been reports of scammers using hacked Uber accounts for their everyday travel, usually deep in Russia.'

However Amazon topped both with the average price of personal details rising by 114 per cent over the last 12 months to £14.53.

The online shopping giant admitted it exposed an unknown number of customer names and email addresses after a 'technical error' on its website last November, days before Black Friday, but refused to give any more details.

The report claims: 'Stolen Amazon accounts have tripled in price, which may be in anticipation of a wider rollout for Amazon Go - thieves would be able to wander in, fill a trolley and leave without detection.'

Netflix account details are selling for an average of £8.19, an increase of 37 per cent on last year, which is slightly more than the £7.99 it costs per month for your own account.

Simon Migliano, head of research at Top10VPN, said: 'Just any like other marketplace, dark web markets are susceptible to the ebbs and flows of supply and demand.

'Last year's serious security breaches involving Facebook and British Airways customers led to vast quantities of personal data flooding these black market sites.

'The high profile nature of these hacks has also created quite the appetite for these stolen account details, meaning that prices have notably jumped since last year too.'

One name that might not instinctively make sense is Fortnite.

The Battle Royale game became a global phenomenon among young and old alike attracting more than 125million players, including celebrities like England footballers Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard.

While it is free, it offers in-game micro-transactions like unique skins and items, which can be purchased with an in-game currency 'v bucks', bought using your own money.

They offer no competitive advantage but are often purchased because they look cool aesthetically.

Simon added that it was these items scammers were after, saying: 'Hacked Fortnite accounts are actually more appealing for using stored credit cards to splurge on highly desirable in-game perks than for broader fraudulent schemes.'

The game fell victim to a data breach of its own last year, with developer Epic Games alerted to a hole last November that allowed hackers to control customers' accounts and make purchases.

Epic has confirmed it has since the flaw, discovered by cybersecurity firm Check Point Software Technologies.

Simon said: 'Storing payment information across a whole range of online accounts - even social media - is now par for the course for the majority of consumers as it's simply so convenient.

'The downside is that if a fraudster gains access to one account they then, essentially, have the keys to the kingdom.

'What this all serves to underline is how web users need to remain constantly vigilant as identity thieves can access personal details in a variety of ways.

'As well as always using unique passwords, encrypting connections to WiFi hotspots with a VPN is a must.

'It's otherwise all too easy for hackers to swipe sensitive data transmitted via these public networks.'

Paul Ducklin, senior technologist at cybersecurity firm Sophos, said: 'You need to take price lists like this with a pinch of salt.

'Prices can vary by seller for many reasons, including the likelihood of the password actually working, the usefulness of the account, the amount you are willing to haggle, and the age of the stolen data.

'It's not like the price of a litre of petrol, where the quantity and quality of what you are buying is regulated and consistent across all sellers, so that prices can be directly compared.

'Nevertheless, the price lists do make both fascinating and worrying reading.

'Online accounts have genuine value to crooks, and that makes them an attractive target.

'The existence of a "password bazaar" is also an important reminder that cybercrooks can and do specialise - the crook who stole your password doesn't also need the skills to milk your account, write malware or hack your website.

'He can simply sell the data on to the next guy, so what happens to you tomorrow depends on who's buying today.'

What your financial details and ID documents could be selling for on the dark web

Bank details :    £347.68
Credit Card :    £24.91
Western Union : £22.47
PayPal     : £14.06
Driving Licence : £13.28
Passport : £9.93
Debit card : £5.69

What your online shopping account could be selling for on the dark web


Morrisons : £15.95
Amazon     : £14.53
eBay     : £13.89
La Redoute : £13.00
Foot Locker : £11.33
Studio     : £10.86
JD Williams : £9.87
Nectar : £7.02
Gap : £5.37
Nike : £4.20

The personal information that's gone up the most on the dark web since 2018
(Source: )

British Airways    : £31.94 (+375%) : £6     (+168%)
Amazon : £14.53 (+114%)
Facebook : £6.96 (+86%)
Uber : £7.61     (+52%)
Netflix : £8.19 (+37%)
Twitter : £1.54 (+8%)

(10th March 2019)

(Leicester Mercury, dated 15th February 2019 author Adam Care)

Full article [Option 1]:

Criminals are trying to entice people into giving away their personal data with the promise of free pizza.

Police officers are warning of a new online scam, that sees fraudsters impersonating Domino's Pizza.

Somerset Live reports Dorset Police's Cyber Crime Unit first flagged the scam online.

They're advising people who stumble across the ads "DON'T CLICK ON THE LINK!"

The adverts have been appearing on a Facebook account called 'Domino's Club' which is claiming to offer two free pizzas and £8 vouchers to everyone who comments and shares the post.

People who comment and share are then sent a 'voucher' to their inbox from the account, which the police warn is actually a computer virus.

A spokesman from Dorset Police's Cyber Crime Unit said: "Right... let's try and nip this one in the bud before it lands on our Cyber Protect Officers actual news feed.

"No, Dominos aren't giving away 2 free pizzas. No, Dominos aren't giving away £8 vouchers.

"This one is actually fairly serious, as the page states you'll receive a "voucher" in your Facebook Messages. You'll receive a link that they'll encourage you to click, which will invariably lead to either a phishing site, or a malware download.

"I'm that certain of it that, if I were wrong, I'd pay for your two large pizzas myself! (In the spirit of full disclosure, I am not actually going to do that. DON'T CLICK ON THE LINK!)."

(10th March 2019)

(Telegraph and Argus, dated 14th February 2019 author Michael Black)

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 Half-term holidaymakers are being warned to watch out for cold calling fraudsters offering cheap flights abroad.

Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, has received 110 reports with total losses of £98,043 relating to fraudulent flight ticket sellers.

Victims are being cold called by fraudsters purporting to be travel companies - and intelligence suggests they appear to know that the victim has recently been searching to book flights online.

It is suspected that this is because the victim has entered their details into a bogus website while looking for flights.

The victim is then tempted into making a payment after being given a deliberately low quote for the desired flights.

After making a payment, victims have reported receiving a confirmation email but they have then found out from the airline that their booking does not exist and the fraudster has cut off contact.

Action Fraud is reminding people to bear in mind that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

It said that people buying tickets from unfamiliar companies should carry out research first, such as searching the company's name on the Abta and Atol databases.

It suggests avoiding paying by bank transfer. Paying by methods such as credit cards or PayPal can give consumers added protections if something goes wrong with a purchase.

And people should not reveal any personal or financial details as a result of a cold call.

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud said: "We see holiday and flight-related frauds at peak times throughout the year, but this type of fraud is different.

"By contacting people who have recently searched for flights online, the fraudsters are able to gain the victim's trust much more quickly.

"It's essential that people check with Abta and Atol before using a flight ticket website or broker to make sure the site is legitimately authorised."

Mark Tanzer, Abta chief executive, said: "Travellers are at risk from increasingly sophisticated attempts to sell them fraudulent flight tickets.

"For those unlucky enough to fall victim to this malicious activity, it causes real financial and emotional distress, while also shattering their plans for a holiday or a visit to see family and friends.

"To protect yourself from fake flight tickets research the company you are booking with and if booking online to thoroughly check the web address to make sure it is legitimate."

(10th March 2019)

(Mirror, dated 10th February 2019 author Dean Dunham)

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Data breaches are a real hot topic. Sensitive, private ­information about you can be misused or ­disclosed by firms or hackers.

Your data includes things like credit card details and passwords to email accounts. Even your birth date could be used by ­criminals to open accounts.

A reader called Wendy, from Leicester, asked for her details to be removed from a marketing list several times.

Yet she continued to be ­bombarded with emails and text messages from a big-name brand.

And Keith, from Lancaster, made a request for information from a car dealership he used.

He was concerned about what personal information they had about him because there had been a report in his paper saying their ­computer had been hacked.

The dealership said they had only his name and address, which Keith knew was wrong.

Your rights for your personal data

Most people have heard of GDPR, which is an EU directive put in place to provide greater ­protections for your personal data.

The UK implemented these rules within the Data Protection Act 2018. This act gives you lots of rights, including.

- The right to be informed when personal data is collected and used.

- The right to access your personal data held by a company by making a request for information or freedom of information request.

- The right to have your ­personal data erased.

- The right to restrict processing of your personal data.

- The right to object to the use of your personal data.

How to complain

If you feel a company is ­flouting the law and therefore breaching your data rights, put your ­complaint in writing to them.

Make sure you fully set out what you are complaining about and mention that the matters you ­are complaining about amount to a breach of the Data Protection Act.

###Escalating your complaint

If your complaint is ignored or you are not satisfied with the response, you can report it to the regulator, the Information Commissioner's Office and/or go to court.

But before spending your money on going to court, I would ­recommend asking the company if they will agree to alternative ­dispute resolution.

There is a specialist scheme called Data Arbitration that deals with disputes in relation to ­breaches of data rights.

Find out more at :

(10th March 2019)

(Mirror, dated 6th February 2019 author Tommy Wathen)

Full article [Option 1]:

A dangerous new text message scam is doing the rounds pretending to be from Tesco.

A shopper has warned revealed the scam after sharing a screenshot from her phone to Tesco on Facebook after being sent a message that she didn't understand, reports Essex Live .

Her message to Tesco on Facebook reads: "I'm guessing this is a scam text?!"

The message gives three names and car numberplates along with a message of congratulating them, before asking the customer to confirm by pressing a link in the text.

Links such as these are often part of phishing scams, which let hackers to steal private information from the phone or cause some damage to the device.

In response to her picture, a member of the Tesco team replied to confirm that the text is a scam and that the company's Phishing Team were investigating.

The Tesco spokesperson replied: "Thanks for letting us know about this. I can confirm this is a scam and our Phishing Team are aware and currently investigating.

"Our customers' security is extremely important to us and I'd like to assure you that we would never send any of our customers a message which asks them to input any personal or security details.

"Please send this in an email to and delete the message without clicking on any links and we thank you for your patience while we look into this."

(10th March 2019)

(Mirror, dated 6th February 2019 author James Andrews)

Full article [Option 1]:

A new "rapid response" scheme from banks and police stopped people from being scammed out of £38 million in 2018 alone.

The banking protocol is designed to help staff to spot when someone is about to fall victim to a scam and try to stop them from withdrawing cash to give to a fraudster.

They can then request an immediate police response to the branch.

As a result of the scheme 231 arrests and 4,240 emergency calls were made last year, figures from trade association UK Finance show.

The average victim was aged 71 and set to lose £8,960 each before the call was made, UK Finance added.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime, UK Finance, said: "Bank branch staff are on the front line in the fight against fraud, as increasingly sophisticated gangs target consumers directly and trick them into withdrawing large sums of cash.

"This rapid response scheme is giving bank staff the tools they need to protect vulnerable customers from scams, while helping local police catch fraudsters and bring them to justice.

"The banking industry will keep taking action on all fronts to combat fraud, working closely with our partners in law enforcement to crack down on the criminal gangs responsible."

UK Finance said there are now 52 payment service providers involved - including all the main high street banks and the Post Office.

Those fully signed have trained up their front-line branch staff in the steps that need to be taken when a customer is at risk.

If a staff member thinks a customer is being tricked by a fraudster, for example making an unusually large cash withdrawal, they are trained to take them aside to ask extra questions.

If their suspicions are confirmed, the staff member contacts the police, who send a priority response to the branch to investigate the suspected fraud.

The scheme has been implemented across all 45 UK police forces since March 2018.

Commander Karen Baxter, head of the City of London Police's economic crime directorate, said: "These statistics show that the scheme has already prevented millions of pounds being lost to fraudsters and as the national lead force for fraud, the City of London Police will continue to combat this crime type."

As well as stopping attempted fraud, the scheme ensures that extra support is provided to those customers affected to help prevent them falling victim to similar scams in the future.

This can include referrals to social services, expert fraud prevention advice and additional checks on future transactions.

More to do

Since it was first introduced in October 2016 a total of £48 million in fraud has been stopped and 408 arrests made.

But Which? said that while the bank branch initiative is producing results, many people are still falling for scams where they are tricked into making bank transfers directly to a fraudster.

Gareth Shaw, head of money, Which?, said: "While it's positive to see the banking protocol producing results and helping to prevent fraud through improved protections in bank branches, overall losses to transfer fraud continue to rise as people fall victim to increasingly complex scams.

"Two years on from our super-complaint and people are still losing life-changing sums of money every day to bank transfer scams.

"We must see new industry rules urgently introduced to halt this worsening crime, alongside an agreement to reimburse victims when they have lost money through no fault of their own."

(10th March 2019)

(My London, dated 5th February 2019 author Tara O'Connor)

Full article [Option 1]:

A fraudster in Merton has been conning disabled people out of money.

The council has warned blue badge holders to watch out for a scam that involves a man pretending to be a council parking attendant.

Merton Council's parking and community safety teams say they've had reports of a man, dressed like a  parking warden, approaching blue badge holders.

But he is most definitely NOT a parking attendant.

This is how he operates:

First, he tells them there is a new council policy to register their vehicle at a parking machine.

That bit's not true at all.

Once he's done that, he tells innocent motorists to put their card into the machine and to enter their PIN... as he watches them type in their number.

Then, he tells them the card has been swallowed and encourages the victim to leave - leaving him in possession of both the card and its PIN.

It's a cruel trick.

And it's led to easy money for him.

One poor victim has had £3,000 stolen from their bank account.

The council's cabinet member for community safety, Councillor Edith Macauley, has encouraged people to be super-careful.

"I would like to reassure our residents and all blue badge holders that we are doing everything we can to stop this person," she said.

"Merton Council would like to confirm that there have been no new changes made to the Blue Badge policy.

"Along with our neighbouring boroughs, all parking enforcement officers will be keeping a close eye out for this man, and we have alerted the local Safer Neighbourhood Teams so that the police can help us track him down."

So, here's the advice:

Councillor Macauley spelled it out.

"I would urge everyone to stay alert to suspicious activity. Never enter your PIN into any cash or payment machine in view of anyone else, and be aware that once you have entered your PIN, it is not possible for the machine to 'swallow' your card.

"If you are concerned you have been conned, contact your bank immediately so that your card can be cancelled."

uaware comment

This scam may occured in Merton, but it is easily transferred elsewhere.

(10th March 2019)


(Telegraph, dated 30th January 2019 author Natasha Bernal)

Full article [Option 1]:

Scammers that impersonated YouTube stars to steal their fans' money have claimed 70,000 victims in less than a month, new research has found.

The followers of popular YouTubers including Philip DeFranco, James Charles and Jeffree Star were sent private messages through the online video site, asking them to click on a fraudulent link to redeem a prize.

The scam was unveiled last week when Mr DeFranco posted a warning video to fans on his channel.

Scammers created fake accounts that copied those of famous YouTubers to befriend their fans online and start a conversation to prompt them to click on malicious links, researchers at cyber security company Risk IQ found.

The scam links that were active this month claimed thousands of victims, but could be a small fraction of the amount targeted over two years according to Yonathan Klijnsma, threat researcher at Risk IQ.

He said: "If you were to look at every link since January 2016, you would probably have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of clicks. We don't have an exact number on it, but these scams have been really prevalent online.

A study of the scam showed that unwitting fans were taken through to a website set up by scammers, and are asked to provide their name, address, country and email address to enter a raffle for items including gift cards, video games, or an iPhone X.

Once they have completed their personal details, the website tells them they have won the item and prompts them to complete a survey to submit them to the scammers.

"These surveys are what monetise the scam for criminals. Once the visitors fill out the surveys, the organisations that collect this personal information give the scammers a flat-rate kick-back," the RiskIQ study stated. "Even if the kick-backs are tiny, these scammers fool enough users to finance their campaigns and then some."

These scams were so successful because scammers were able to replicate YouTuber's profiles and the websites from companies such as Playstation, Snapchat, Nintendo or Samsung Galaxy, researchers found.

YouTube did not respond to requests to comment.

(10th February 2019)

(Mirror, dated 29th January 2019 author Shivali Best)

Full article [Option 1]:

NOTE : Original article includes examples of the actual bogus email.

If you receive an email that appears to be from Netflix this week, make sure you're wary of it.

A new Netflix scam email is circulating, that tries to trick users into giving away their personal details.

The email was first detected by MailGuard after it was sent to several Netflix customers across Australia.

It reads: "We've temporarily suspended your account due to some issues in the automatic verification process."

It also includes a link to 'Update your details'. If users click on this, it leads to a Netflix branded phishing page, which isa  copy of the actual Netflix sign in page.

MailGuard explained: "Cybercriminals have taken great pains to incorporate the exact colour scheme, logo, fonts and popular images commonly found in Netflix pages in a bid to convince the user that the email is actually originating from the entertainment company.

"However, while this email is well-designed and uses a sophisticated HTML design, it contains several red flags for anyone who is vigilant enough to spot fake email scams."

The first red flag is the inclusion of several grammatical and spelling errors, such as 'suspeneded', while the email also has several spacing errors.

What to do if you receive the email

Thankfully, MailGuard has also provided help on what to do if you receive the email.

It added: "If you see an email from Netflix, please exercise caution and make sure it is a legitimate communication before you open it.

Users should also make sure to avoid clicking links in emails that:

- Are not addressed to you by name, have poor English or omit personal details that a legitimate sender would include

- Are from businesses you're not expecting to hear from.

- Ask you to download any files

- Take you to a landing page or website that does not have the legitimate URL of the company the email is purporting to be sent from.

(10th February 2019)

(Metro, dated 28th January 2019 author Jeff Parsons)

Full article [Option 1]:

People falling prey to cyber crime have reported losing £34.6 million, the latest numbers from Action Fraud show.

Hacking of social media and email accounts continues to be the most prolific means of scamming people online, contributing to more than 5,000 cases out of the 13,357 cyber crimes reported in the six months between April and September 2018. It is estimated such hacking has cost victims £14.8 million.

According to City of London Police, the national lead force for fraud which runs Action Fraud, the cost of cyber crime to the public has rocketed since the previous six months, when the total stood at £28 million.

'Cyber crime is a growing trend with the total losses increasing by 24%,' said Commander Karen Baxter of City of London Police.

'In particular criminals are targeting social media users and online account holders in a bid to make money and steal personal details. This leaves victims out of pocket and at risk of identity theft.'
Action Fraud is advising people to step up their online security measures by ensuring their password is strong and to be careful of unsolicited requests for personal data.

'To avoid falling victim, it's important that people keep a strong, separate password for their email accounts,' Commander Baxter continued.

'They should also use the latest software and app updates. Always be suspicious of unsolicited requests for your personal or financial information and never call numbers or follow links provided in unsolicited texts or emails; contact the company directly using a verified and trusted email or phone number. If you or someone you know believes they have fallen victim to cyber crime, please report it to Action Fraud.'

The total loss is calculated based on the amounts provided by victims when they report to Action Fraud and have not yet been verified, City of London Police said.

(10th February 2019)

(Mirror, dated 28th January 2019 author Emma Munbodh)

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At least two victims of pension scams have lost more than £1 million in savings to fraudsters, new figures have revealed.

Two retirees - who have not been named - lost their savings over the two years to June 2018 to telephone scammers who tricked them out of their entire retirement pots.

It comes after a ban on cold-calling about pensions came into force earlier this month - blocking all unsolicited calls about people's retirement savings.

According to Action Fraud, the average person targeted by pension scammers lost £91,000 in 2017.

They reported receiving cold-calls, offers of free pension reviews and promises that they would get high rates of return - all of which led to their money being withdrawn.

However, Action Fraud estimates the toll to be much higher, as many people who fall victim often choose not to come forward.

 A ban on pension cold calling came into force on January 9 to protect retired people from telephone scammers.

At the time, Treasury Minister John Glen, said: "Pensions cold calling is a scourge, so I was pleased and proud to see Parliament pass a ban on it this week. Spread the word."

Firms who break the rules could now face penalties of up to half a million pounds.

According to the Financial Conduct Authority, a large proportion of pension holders consider themselves to be too savvy to be scammed - however sophisticated criminals mean you could lose your savings in the blink of an eye.

Nicola Parish, The Pensions Regulator's (TPR) executive director, said: "Victims of scams are often traumatised by what has happened to them and many inevitably are left questioning how they are going to afford to retire.

"The average loss of a victim is £91,000 but these Action Fraud reports show that people can also lose much, much more.

"However large your pension pot, you must be vigilant and able to spot and avoid a scam."

Pauline Smith, director of Action Fraud, added: "These statistics prove that the consequences of falling victim to a pension scam can be devastating.

"Victims can lose their life savings and are left facing retirement with little or no income.

"This is why it's so important that you are vigilant if you receive an offer about your pension out of the blue and that you check who you are dealing with.

"If you think you have been a victim of pension fraud, please report it to us."

If you've been called up out of the blue by someone wanting to discuss your pension, hang up the phone and report them to the Information Commissioners Office :

If you feel the conversation has gone too far and your details may be at risk, report it to Action Fraud online ( or by calling 0300 12302040.

If in doubt about who is calling, Which? says you should "remain vigilant: no legitimate pension or investment firm will ever call you out of the blue to discuss releasing cash from your pension.

"If you get a call like this, the message is clear - you should hang up the phone."

(Mirror, dated 6th October 2016 author Tricia Phillips)

Full article [Option 1]:

1. Research, research and research

If an offer promises 'guaranteed' returns or seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be on your guard. Do your homework and check all the details before signing anything.

2. Seek your own advice

Things aren't always what they seem. Don't be lured by smart brochures and professional looking websites. Scammers want to trick you and this is one way they do it. Check everything and seek reputable advice.

3. Take your time

Don't be rushed into a decision. Scammers will try to pressure you with time limited offers and create a sense of urgency. Take your time to make all the checks you need, even if this means turning down an 'amazing' deal.

4. Friends aren't always right

Don't choose a scheme just because someone you know has. People have fallen for scams because they'd been 'recommended by a friend'. As with any important decisions, investigate the details yourself.

5. Beware of investing all your money all in one place

This will increase your risk, and scammers often ask for all of your money. Be on your guard against unregulated investments, including those abroad.

6. In doubt? Call The Pensions Advisory Service

f in doubt, call The Pensions Advisory Service. You can call them on 0300 123 1047 or visit their website at for free pensions guidance.

7. Is the 'advisor' Financial Conduct Authority approved?

Scammers can pose as pension advisers, so check to make sure yours is registered on the Financial Conduct Authority's website: .

8. Check the FCA's list of known scams

To find out more about the threats and risks visit . For more tips to protect your retirement savings visit

9. Think you've made an error? Call Action Fraud

If you think you've been scammed, call Action Fraud. You can reach them on 0300 123 2040. Also contact your pension provider immediately as they may be able to stop a transfer that hasn't yet taken place.

10. Free help is available

Before you do anything with your pension savings book your free appointment with Pensions Wise.

It will help you to understand the basics and get an idea about your options and what each will mean for your future finances. Find out more at or call 0800 138 3944.

(Daily Mail, dated 29th January 2019 author James Burton)

Full article [Option 1]:

(10th February 2019)

(BBC, dated 27th January 2019)

Full article [Option 1]:

More than £190,000 a day is lost in the UK by victims of cyber-crime, police statistics show.

More than a third of victims in that period fell prey to the hacking of social media and email accounts.

Action Fraud said £34.6m was reported to be stolen from victims between April and September 2018, a 24% increase on the previous six months.

The City of London Police, which runs Action Fraud, has warned people to keep separate passwords for online accounts.

The figures show 13,357 people in the UK reported cyber crimes over six months.

More than 5,000 of those people were hacked via their social media and email accounts, costing victims £14.8m.

Commander Karen Baxter said cyber criminals were targeting people's social media accounts "in a bid to make money and steal personal details", adding it could leave victims "at risk of identity theft".

Action Fraud is the reporting centre for people scammed, defrauded or who experienced cyber crime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Commander Baxter said people should "keep a strong, separate password for their email accounts" and use the latest software and app updates.

"Always be suspicious of unsolicited requests for your personal or financial information and never call numbers or follow links provided in unsolicited texts or emails," she said.

Earlier this month Action Fraud reported a "convincing" TV licence email scam had led to more than 5,000 complaints over a three-month period.

Emails with headlines such as "correct your licensing information" would direct users to a fake TV licensing website.

The site then asked victims to provide their payment details, including their account number, sort code, and card verification value (CVV) code on the back of their card.

(10th February 2019)

(The Times, dated 26th January 2019 author Laura Whateley) [Option 1]

Note : This is article is based on aan issue raised with The Times consumer champion - Laura Whateley.


My 90 year old grandpa (Mr Scott) went missing in early December and his body was found (in the river Leith) on 4th January. Today we found out that Aviva will only pay out £1820 from his life insurance cover for his funeral. He has been paying £8 a month for 30 years towards this. The original policy was from Sun Life, but was later taken over by Aviva.

When my Mum voiced her concerns to Aviva customer services spokesperson said: "Well that's it, he only paid £8 a month." But it should amount to £2880.

He has paid in £1,000 more than he will receive, and we will only get the money at the end of January, yet the funeral directors want £762 deposit immediately. Thats the charge for cremation. How are companies getting away with this ? How is this ethically sound ? He thought he was securing his funeral costs. It's an absolute rip-off.

L McG, via email


I've written about over-50's life insurance policies before, but I don't think I can't reiterate enough that they are very rarely great value, despite them being sold as a no-brainer decision for those who want to alleviate any financial strain on their family after their death. For those who need reminding, here's why you should probably avoid them.

They are sold as being an easy way to secure funeral costs because anyone qualifies and the sum paid out on death is "guaranteed". The thing is, you have to die well within average life expectancy to make it worthwhile, and very early to trigger a significant payout.

Take Aviva's over-50's product for new customers. I a 60-year old man signed up for a policy and paid in £8 a month, his estate would be gauranteed £1709 on his death. If he lived move than 17 years and 9 months, he would have paid more than he would get back. Also if he died within the first year he would get nothing, unless he died in an accident. The average life expectancy for a 60 year old man, without any serious health issues is 89, according to a calculator on Aviva's website.

Once you sign up, you have to carry on paying into these policies until you turn 90, or you have been paying for 30 years, which ever is sooner, otherwise the policy is invalid. This means you will be losing more cash the longer you survive. That's before you take inflation into account.

Sun Life says the average of dying has risen to more than £9,200, including a wake and professional fees.

In 1989 L McG's grandfather might have thought £1820 would cover a funeral, but had that money been in a savings or investment account paying interest at the average rate of inflation (3.1% according to the Bank of England), by today it would have been woth £4448.09. So you could say that the grandfather has lost out by closer to £5,500.

The Financial Conduct Authority, the industry watchdog, has just warned companies selling over-50's products that their advertising must not mislead people into thinking that they are buying a policy that will cover all their funeral costs.

A spokeswoman for Aviva says that the insurer is very sorry to hear of the circumstances of L McG's grandfather's death and would like to offer its sincere condolences. "We acknowledge that the service we provided to Mr Scott's family at a very difficult time did not meet the standard our customers, or we expect and we apologise for this.

"Over-50's plns are life insurance policies, not savings products, and provide customers with the assurance that when they die, a gauranteed amount will be payable. Customers purchase life insurance as part of their financial preparations for death, and it can help to contribute to funeral costs or can allow the customer to leave a bequest. We have discussed the matter with Mr Scott's family, and we will be paying the sum of £1820 today. In addition, we will pay the family £250, which they accepted.

(10th February 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 25th January 2019 author George Dixon)

Full article [Option 1]:

Some of Britain's biggest high street banks have cautioned against a new code designed to protect customers against push payment scams, arguing it could leave them solely responsible for paying out compensation.

Responding to a consultation, Barclays, Lloyds, Nationwide and Santander all said that they disagreed with changes that could lead to payment providers being held liable for fraud even if they were not responsible for it.

Some of the banks added that they might limit services to customers or levy fees on bank transfers if the code was implemented in its current form.

The new draft code, published by the Authorised Push Payment Scams Steering Group in September, sought to offer a greater level of protection to victims of so-called authorised push payment scams.

These are scams in which a customer is tricked into authorising a payment to a scammer themselves.

Under current rules, banks are not necessarily obliged to refund payments which have been authorised by their customer, but the new code states that 'firms should reimburse the customer' when they have been the victim has been a victim of an APP scam.

t adds that customers deemed especially 'vulnerable' to such scams should also normally be reimbursed. That definition should be determined on a case-by-case basis, the draft code suggested.

Figures from trade body UK Finance in September found that £145million was stolen through APP scams in the first half of last year, but only £31million of that was recovered.

Responding to the consultation, several of the country's largest banks said they supported the new code, but expressed concerns about being left liable for millions in reimbursements.

Barclays said: 'We disagree with the notion that payment service providers should accept all liability for a scam in the instance that "no blame" can be attributed to either party.'

Lloyds, part of the country's biggest banking group which controls around a quarter of UK current accounts, added that while they were supportive of the idea 'that all who meet the requisite level of care should be reimbursed', 'we believe it does not necessarily follow that a PSP should directly bear the cost or reimbursement in such "no blame" cases'.

Meanwhile Santander said that the draft code 'is overly weighted in the customer's favour and punishes a payment services provider for criminal behaviour' conducted by 'third parties that it is not responsible for'.

It added that if victims of even smaller purchases were 'essentially insured by some form of strict liability', it would not encourage customers to be careful and could even encourage fraudulent claims.

This is Money has previously reported on the Spanish bank's poor response to scam victims, which included sending carbon-copy letters rejecting refund requests to customers and fobbing off customers after just 24 hours.

All four banks suggested that there could be consequences if the rules around reimbursements were adopted in their current form.

Santander questioned whether those whose losses were not 'life changing' should be excluded from reimbursement, while Lloyds said it could potentially bring in a levy on payments in order to fund any compensation.

It added: 'Simply levying the charge could raise awareness of scams amongst consumers in a similar way to how the "plastic bag tax" raises general awareness of the impact of waste upon the environment.'

Nationwide suggested customers identified as vulnerable may be barred from some offers or have restrictions placed on their accounts, while Barclays said it could slow down or even interrupt payment services for customers in order to limit its liability.

Responding to the consultation, Tom Clementson, director of consumer and SMB at ShieldPay, said: 'Banks are behind the times when it comes to protecting their customers from push payment fraud.

'The very fact that there is a consultation on compensation payments brings the question of how people are able to transfer thousands of pounds to a fraudulent bank account into sharp focus.

'More safety checks must be put in place to ensure consumers do not become victims. The adoption of technology, which verify both identity and matching bank accounts, is one solution that can help to eliminate the risk.'

In total, the consultation responded 53 responses between September and November 2018.

Ruth Evans, the chair of the APPS Steering Group, said: 'We know the devastating impact authorised push payment scams can have on their victims and the steering group is united in its determination to tackle these crimes and improve protection for consumers.

'That is why it is essential that we get the voluntary code right and it is clear from the consultation responses there are a number of matters still to consider.

'We are, however, acutely aware that time is of the essence and we are working hard to resolve these issues swiftly.'

Six ways to outfox the cyber-criminals

ASSUME any caller claiming to be your bank or utility provider could be a fraudster.

It might sound unfair and the call may be genuine - but being sceptical from the start could help protect you.

CALL your bank back on a different phone line if you are not sure a call is authentic.

Use the phone number on the back of your credit or debit card. If calling from the same phone wait at least five minutes for the current call to be disconnected. Otherwise a fraudster could simply stay on the line while you dial.

KNOW the hallmarks of fraud. There will be convincing lies throughout a scam and the perpetrators will sound intelligent and authoritative.

But typical requests include being asked to: provide a code, a PIN, move money to a different account, repay a sum accidentally put in to your account, reveal passwords or allow remote access to your computer. Do not comply.

BE careful about what links you click on emails, or what attachments you open. Scammers know how to imitate your friends or big brands in messages.

These links could contain viruses that, once on your computer, allow fraudsters to spy on you when you enter log-in details for online banking. Or they will pose as big brands and demand personal information that you should not surrender.

UPDATE anti-virus software on your computer and regularly change passwords on online accounts.

LEARN more ways to protect yourself with help from websites such as and

(10th February 2019)

(Hull Daily Mail, dated 24th January 2019 author Phil Winter)

Full article [Option 1]:

A man says he has lost thousands of pounds to an alleged scam after he tried to repair his mobile home to take his ill wife on holiday.

Michael Diamond, who lives in Holderness, was on the hunt for a new engine for his camper van and said he spotted the perfect match on what he believed was a legitimate car parts website.

He says he paid more than £2,000 to the website, and was told his camper van would be collected from a nearby garage.

But, after nobody turned up, Mr Diamond now fears he has fallen victim to an elaborate scam.

He said: "I waited at a garage close to the Drypool bridge for three hours, and when nobody showed up I started to get suspicious so I called them.

"I was told they could still come to pick up the camper van, but it would be the next day, so I went back home.

"The next day, I got a call to say no one had been to pick up the vehicle, and that it was still there. That is when I realised something was very wrong."

It is believed the alleged scammers cloned an existing website to draw customers in, before taking their money and then disappearing.

Mr Diamond said he had no idea the website was an apparent scam.

"The only thing I noticed was they only took payment through a bank transfer. They did not accept debit card or credit cards.

"I thought I was being really careful though. I even spoke to a close friend who works at a bank first to talk to them about the transaction, and they said everything seemed normal.

"£2,000 is a lot of money to anyone, but we only bought the camper van recently as a way of being able to go on holiday more easily.

"Not long after we got it, it packed up. Now this has happened and I don't know what else to do."

Mr Diamond said he had reported the incident to Action Fraud, and that they are investigating the case.

He has been left thousands of pounds out of pocket, and does not know whether he will be able to get the money back.

"I used to be a karaoke jockey, and worked all up and down the east coast," he said.

"When my wife got ill, I gave that up so I could care for her. This camper van was a way of us being able to go on holiday."

What Action Fraud says

Action Fraud released a statement on the incident.

A spokesman said: "This report was made in January 2019 to Action Fraud and so it's most likely that it is currently being assessed by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.

"Action Fraud has launched a new reporting system, which will improve the service for those reporting fraud. Victims can now can now track the status of and update their report via the new website by inputting their unique NFRC number.

"They can now also see whether a report has been sent to a police force for investigation or if it's still under review."

Action Fraud is the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, and takes crime and information reports on behalf of the police and gives advice and fraud prevention guidance.

Action Fraud does not have investigation powers, however, the reports taken by Action Fraud are sent to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) which is run by the City of London Police, the national lead force for fraud.

Hull Live has also spoken to the owner of a Wolverhampton-based company who had previously launched a legitimate website of the same name, but that it had never properly been used.

It was this website that the scammers are understood to have cloned.

(1st February 2019)

(Wakefield Express, dated 18th January 2019 author Alex Evans)

Full article [Option 1]:

A Yorkshire police officer has shared an urgent warning after she was called out to an elderly man trying to transfer his life savings to a conman in an elaborate scam.

PC Jade Hunter revealed the details of the heartbreaking incident in which she was thankfully able to intervene just in time to save the man from sending thousands of pounds to a fraudster.

The man was at the bank trying to send money to a conman who told him they needed the money for security and that he would not be able to contact his family or the operation would be 'put at risk'.

PC Hunter, who polices the Wakefield area, said: "Today is not the first time I've attended a report like this one. We were notified by the bank of an elderly male trying to transfer an amount in the thousands to somebody who he believed was from a well known internet company.

"He had received a phone call this morning from said person who told him they needed help catching fraudsters and convinced him to send an alarmingly large sum of money to 'help them do this'.

"The fraudster had told him this was top secret and stayed on the phone to him from the first initial conversation through to him being at the bank and told him he could not contact his family for validation as this would 'put the operation at risk'.

"There are variations of this crime but they all seem to follow this general gist.

"Luckily the gentleman today was saved from being cheated out of his life savings by the bank staff however we are seeing increasing numbers of this type of fraud. Please take note that legitimate companies, banks and even the police will NEVER ask you to move money around in this fashion.

"If you receive a phone call like this please call the police immediately.

"Unfortunately this type of fraudster seems to pray on the vulnerable and elderly, let's protect each other."

(10th February 2019)

(The Drinks Business, dated 18th January 2019 author Phoebe French)

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Action Fraud, a reporting service run by the City of London Police working alongside the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), has stated that it has seen an increase in reports of this nature over the past six months.

Between 1 June 2018 and 31 December 2018 there were 22 reports of this crime made to the service, with victims losing a total £97,914.

Victims, who are both male and female and aged between 46 and 86 years old, send around £2,000 on average to a third party account via a bank transfer, paid in various instalments to accounts in different names over a period of one to four months.

Former victims of wine fraud, who were tricked by scammers between four and six years ago, are now being targeted again by individuals claiming that they can resell their wines in return for an insurance or shipping fee.

The fraudsters appear "reliable and legitimate" owing the the fact they've obtained the personal details, including the name, address and bank account of their victims, as well as having information about the wine company they previously invested in.

Action Fraud state that fraudsters are obtaining information about liquidated wine companies and their directors from forums and from online information released to the press.

None of those targeted have managed to recover their initial payment, while some have lost more money after paying an 'advance recovery fee'. This type of fraud is known as 'recovery fraud'.

Commenting on the situation, director of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said: "The fact that fraudsters are taking advantage of previous victims of fraud is despicable.

"If you're contacted by an individual who knows a lot about the money you lost, but they want a fee first, it is vital that you stop all correspondence immediately.

"If you think you have been a victim of fraud, report it to us and your bank immediately."

The police have been cracking down on phoney wine investment companies in recent years. Last November, the High Court shut down Intercontinental Wines, a UK-based company that had misled customers into investing in fine wines.

During a hearing it was relayed how the company used "high pressure cold calling" to push members of the public to buy wine for investment.

Victims of Intercontinental Wines are advised to be vigilant against recovery fraud.

In order to further protect yourself against fraud, Action Fraud has the following list of guidelines

- Never reveal any personal or financial details as a result of an unsolicited call, email or text. Even if someone knows your basic details (such as your name and contact details), it doesn't mean they are genuine.
- Don't immediately agree to any offer that involves an advance payment or having to sign a contract on the spot. Always speak with a friend or family member first.
- Always check the credentials of any financial company on the Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) website: - they should be on the register. Contact the preferred company directly and reject any offers made through unsolicited communications.

If you suspect that you have been a victim wine investment fraud, you can report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040, or

(10th February 2019)

(Cheshire Live, dated 17th January 2019 author David Holmes)

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Cheshire Constabulary are near the bottom of the league table when it comes to securing justice for the victims of fraud, police figures show.

The Daily Telegraph recently described the national situation as a 'postcode lottery' where the chances of getting justice is 10 times greater in one part of the UK than another.

Data revealed Cheshire Police only achieved a judicial outcome - meaning somebody was charged or summonsed - in 6.1% of cases compared with more than 60% in other forces such as Hampshire, Durham and City of London.

The Telegraph also reported big variations in the number of allegations investigated, ranging from just 4% in some forces to 60% in others, according to figures from police agency Action Fraud.

Since the article was written the crime statistics have been updated showing Cheshire Constabulary's position has slightly improved - achieving a judicial outcome in 9.8% of cases for the period April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018.

Detective Inspector Alastair Hinze, head of the Cheshire Police Economic Crime and Cyber unit, explained the difficulties involved with investigating fraud.

He said: "Fraud and cyber crime are complex crimes and are often not limited to county borders.

"It is often the case that offenders are based outside of the UK, which can add a further degree of complexity in trying to track them down and makes it more difficult to bring them to justice.

"Nationally it is estimated that crime either enabled or dependant on cyber now accounts for nearly 50 per cent of all crime.

"Here at Cheshire Police we are committed to doing all that we can to tackle economic crime and we have a dedicated team of officers and staff who work solely to investigate it.

"The team works closely with colleagues at Action Fraud and each report we receive is thoroughly reviewed, investigated and action taken wherever possible.

"Between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018 the team dealt with 630 referrals from Action Fraud, resulting in at least 62 judicial outcomes so far. Investigations into many of these reports are still ongoing.

"As part of our commitment to tackling cyber crime investment is being made in training to give all officers the necessary skills to respond effectively to this type of crime.

"While we are committed to doing all that we can to bring those responsible to justice, many of these cases are preventable and there are a number of simple steps that everyone can take to minimise their chances of falling victim."

Fraud prevention tips include:

- Be suspicious of all 'Too good to be true' offers and deals - there are no guaranteed get rich schemes.

- Do not give any personal information - name, address, bank details, email or phone number - to organisations or people you do not know or trust

- Always question whether an unsolicited email could be bogus. Remember that financial institutions and banks will not email asking you to confirm your bank details by clicking a link.

- Destroy and preferably shred receipts with your card details and post with your name and address so fraudsters can't clone your identity.

- Never hand your bank card or any goods you have purchased as a result of a phone call to anyone who comes to your front door

- If you have been a victim of fraud, be aware of fraud recovery fraud. This is when fraudsters pretend to be a lawyer or a law enforcement officer and tell you they can help you recover the money you've already lost.

- Do not be embarrassed to report a scam. Because the scammers are cunning and clever there is no shame in being deceived. By reporting you will make it more difficult for them to deceive others.

(10th February 2019)

(Birmingham Mail, dated 17th January 2019 author Annie Gouk)

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Cases of fraud are on the rise across the West Midlands, as the government launches a new taskforce to tackle economic crime.

The latest official figures show that there were 23,735 fraud offences in the West Midlands referred to National Fraud Intelligence Bureau in the 12 months to June 2018.

That's up from 22,353 in the year to June 2017, and a 39% increase from 17,999 the year before that.

The figures come just days after the government's announcement that they have set up an Economic Crime Strategic Board, which will meet twice a year to set priorities, direct resources and scrutinise performance against the economic crime threat.

As well as fraud, this type of crime includes bribery, corruption and money laundering - all of which are estimated to cost at least £14.4 billion per year.  

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: "We need to take action on all fronts to target the corrupt fraudsters who are lining their pockets with dirty money and living luxury lifestyles at the expense of law-abiding citizens.

"The government is already investing millions in the fight against economic crime, but it is crucial we work closely with our financial sector partners to win this battle.

"These criminals threaten the UK's reputation as a world-leading place to do business and we have a joint responsibility to stop them."

Nearly two thirds of all fraud cases reported to Action Fraud - the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre - are from businesses, but individuals make up 39% of the total.

In fact, the Office for National Statistics say that people are more likely to fall victim to fraud or cyber offences above any other crime.

Different kinds of fraud include pension scams, identity theft, computer hacking and ponzi schemes, to name just a few.

Action Fraud advise that there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself from fraud and cyber crime:

- Do not give any personal information to organisations or people before verifying their credentials

- Make sure your device has up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed.

- Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected email or text

- Destroy receipts with your card details on and post with your name and address on

- Be extremely wary of post, phone calls or emails offering you business deals out of the blue.

(10th February 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 17th January 2019 author George Nixon)

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As many as 61 per cent of smartphone users could be leaving themselves vulnerable to scammers online, according to a new survey.

With more people now shopping online with their phones than ever before, only two in five surveyed by IT security company ESET were certain they had antivirus software on their mobile phones.,

Additionally, many also revealed they would consider downloading an app, entering an online competition, or clicking through to a deal received via email to take advantage of limited-time offers.

A quarter felt pressure from brands to click on 'today-only' deals and 'quick-fix' offers to help them reach their goals.

Branislav Orlik, product manager for mobile security at ESET said: 'At this time of year, it is incredibly easy to be enticed into exciting offers and quick-fix solutions, while scrolling through our phones or tablets.

'However, smartphone users with no antivirus software are opening themselves up to some serious threats.

'While an email deal or competition may seem enticing, clicking through on an unsafe link or entering your details online can make you vulnerable to hackers and leave your personal data at risk.'

This is Money touched on the issue of smartphone security when it came to banking on your mobile back in 2013.

We said that it's important to make sure you download the correct app from your bank and not a dodgy version, advice that goes for any download.

Since then, smartphone usage has grown even more ubiquitous. Deloitte estimates that 87 per cent of adults between 18 and 75 owned a smartphone last year, up from 62 per cent in 2013.

According to antivirus developer AVG, in 2016 an Android malware known as Hummingbad appeared on the Google Play Store, allowing hackers total control over devices that installed it.

The company says that mobile malware can also collect personal information including photos, your contact list and email address, and your banking details.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at security software specialist Sophos, previously told This is Money: 'It makes sense to run antivirus software on your Android device, and there are some good free Android antivirus solutions available from well-known security vendors, including Sophos, AVG and Avast.'

Protect yourself and watch out:

IT security company ESET's top tips on how to shop online without risking viruses or malware:

- Watch out for increased phishing email attacks in the form of 'quick-fix' deals

- If you haven't visited a particular brand's website before, do your homework and research reviews and comments from trusted review sites

- Be very cautious of deals you see on Facebook, Instagram and so on - even if there are lots of 'likes' on the post. There are plenty of scams that take advantage of easily accessible and cheap social media advertising platforms

Meanwhile mobile operator EE recommends a list of steps to ensure that your device is protected:

- Install a firewall

- Install an anti-virus program

- Always install the latest software updates

- Back up all your important information

- Don't open unknown files or photos attached to emails unless you're very sure where they've come from

(10th February 2019)

(Mirror, dated 16th January 2019 author Emma Munbodh)

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A university student left £2,500 poorer by online criminals has revealed how the 'perfect deal' turned into what can only be described as a nightmare.

Anna Smith, from London, was searching for a group holiday online when she came across an incredibly attractive offer on a holiday rentals website.

The villa, located in Sorrento, Italy, was ideal for her group of 10 friends, and while the location wasn't perfect, the pricing was spot on, she said.

"We contacted the owners and requested the villa, however they started emailing us instead of on the website," the 24-year-old told the Mirror.

"At the time we didn't think anything of this. They sent us the payment link, which looked identical to the payment method on the actual website so, again, we didn't question  it."

The owner then sent her a payment link to transfer the money, which she said "looked very similar to how it would appear on the legitimate site" and then confirmed receipt of payment.

However, it wasn't until nearer the travel date that Anna realised something had gone seriously wrong.

"As the date got closer we contacted them to ask a few questions but they stopped replying and it eventually became obvious that the villa was not real," she said.

"We contacted the website but as the conversation was not on the website they could not be held responsible and so we lost all the money."

She lost the full £2,500 - £250 of which belonged to each person in her friendship group.

"We lost all the money as the villa owners completely disappeared and we had transferred all the money in one go.  We contacted the bank straight away, however nothing could be done.

"It was extremely frustrating and upsetting, at the time," she said.

"We had all put money aside for the holiday especially, and for many of us it was quite a saving on our student budgets. It really put me off booking holidays for a while, and even now I get paranoid when I think about it."

Anna is just one of dozens of people left out of pocket each year by online criminals targetting vulnerable people with incredible rock bottom holiday deals.

According to a report by Barclays Bank, one in three people affected by a travel scam will lose between £1,000 and £5,000, with nearly three-quarters saving on average £1,274 throughout the year for their holiday.

Yet, despite growing numbers, one in four of us say we would willingly 'take the risk' for a summer bargain.

In addition, more than half would not be put off booking a holiday, even if it seemed 'too good to be true'.

However simple tasks such as paying through the rental website and watching out for trade body logos, could save you thousands of pounds.

"Trying to escape those January blues may seem like an appealing prospect, but fraudsters are preparing to take advantage of sun-seekers at this time of year," Ross Martin, at Barclays said.

"We must all be aware of the risks and make sure we are carrying out proper safety checks to ensure our online security and enjoy a scam-free holiday."

Speaking on her biggest piece of advice for holidaymakers, Anna said: "Always make sure that you are on a secure website when searching for your villa, and to watch out for the 'too good to be true deals'."

Top tips for staying safe while booking a holiday

1. Is the offer too good to be true?

If a villa is advertised at half the going rate and has great availability in peak season when everywhere else is full, this should tell you something. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is

2. Do an internet search on the location

If the villa in question appears to be advertised by other companies under another name, this may also be a warning sign. Be sure to do thorough research before making any booking

3. Are they asking you to pay by transfer?

Scammers love bank transfers. The money goes straight from your account to theirs and then they take it straight out and it disappears. By the time you realise that something is wrong, they are long gone

4. Look for companies that have a real location and real phone numbers

Be suspicious of businesses that will only communicate via email and mobile phones. It's worth checking the address or even looking at the location through an online street map. Make sure you check that the travel agent and website is certified, and that your payment is going to the right people

5. Before you commit to anything, stop and take time to think

If it is a legitimate company, five minutes isn't going to make any difference - and it could save you thousands of pounds and untold heartache.

6. Do your own research

 Get the full address and find it on Google maps, and ask for a full contract which should set out all the terms and conditions of the rental, deposit, payment terms etc.

7. Be vigilant

Check the track record of any holiday retailer unfamiliar to you. Don't reply to unsolicited emails or pop-up adverts from retailers you don't recognise. Legitimate companies will never send an information request via a pop-up advert.

(10th February 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 16th January 2019 authors Victoria Bischoff and Amelia Murray)

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Police officer lost £15,000 saved up for stamp duty

Simon and Elizabeth Ghali lost £15,200 to scammers just last week.

The Ghalis, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, are due to move house in two weeks and had earmarked part of the money to pay their stamp duty bill.

But on January 7, Elizabeth, a police officer, received a call out of the blue from someone claiming to work for NatWest's fraud team.

As the phone number that appeared on her mobile matched the one on her bank card, she assumed the call was legitimate. The caller, 'Craig', said there had been suspicious activity on their account and asked if she had made a £186 payment to Currys.

He took her through a series of security questions, confirming her date of birth and direct debits.

He then said she needed to move her money to a safe account and requested she use her card reader to generate a code to approve the transfer.

The caller even played the same music as NatWest when he put her on hold.

But after Elizabeth, 36, hung up, she and Simon became suspicious and called NatWest. It then emerged their £15,000 savings for the move and their children were gone. Despite logging the fraud, the bank still allowed the fraudster to take out £15,000 more in the form of a loan in Elizabeth's name the next day.

Simon says: 'I almost had a heart attack. We are intelligent people. My wife's a police officer, but he was so convincing she truly believed he was trying to help her.

'We have four children aged between two and 13 and we are supposed to move house in two weeks. This money is everything.'

So far, NatWest has wiped the debt but refused to refund the couple their savings, claiming that they authorised the transaction. Simon and Elizabeth are referring their case to the Ombudsman.

A spokesman for NatWest says: 'Keeping our customers safe and secure is of paramount importance to us. We sympathise with Mr and Mrs Ghali who have fallen victim to a scam and appreciate this has been a traumatic experience for them.

'We take our responsibilities to preventing scams very seriously, and support the victim of a scam in the recovery of their funds on a best endeavours basis.'

Article continues

Today, we call on scam victims who have been denied a refund by their bank to demand their case is reviewed.

In a major breakthrough for our Stop The Bank Scammers campaign, we have discovered that customers tricked into handing over their life savings are now winning compensation.

Typically, banks refuse to refund scam victims on the grounds that the customers authorised the payment or were reckless with their banking details

But now it has emerged that the Financial Ombudsman has overhauled the way it deals with complaints about fraud and is ordering banks to pay back victims.

It means it will be harder for banks to throw out complaints in the first place and could open the floodgates for claims from those previously turned away.

It follows a landmark ruling where the Ombudsman ordered Santander to refund one victim £12,310.

The customer had been sent a text message from criminals posing as the bank's fraud team, which appeared in the same chain as previous, legitimate messages.

When he returned the call using the number given, he was tricked into disclosing vital information needed to transfer money out of his account.

Initially the bank refused to refund him, claiming he had authorised the payments - even though he had no idea he was speaking to scammers. But after referring his case to the Ombudsman, he was awarded a £12,310 payout plus interest.

How victims can fight to get money back

When the Ombudsman receives a complaint about fraud, it first considers whether the customer authorised the transaction.

This means transferring money out of the account yourself. If the Ombudsman thinks you did not do this, it will then consider if you acted with what banks call 'gross negligence'.

In August the Financial Ombudsman announced it was raising the bar on what it considered to be 'gross negligence' in light of how sophisticated scams have become.

It said: 'Banks often tell us they believe their customers have been grossly negligent in handing over personal details to scammers - enabling the scam to occur. But gross negligence isn't a term to be used lightly. It is more than just being careless or negligent.

'And the evolution of criminals' methods - in particular their sophisticated use of technology and manipulative social engineering - means it's an increasingly difficult case to make.'

Where banks cannot prove the customer acted with gross negligence when divulging information or passcodes, the Ombudsman may then rule it is 'fair and reasonable' that the customer is refunded the full amount stolen, plus interest at 8 per cent.

Why this shift in attitude matters

This is a huge shift in the Ombudsman's previous approach, where it often ruled that the bank was not at fault, leaving the customer empty-handed.

And Money Mail has discovered that as a result of this tougher approach the number of cases being upheld in favour of the customer is already increasing.

Between October and December the Ombudsman sided with customers in 62 per cent of fraud and scam cases - up from 55 per cent in the previous three months.

One Santander customer, who lost £71,000 in April 2017, is among those who won her case and will get a full refund.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, received a text from the bank concerning fraud on her account.

She rang the telephone number included in the message and confirmed her details with someone she thought was a member of the bank's fraud team. But when she later checked her online bank account, she saw there was £71,000 missing.

Santander initially reimbursed the customer £2,250, but refused to refund the remaining £68,750, claiming it had not made an error. But last month the Ombudsman ordered the bank to repay the full amount.

Following Money Mail's intervention, Naika Butler has also won a £6,125 refund.

The 33-year-old childminder had similarly received a text message from her bank about a suspicious payment last summer. When she called the number given she too was convinced to read out a code sent to her mobile.

It was not until the next week that she discovered her savings were missing. Initially the bank refused to refund the money, but after pressure from Money Mail last week it has agreed to refund the full amount.

How to get money back

Not all fraud victims will get their money back. To be eligible, you must not have made the payment yourself.

This means you never requested to transfer the money and were instead tricked into handing over personal details that enabled someone else to make the payment.

This might include disclosing the answers to security questions because you thought you were talking to the bank's fraud team or the police. Or you may have read out 'one-time passcodes', which are needed to confirm payments, without realising what they were.

Alternatively, you may have been targeted by fraudsters posing as your telecoms provider who said they needed remote access to your computer to fix a technical issue.

But once they took control of your computer they hacked into your online banking account and stole money without you realising.

On the other hand, if you made a bank transfer for a car which later turned out not to exist, it is unlikely you have a case.

Similarly, you may also find your complaint rejected if you are convinced to make a payment to a bogus solicitor or builder, or pay a fee to release winnings from a fake overseas lottery. This is because you intended to make the payment.

However, the rules are not crystal clear and it is likely there will be many grey areas. So if you are unsure it is always worth referring your complaint to the Ombudsman. It is a free service so you have nothing to lose.

You have six years to complain to your bank about a disputed transaction. If your bank throws out your complaint you then have six months from the date you receive its final rejection letter to refer your case to the Ombudsman.

To refer your case to the Ombudsman, write to the Financial Ombudsman Service, Exchange Tower, London, E14 9SR. Or call 020 7964 1000 for more advice on making a complaint. You can also fill in a form at

If the adjudicator rules in favour of the bank, you typically have two weeks to appeal this provisional decision. This means your case will be passed on to an official Ombudsman, who will make a final decision.

If you lose again, your only option is to take your bank to the small claims court, which can be a time-consuming and costly affair. If you have already been through the Ombudsman process and have received a final decision, you cannot ask it to reopen your case.

But Martyn James, from Resolver, the complaints website, says you can go back to your bank and demand that it looks at your complaint again.

He says: 'Given the new guidance, banks should review whether their customers did actually authorise the payments or were grossly negligent.

'If it maintains it should not pay out, the bank should allow the customer to refer their case back to the Ombudsman as a new complaint - and be sure to stress the new complaint part.

'It will be interesting to see how these cases are viewed retrospectively,' he adds.

Caroline Wayman, chief ombudsman and chief executive of the Financial Ombudsman Service, says: 'It's not fair to automatically call a customer grossly negligent simply because they've fallen for a scam.

'That's especially true in light of the sophisticated way criminals exploit banks' security systems - and convince customers that their money is at risk. We often remind banks that they need to support what they're saying with facts. And if they can't do that, it's likely we'll tell them to cover the money their customer has lost.'

Denis Stevens, 77, is among those hopeful that the Ombudsman's new approach to dealing with complaints about fraud will help him win back £27,500. The retired bricklayer had been called out of the blue in March 2017, by someone purporting to be from Lloyds.

He was told that someone had tried to raid his account and he needed to move his money into a safe account to protect it.

The bogus employee then requested he read out a series of passcodes that had been sent to his mobile phone.

In fact, these were one-time passcodes that banks send customers to authorise payments. Denis says: 'At 3am I woke with a start and thought, 'You idiot, this is a scam.' '

And when he checked his online bank account he discovered £27,500 had disappeared.

Denis reported what had happened to the police and his bank, but Lloyds was only able to recover £11,000.

He says that, while he has tried to put the ordeal behind him, he is hopeful that he now has a chance at getting the rest of his savings back. A spokesman for Lloyds says it will contact the customer to see if he has new information. 

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, says: 'Banks and building societies take the threat of fraud extremely seriously and invest millions in advanced fraud prevention systems to protect customers, stopping £2 out of every £3 of attempted fraud last year. But we know there is more to be done.

'UK Finance is part of the Authorised Push Payments (APP) Scams Steering Group, established by the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) to lead the development of an industry code for the reimbursement of victims of authorised push-payment scams. This code will help minimise the impact this devastating crime can have on consumers.'

(10th February 2019)

(Belfast Live, dated 15th January 2019 author Sarah Scott)

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A con artist has scammed a pensioner in Northern Ireland out of her £45,000 savings in what police have described as an "absolutely despicable crime".

The woman, based in Craigavon and aged in her seventies, had tried to access her email last week but kept getting a message telling her she was typing in the wrong password.

On Tuesday, January 8, she contacted her telecoms provider in a bid to resolve the issue and, after a short time, she could access her email.

But then she was called by a man claiming to represent the same telecoms and internet provider. He asked her to complete a number of things on the computer, claiming it was all part of checks he was conducting.

Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said: "Among the instructions the fraudster gave the woman was to log on to her banking app. It appears software - TeamViewer - was subsequently installed giving the fraudster remote access to the victim's computer, her bank account and the ability to transfer close to £45,000 from her account.

"This is an absolutely despicable crime.  The women has lost her hard earned savings and this has left her extremely distressed. "

But this was not the only report of fraud last week and on Friday, January 11, police received a further 11 reports of fraud, including reports of people being targeted by scammers claiming to represent HMRC.

Chief Superintendent Walls added: "A second woman was contacted on social media, via Facebook. She replied to a message which she believed was genuine and was from someone she knew informing her she'd won a competition. Replying, she was re-directed to a site which advised she would have to transfer £2,000 before she could get her winnings. As a result of the communication, she unknowingly passed her personal details to the scammer and lost £2,000.

"Sadly, this is just another example of how easy it is for scammers to fool people. This is why it is so important that people become scam aware. Families also need to keep an eye on their loved ones, especially older members of their family. Have the conversation; sit down and talk about these types of scams and what they need to do to protect themselves online, on the phone and post.

"While it's reassuring some people are able to spot these scams, and they are picking up the phone to report them to us, other people are being still being caught out. I would continue to urge members of the public to always err on the side of caution with any text, call, email or letter asking for payment or personal details in order to release money, refund fees, pay lottery wins or supply a holiday, giveaway or service.

"If you are at all suspicious about a call you receive, hang up and phone the organisation the person is purporting to represent to check their authenticity. Ideally, make the call from another telephone so you can be sure the original caller has not remained on the line. Never be pressured into a transaction over the phone.

"Guarding your personal and banking details is essential. Never disclose them to any unauthorised person or allow anyone access to them via your computer.

"Telecoms providers will never call to tell you they have found a problem with your computer; they will never ask for payment details over email or live chat; and they will never call out of the blue and ask for remote access to your computer or other devices.

"Internet/Broadband providers will never call to tell you your router or IP address has been compromised or that your broadband has been hacked. They will also never call to threaten to disconnect your service if you don't make a payment immediately.

"If you have received any calls asking for any of these details or are concerned by the intent of unsolicited calls, emails or letters then please report it to Action Fraud via their website or by phoning 0300 123 2040, or call police on the non-emergency number 101. "

(10th Febraury 2019)

(OBSERVER, dated 13th January 2019 author Anna Tims)

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Vishal Vora used eBay to auction a £115 BabyBjörn bouncer when his children had grown out of it. He washed it, listed it as used and accepted an offer of £56 plus £5 postage from an expectant mother. As soon as it was delivered the buyer complained that it was "literally covered in faeces" and demanded a £20 reduction in the price. Vora offered £7.50, although the screenshot of a photo sent by the buyer did not show evidence of staining.

The buyer then opened a case with eBay which advised she could return it and receive a refund. She was duly refunded by the company but she never sent the bouncer back. Weeks later, Vora found photos on the buyer's social media accounts showing her baby happily installed in it.

For most eBay sellers the story would end there. Vora, however, decided to make a stand. He emailed the buyer demanding the item, or his money back. She then reported him to the police for harassment. So he took her to court and, two years after the sale, was awarded £62.

"It happens often, buyers thinking they are entitled to free goods due to eBay's liberal approach to refunds," he says. "My case wasn't about money, more about the principle."

The principle came at a cost - the £70 in court fees and administration outweighed the award and he must find a further £70 if he wants a summary of the judgment.

In 2014 Vora issued legal proceedings after selling an iPhone4 to a buyer who claimed the box arrived empty. Despite proof from the Post Office that the parcel weight corresponded with a handset, eBay refunded the buyer. It eventually settled out of court.

Vora is one of a legion of sellers to have fallen victim to eBay's lavish buyer-protection policy. Launched in 2013, it refunds buyers who raise a dispute if an item is not received, or not as described. The promise was to encourage buyer confidence in the online auction site, but it can be exploited by unscrupulous buyers to obtain free goods. Scores of sellers, both private and business, have contacted the Observer over the years to complain that the company has unquestioningly refunded buyers who had failed to return the goods they bought or sent them back used, damaged or substituted.

Anna Wabrobska is a business seller of car parts. When a buyer returned a part, which he admitted had been damaged by his mechanic, eBay told her it would investigate but then refunded the buyer without her knowledge.

"When I appealed they told me to submit a police report," she says. "The police say they do not deal with such cases, so eBay told me to get a crime reference number from Action Fraud. I did so, but my appeal was rejected as I did not provide the report from the police."

Ebay told the Observer that, as the buyer had declared the part "not as described", he was due a refund. Business sellers do not have the right to appeal against a decision under eBay rules which leaves a court as the only alternative, it says.

Catherine Lewis was left out of pocket after selling a coat. When the buyer claimed she had not received it, eBay issued a refund. But when Lewis studied feedback about the buyer, she got a shock. "All the messages told the same story," she says. "Buyer claimed item didn't arrive, eBay gave refund. Even on items that were signed for. Worse, the buyer has been reported to eBay three times before for this and no action has been taken." Only when the Observer intervened did eBay refund Lewis.

Ebay insists that each dispute is investigated before refunds are issued. "As an online marketplace we take action to protect thousands of sellers in the UK every month, and we're constantly improving our systems to make our marketplace as safe as possible," it insists. "Our team is on the lookout 24/7 for bad buyer behaviour and they're backed by large-scale, automated detection systems that examine millions of transactions every day."

However, the company freely acknowledges that its policies are designed to keep customers spending. Buyers can, for instance, leave anonymous negative feedback against a seller, but sellers are only given a positive button to rate buyers, although they can type a more forthright comment beneath the cheery "+" heading. The seller's only recourse, if a comment unjustifiably damages their status, is to report a buyer to eBay and negative comments are only removed if eBay receives numerous complaints about an individual.

Most controversially of all, any case opened by a buyer shows as a defect on the seller's record and a maximum defect rate of 2% (0.5% for top-rated sellers) is permitted before penalty fees kick in.

Since eBay ordered its business sellers to extend their returns policy from 14 to 30 days last year, sellers complain that return rates have escalated and they are being penalised for complying. Customers who change their mind about a purchase often cite a return as "not as described" rather than "no longer wanted" to avoid incurring postage charges and these count against a seller unless they are successfully appealed.

Ebay counters that its penalty fees for return rates of over 2% are "to ensure buyers receive the best shopping experience possible, bringing more buyers and more sales for sellers" and "maliciously filed returns are stripped out of the calculations".

Like Vishal Vora, other sellers are fighting back. Roland Grimm, a personal seller, sold a Tannoy to a buyer who, 60 days after confirming receipt, claimed it had never arrived and raised a dispute with PayPal which offers an alternative buyer protection scheme to eBay.

"Professional scammers often never notify eBay, nor leave feedback because, if they do, sellers can respond via feedback which stays forever to warn other sellers," he says. "Instead, they make a PayPal claim after 60 days when the sales record for a transaction disappears from the seller's file and feedback can no longer be left on the buyer's record."

Grimm supplied PayPal with proof of postage and the buyer's confirmation of receipt but PayPal nonetheless issued a refund. It eventually settled out of court days before the hearing. The company declined to comment.

Grimm is now considering legal action against eBay after a seller claimed a keyboard he had sold was defective. It was returned damaged. In its response to the buyer, eBay wrote that although the item had been returned "in a different condition to which it was sent" he would be refunded anyway.

Ebay claimed that, since it can't verify the condition an item is returned in, it refunds sellers on a courtesy basis, but that Grimm has made several such claims of returned goods, so no longer qualifies. Ian Ewers received a similar message to Grimm after a buyer claimed two brand new £2,300 power supply units he'd sold were faulty a week after leaving a five-star review of them. They were sent back unboxed, poorly packaged and apparently damaged during use.

He sent before and after photos to eBay who told him they would refund the buyer and Ewers could appeal against their decision afterwards. When he tried to do so, he was refused. A message from customer services explained opaquely: "I understand that in our return policy the buyer should return an item in same condition and most of the times we our seller how if they receive item back in different condition. However, there are policy in place for this seller's coverage and I am afraid in this case it would not be possible to grant your appeal [sic]."

Ebay told the Observer that business sellers can't appeal against faulty returns and says since the buyer provided a detailed description of the problem he had a right to return the goods. It has since unleashed debt collectors to recover the £2,300 from Ewers. "I've told them to take me to court and I look forward to defending the claim if it ever happens," he says. He has also withdrawn his custom from eBay to whom he's paid nearly £30,000 in sellers' fees over 14 years. "I have finally realised I cannot do business with this company any longer," he says. "Ebay sellers are like sitting ducks waiting to be scammed."

(10th February 2019)

(Manchester Evening News, dated 11th January 2019 author Jessica Sansome)

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The public are being warned against a possible scam after reports of a fake HM Revenue & Customs voicemail have been doing the rounds.

HMRC have themselves been responding to users on their customer support Twitter page as they claim to have received the nuisance call.

The scam voicemails which have been likened to an "80s answer phone" message threaten potential victims with arrest or legal action and ask for bank details.

They claim it is because there's a legal case to be filed in your name which will prompt panic for those receiving the calls.

In a second voicemail, a woman claiming to be  and officer from HMRC will tell you that you, or your solicitor, must call them back immediately or face legal action, again another panicking tactic.

NatWest have also tweeted out a warning which says: "We've received many reports today of scam phone calls claiming to be HMRC, accusing people of tax evasion & asking for immediate payments.

"If you get a call like this, hang up & don't make any payments. Check the security advice on your bank's website for further help."

Police forces in Exeter, Devon and Scotland have also posted similar messages.

It is important to note that you'll never get an email, text message or phone call from HMRC that tells you about a tax rebate or penalty or asks for your personal and payment information.

If you receive such a call or feel that there is something untoward going on, the advice from is to search on their website to find official government services and phone numbers.

This will give you a clearer idea of whether the phone number is legitimate.

You can also report any misleading website, email or phone number to Action Fraud, the National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre.

More information on HMRC's guidance on recognising scams can be found here :

(In Your Area, dated 9th January 2019 author Hugh Fort)

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uaware note : The article is much the same as the previous article, but includes this advice :

How to avoid becoming a victim of fraud

- Always question unsolicited requests for your personal or financial information. Just because someone knows your basic details (such as your name and contact details), it doesn't mean they are genuine. Instead, contact the company directly using trusted methods such as a known email address or phone number.

- Listen to your instincts. If something feels wrong then it is usually right to question it. No genuine organisation will ask you to pay taxes, bills or fees using iTunes gift cards, or any other type of voucher.

- Don't be rushed or pressured into making a decision. Under no circumstances would a genuine bank or some other trusted organisation force you to make a financial transaction on the spot.

- Report Phishing attempts. If you receive a call, text or email of this nature and have not lost money, report this as a phishing attempt to Action Fraud.

(10th February 2019)

(Telegraph, dated 6th January 2019 author Jessica Gorst-Williams)

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In yesterday's column I wrote about some of the themes and cases that dominated the 2018 postbag. Now I come to the most prevalent issue.

Apart from complaints to do with telecoms and power companies, scams outranked everything else. They were various and many, some easily avoidable and others less so.

MG of London was taken in by a cold caller who said he was a police detective sergeant involved in "Operation Pelican", allegedly an investigation into criminal behaviour involving money laundering by staff at the local NatWest bank.

MG thought she was helping the police by going to the NatWest branch, withdrawing £5,700 from her joint account and giving the money to another plain-clothes "policeman" on the false premise that Scotland Yard would reimburse it to her account.

MG went home only to receive another call from the same person telling her that they also needed a withdrawal, in euros, this time to be made from a bureau de change. She complied with that too and, predictably, at least to outsiders looking in, there was no happy ending.

PT of Leicestershire fell victim to a common fraud when trying to purchase a vehicle on eBay. It was priced at £1,000 less than similar cars would sell for. Given that it was supposedly in Aberdeen, PT did not try to see it before paying.

The "seller" advised that the way to buy the car was through a "holding company" that could be found through a Google search. Having found a company with reviews online, PT sent £4,499 by bank transfer. The fraudster said the car would be delivered in two days' time. That was the last PT heard of it. By then, all links to relevant sites had been disabled.

JW of south-west England had £7,715 stolen by a fraudster purporting to be a broadband engineer. Under the guise of paying compensation for a service outage, the scammer persuaded JW to give him access to her computer, which allowed him to steal her online banking information.

After my involvement, Barclays, one of the two recipient banks, returned the £1,989 that had been deposited with it and also credited £100 for goodwill.

Using this as a precedent, JW contacted the other recipient bank, NatWest, which had acknowledged some funds had been frozen but had refused to say how much these came to. NatWest sought an indemnity from the sending bank and then returned £1,706, which was all that remained of the £5,726 of JW's money that had gone into the account.

Frauds are part of everyday life and anyone can be targeted. The other day I picked up the phone to hear, "I am calling from the technical department of BT…" A number showed up. I told the scammer in no uncertain terms that I knew him for what he was. Had I had an issue relating to BT at the time, though, I might have been less sure.

(10th February 2019)

(BBC News, dated 4th January 2019)

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A TV licence email scam has led to more than 5,000 complaints over the past three months.

Cyber crime monitor Action Fraud said fake TV licence emails regarding payment issues had been sent out to try to collect bank details.

The number of reports has increased in each of the past three months, with 1,983 complaints in December alone.

Action Fraud told the BBC the scam was "particularly nasty as it looks so convincing".

The emails use headlines such as "correct your licensing information" and "your TV licence expires today" in an attempt to convince people to click on the link in the email.

Action Fraud said it received 5,247 complaints about such emails between 1 October and the end of December.

By comparison, there were only 1,614 complaints in the preceding nine months of the year, with the majority of those coming in September.

While the emails themselves might vary slightly in their wording, all of the links direct through to the same website.

The fake TV Licensing website asks victims to provide their payment details, including their account number, sort code, and card verification value (CVV) code on the back of their card.

The website may also ask for a victim's name, date of birth, address, phone number, email and possibly even their mother's maiden name.

'Incredibly realistic'

Action Fraud said it was working to "stop fraudsters in their tracks".

Leesa Hellings-Lamb, from Bolton, told the BBC she received an "incredibly realistic" email from what she thought was TV Licensing claiming her licence was due to expire in two days.

She followed the link in the email and began entering her bank details but became "suspicious" when she was asked for "too much information".

"Eventually I realised it was a scam," said Ms Hellings-Lamb, who managed to avoid confirming her details to the fraudsters.

She added: "I have learnt my lesson and told everyone I know to spread the word and remind everyone to be more cautious."

A TV Licensing spokeswoman said: "TV Licensing will never email customers, unprompted, to ask for bank details, personal information or tell you that you may be entitled to a refund."

Is the TV licence email I have received a scam?

There are a number of ways to check whether or not an email you have received might be from fraudsters. Action Fraud says should check:

The sender's email address - does it look like one TV Licensing would use?

The subject line - anything such as "action required" or "security alert" should be treated with suspicion

Spelling and grammar - grammatical errors suggest it is likely to be a scam

The style - scammers often take real emails and amend them, so be wary of emails that seem too familiar or casual

The link - does it go through to the official TV Licensing website? Example :

If you think you have received an email from fraudsters, you should report it to Action Fraud.

(10th February 2019)

(London Evening Standard, dated 4th January 2019)

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The number of reports of contactless card fraud to Action Fraud almost doubled last year.

Pickpockets are stealing cards to make as many £30 transactions as possible before the account is blocked, while more sophisticated scammers use "skimming" devices attached to cash machines to siphon off data.

Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, said that in 10 months last year there were 2,739 reports of contactless fraud, totalling almost £1.18 million - up from 1,440 cases worth £711,000 in the same period in 2017.

They represented 51 per cent of the reports of contactless fraud since 2013 to the service, which is run by City of London Police.

Average losses investigated by detectives were between £90 and £652 but the largest single contactless case reached £400,000, stemming from multiple purchases.

"Low-tech methods" that were commonly deployed included distraction thefts and cash machine "entrapment devices" used to clone card details.

Concerns have been raised that it is possible for criminals to use rogue card readers and smartphones to read cards simply by brushing past the owner.

However UK Finance, that represents the banking industry, has said there have been no verified incidents of contactless fraud on cards still in the possession of the original owner.

Manufacturer Durable has secured a warrant from the City Stationers' Company for its RFID Secure Wallet, which uses a metal-lined sleeve to block radio signals. Durable's Martina Heiland said: "Most cards have a 13.56 megahertz frequency and it is possible to cull data from them from 1.5 metres away."

Gareth Shaw, a Which? money expert, said: "Contactless payments are quick and easy but they have also given criminals a new way to exploit consumers, leading to a significant rise in contactless fraud cases."

An Action Fraud spokeswoman said: "Fraudsters will do all they can to steal your card and account details and take money from your account?…?If you've seen unusual activity on your bank statements, such as purchases you don't remember making or cash withdrawals from places you don't remember visiting, tell your bank immediately."

According to the latest UKF fraud figures the actual proportion of all card fraud losses by value that were through contactless fraud was 3% in the first half of 2018.

(10th February 2019)


(Mail on Sunday, dated 23rd December 2018 author Jeff Prestridge)

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government ban on pension cold-calling will come into effect early next year.

The long-awaited move means firms - often fraudsters - will no longer be able to make unsolicited calls to people offering them advice on their pension schemes.

Failure to adhere to the new rule, that kicks in on January 9, could result in a fine of up to £500,000.

The call for a ban was first made two years ago by financial adviser Darren Cooke who launched a parliamentary petition on the issue.

The traction that the petition gained prompted the Government to announce it would introduce legislation, but it kept being delayed.

Kate Smith, head of pensions at financial services company Aegon, says the ban will go a 'long way to protect savers from being scammed out of their life savings'.

But many have already seen their cash disappear offshore, never to be seen again.

(This is Money, dated 20th December 2018 author Tanya Jefferies)

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A ban on unscrupulous sharks using cold calling to trick people out of their life savings will finally come into force on 9 January 2019.

The cold call prohibition is aimed at scammers trying to steal retirement pots and unregulated firms which persuade people to transfer money into unsuitable high-risk schemes.

Campaigners warn crooks will simply switch to new ruses - including calling from overseas to get round the UK law - but say that raising public awareness about the ban will put more people on their guard.

The Government first announced a ban on cold calling about pensions in November 2016, and industry experts and campaigners have voiced growing frustration about the delays.

Last July, the ban was postponed again while it carried out a last-minute consultation.

The Government has not made a formal announcement about the start date, but Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Glen tweeted: 'Pensions cold calling is a scourge, so I was pleased and proud to see Parliament pass a ban on it this week.

'This means the ban will officially come into force on 9th January. Spread the word.'

A copy of the rules :

A ban on unwanted texts and emails is not included, but they are already restricted under EU regulations.

he Government was spurred into action in 2016 following a petition demanding pension and investment cold calling be made illegal.

Launched by Derbyshire-based financial adviser Darren Cooke, the petition said: 'Banning cold calling would dramatically reduce the number of people falling prey to fraudsters and losing their savings and pensions.'

It attracted the backing of two former Pensions Ministers, Ros Altmann and Steve Webb, and a large band of pension industry supporters concerned by the heartbreaking losses suffered by savers.

Victims of pension fraud lost an average of £91,000 each from their life savings last year, figures from watchdogs recently revealed.

Pension freedom reforms, which allow over-55s to access their entire retirement savings pots in one go, have made this money an obvious target for criminals.

Fraud experts say that a combination of new rules, investors looking for returns and pensioners withdrawing large sums of cash have created a potentially fertile hunting ground for conmen.

Citizens Advice statistics suggest 97 per cent of the pension fraud cases it deals with stem from cold calling.

Last summer, financial watchdogs launched a TV, radio and social media campaign to highlight common fraud tactics and explain what to do if you are targeted.

Alistair Wilson, head of retail platform strategy at Zurich, said today: 'The Government's long-awaited ban on cold calling will disrupt one of the main routes scammers use to trick consumers out of their life savings.

'When the ban comes into force within weeks, it will send a powerful message to consumers not to speak to firms who call them about their pension out of the blue.

'However, wherever there is a large pot of money, fraudsters will find new ways to get at it.

'Scammers are likely to evolve new and more sophisticated tactics, and it is vital pension providers and consumers remain alert to this.

'The ban is a major step forward but it doesn't cover cold calls made from overseas, which is a loophole fraudsters could look to exploit. That's why raising consumer awareness of the illegality of pensions cold calls is so vital to the ban's success.'

This is Money has previously reported how sharks are using chilling methods to dupe people out of their savings.

Scammers are 'grooming' pension savers by giving them a script of what to say to get around company safeguards, according to financial giant Aegon.

Customers are repeating certain telling phrases and technical terms not in common use when they ring up and ask for pot transfers, and sometimes admit they were warned to ignore attempts to talk them out of it, it says.

Meanwhile, The Pensions Regulator has warned fraudsters are also cut-and-pasting official scam alerts onto their websites to fool savers into thinking they are dealing with above board businesses.

'Watch out for scam sites that dress themselves up with anti-scam messaging to pose as legitimate businesses,' it says.

Suspicious company websites have also been known to claim fraudsters were passing themselves off as their representatives, and to warn customers to be on their guard.

A common scam is claiming to be able to unlock money from an individual's pension early, before the age of 55 - something known as pension liberation fraud, which can lead people to lose a pension pot and then face a 55 per cent tax charge on the vanished cash.
(1st January 2019)

(Telegraph, dated 22nd December 2018 author Mike Wright)

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Children playing the world's most popular computer game are being preyed on by criminals trying to extort money out of them, the police's fraud arm has warned.

Action Fraud has warned that scammers are using Fortnite, an online multiplayer "shoot em up" game with 125 million players worldwide, to trick young players into handing over their parents' bank details.

The fraud reporting centre, which is run by the City of London Police, said it had seen a more than 40 percent rise in crimes involving the hit video game, with victims losing on average £110 each time.

Fortnite, which is certified as being suitable for children aged 12 and over, is set in a dystopian world where most of the Earth's population has suddenly disappeared, living tough conditions and zombie-like creatures to roam the Earth. Players are among the remaining 2 per cent whose job it is to survive and return the earth to normal.

The scam works by convincing players to leave the game and enter a third party website, where they can buy "free" online currency which they can use in the game to buy items like weapons and clothes. To "verify their account is real" players are asked to hand over bank details.

Parents are now being urged to be vigilant in the run-up to Christmas and keep an eye on what their children are doing online.

Chief Inspector Paul Carroll, of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, said: "Clearly you expect there to be more purchases of Fortnite over the Christmas period, it's the in thing for gamers. So it is certainly a time for parents to be vigilant and get their knowledge up to speed of what it entails.

"You have always got to question requests for personal financial information."

Figures seen by the Sunday Telegraph showed that between May and November this year there had been 50 reports of fraud to the hotline involving Fortnite.

This was a rise on previous figures released by the centre that showed there were 35 crimes reported between September last year, when the game was released, and April.

The centre warned that many of the frauds came from children being tricked by scams on social media promisings free ways to get Fortnite's in-game currency, called V-Bucks.

V-Bucks can be bought with real money or earned playing the game and allow players to buy new items for their online Fortnite characters such as costumes, weapons or dance moves.

The Sunday Telegraph found a number of Fortnite scam sites on Facebook and YouTube, which typically took people to a third-party website where they were told they could get free V-Bucks by simply entering their Fortnite account username.

The sites typically then said the process had failed and the person had to 'verify' their Fortnite account was real by handing over various personal information.

They often also promised children the chance to win a new smartphone or games console if they entered theirs or their parents' details.

Ch Insp Carroll added: "We say you have to listen to your instincts and if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. So if you are being offered these V-Bucks for a discounted rate it is potentially someone looking to defraud you."

Since its release, Fortnite has become a huge hit with its free Battle Royale game, in which up to 100 people compete online in a last-man-standing shootout, especially popular.

The game's maker, Epic Games, recently revealed Fortnite now has more than 200 million players worldwide. The studio has previously warned players that online offers of free V-Bucks are not legitimate and not to participate in them.

Facebook and YouTube have since removed all the scam pages and videos found by the Sunday Telegraph.

A spokesman for YouTube said: "We use teams of highly trained content reviewers to determine whether videos violate our Community Guidelines and are committed to removing this offending content quickly."

What is Fortnite: Battle Royale?

Fornite: Battle Royale has quickly become one of the world's most popular online games. Free to play, Battle Royale was released in 2017 by Epic Games, a firm based in North Carolina. It was designed as a spinoff from the company's main release, Fortnite. The game allows users to compete against dozens of others around the world in a last-man-standing deathmatch.

What happens in the game?

Up to 100 players start off the deathmatch in a flying bus. One by one, they drop to the ground of the game's map, which includes areas called 'Tomato Town', 'Tilted Towers', and 'Shifty Shafts'. Players then quickly have to arm themselves and find shelter. The aim is to kill every other player and emerge as the sole survivor. Players are given a huge amount of choice - they can focus on amassing weapons, building an elaborate base, or luring others into traps. Most games last for around 20 minutes.

How many people play it?

Estimates vary on just how many people play Battle Royale. Data from financial information service MarketWatch however, suggests the game pulls in 40 million users each month. That shows a huge rise in popularity in recent months: at it's previous peak the game showed a concurrent player count of 3.4 million, and a total player count of 45 million.

How much money does it make?

In just one month in April 2018, Fortnite made $296 million across all of its platforms (including console, PC, and mobile), according to research company Superdata. This made it the highest-grossing digital console game that month, the data showed.

How does it compare with other online games?

Battle Royale has quickly become one of the world's most popular and successful online multiplayer games. Its 40 million monthly users makes it more popular than its giant competitor, Grand Theft Auto V Online, which is produced by Rockstar Games as part of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, which is one of the most profitable entertainment franchises in history.

(1st January 2019)

(Examiner Live, dated 21st December 2018 author John Davies)

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An unsuspecting Dewsbury mum handed over cash and jewellery worth £4500 to a man posing as an undercover police officer after a fraudster tricked her into thinking it would be taken away for "safe-keeping".

In fact the scam was part of a wider West Yorkshire conspiracy masterminded by manipulative Bradford fraudster Zain Khan, 31, who was jailed in September at Leeds Crown Court for five years for similar offending.

Bradford Crown Court heard today (Fri) that back in 2017 Khan used his brother-in-law Adnan Qureshi, 33, as "a foot soldier" to collect cash and jewellery from frightened victims at homes in Bradford and Dewsbury.

Prosecutor Howard Shaw said in April 2017 Qureshi, of Blythe Avenue, Bradford, turned up at a house in the city after a woman had received a telephone from a man claiming to be a police officer.

The man said the family were in danger and advised her to hand over any cash or jewellery for safekeeping.

"He indicated that an undercover police officer would attend at the house and he would be dressed in black," said Mr Shaw.

When Qureshi arrived he told the victim not to worry and she handed him jewellery worth about £9000 to £10,000.

Five months later Qureshi, who had no previous convictions, took the cash and jewellery away from the woman from Dewsbury telling her not to be scared.

Mr Shaw said none of the cash or jewellery was ever recovered and Qureshi was later picked out during identification procedures.

The married father-of-three admitted two fraud charges and today (Fri) Judge Colin urns sentenced him to eight months in jail suspended for two years.

He will also have to abide by a six-month night-time tagged curfew at this Bradford home.

Barrister Shufqat Khan, for Qureshi, said it went without saying that Zain Khan had been a negative influence on his client.

"Zain Khan was a manipulative character not just with this defendant but with others," he submitted.

"Zain Khan had orchestrated a fraud were he was using the guise of a police officer to extract property from people in his own community."

He said Qureshi had become involved because Khan's overbearing personality and behaviour towards him.

(1st Janaury 2019)

(Daily Mail, dated 18th December 2018 author Amelia Murray)

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Fraud victims will next month get greater powers to complain about banks where their stolen money ends up.

It is a victory for Money Mail's campaign for victims of push-payment scams, where people are deceived into transferring money into a fraudster's account.

If, after complaining, the victim is still unhappy with the way the bank has handled their case, new rules will allow them to escalate their complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

Currently the criminal's bank is not obliged to deal with issues raised by victims who are not customers.

Following a review, the Financial Conduct Authority decided that receiving banks could do more to identify incoming payments and prevent accounts from being compromised by fraudsters.

Victims of so-called authorised push payment (APP) fraud will be able to complain to the receiving bank from January 31.

Victims of scams before this date will not have the same rights.

Some £145 million was lost to APP fraud in the first six months of 2018, according to UK Finance.

Of this, just £31 million was returned to victims.

(1st January 2019)

(Metro, dated 17th December 2018 author Jimmy McCloskey)

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Note: This is a scam in the USA.

A fraudster scammed at least 16 childless couples out of thousands of dollars for babies she lied about being pregnant with.

Wendy George, 39, snared her victims using websites aimed at setting up families keen to adopt with women who would provide them with babies.

George, who was jailed for five years Friday, even paid a pregnant friend $20 to go and have an ultrasoud with her name on it.

She also used the same pal to obtain a positive pregnancy test, which she subsequently used to claim Medicaid benefits.

George, from Carolina Beach in North Carolina, began the scheme in November 2016 by making various posts online claiming to be pregnant, and adding that she wanted to give up the baby.

The crook, who was never pregnant, was then contacted by at over a dozen prospective adoptees, and entered into lengthy discussions with them about handing over the non-existent infant. She requested cash for food, doctors' appointments and rent.

Her plot unraveled in February 2017 after a couple from Ohio called George's local police department, saying they had given George hundreds of dollars for food and rent.

George admitted 10 counts of obtaining property by false pretenses, one count of felony accessing a computer to perpetuate a fraud, and one count of Medicaid fraud.

The serial criminal was previously convicted on other fraud charges, and for selling drugs.

(1st January 2019)

(Mirror, dated 15th December 2018 author Stephen Hayward)

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Record numbers of young drivers are being duped into buying fake insurance online.

'Ghost broking' scams on Instagram and other websites have soared in the past three years.

Victims lose hundreds of pounds and can end up driving without cover.

Adverts offer insurance for as little as £100 a year on social media sites, student websites or money-saving forums.

Fraudsters falsify drivers' names to bring the price down or take out a genuine policy before cancelling and claiming the refund plus the victim's cash.

The Insurance Fraud Bureau is handing over 70 investigations - up from 11 new cases in 2015.

Its head of intelligence Stephen Dalton said: "Young drivers, with higher premiums, are often the target. More than a third of young people we surveyed said they've seen a suspicious ad for insurance on social media."

One ghost broker, Abdul Hakim, 27, of Oldham, Greater Manchester, was jailed for three years at Bradford Crown Court in April for duping 21 people. Drivers are warned to beware if a seller only provides a mobile number or email.

(1st Janaury 2019)

(London Evening Standard, dated 12th December 2018 author Justin Davenport)

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City of London police are deploying officers in India to combat scammers in call centres targeting the UK in a multi-million-pound racket.

The force, which leads the country's fight against fraud, says it is expanding operations overseas to "take the fight to the enemy".

City police say 22,000 UK victims lost £21 million last year in "tech support scams", many of them originating from abroad.

Callers claiming to be technicians from companies such as Microsoft tell potential victims that their computer is infected with a virus. They then demand cash to fix the problem or ask to remotely access the person's computer, which allows them to hack their emails and bank accounts.

In recent weeks Indian police have raided 26 call centres and arrested more than 50 people.

Microsoft, which has seconded an employee to work with City police, says it receives more than 11,000 calls a month from around the world about fake security warnings. The company's work with City officers has already led to a number of arrests.

Fraudsters also pose as support staff from Google, Apple and other major tech companies.

City of London police commissioner Ian Dyson said some call centres operate legitimately during the day but then switch to illegal activity at night, making them "criminal enterprises".

Mr Dyson told the Standard the force had formed a special team to explore "global solutions" to fraud. "A lot of the perpetrators of fraud operate abroad, and that means getting a judicial outcome is challenging in some cases. They are not out of reach, but it makes it harder," he said.

"There is a serious need to get 'up­stream' of certain crime types, such as economic crime, and find long-term solutions to tackle them at source, before they spread across the globe.

"This is about preventing people ­committing fraud in the UK. We are building a capability that means we are taking the fight to the enemy, and I think we can have a significant impact."

(1st January 2019)

(Footwear News, dated 10th December 2018 author Samantha McDonald)

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What's on a fraudster's wish list?

Turns out, it's designer shoes - particularly Christian Louboutin's So Kate pumps as well as heels from Spanish fashion label Balenciaga.

According to e-commerce fraud prevention company Forter, luxury footwear is among the products criminals are stealing most frequently this season. The recent report, which compared fraud attack rates during Black Friday and Cyber Monday with annual averages, found that Louboutins and Balenciagas were targeted at almost double their normal rates.

"Designer shoes, like luxury goods, are an ideal target amongst fraudsters because while the value of one item leads to a lucrative payoff, the products are not so expensive that merchants must scrutinize the intentions behind each purchase to great lengths," the firm's co-founder and CEO, Michael Reitblat, told FN.

A Deloitte study released in October predicted that online sales would rise between 17 and 22 percent during this year's holiday season, with more than half of shoppers expected to buy apparel and shoes as gifts.

"As consumers seek coveted designer gifts for the holidays, they often turn to third-party sites to find the best bargains, creating a market for fraudsters looking to resell luxury goods for a quick profit," Reitblat explained.

Additionally, he predicts that criminals looking to cash in on the value of stolen goods will do so sooner rather than later. In fact, both affordable and pricey winter apparel such as fleece hoodies and waterproof boots made the list, revealing that the seasonal market proved more important than the cost of the item itself.

Watches like Tissot, designer sunglasses and makeup palettes were also highly targeted, as well as gift cards.

(1st January 2019)

(Mail on Sunday, dated 8th December 2018 author Laura Shannon)

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Families are being warned to avoid a sinister rip-off known as 'unused number squatting' that tricks them into dialling an expensive phone number.

The little-known scam relies on phone users making a sequence of dialling errors. But those caught end up being charged an average £50.

In some cases, charges amount to hundreds of pounds. It happens when disreputable directory enquiry providers 'hijack' out-of-use landline numbers and use them to play misleading adverts plugging services.

Bulks of 01 and 02 numbers are held by communications providers and can be sold via middlemen on to 118 providers to use.

When a caller misdials a number - or rings one they believe is still active for a person or business they know - they hear a recorded message on one of these hijacked numbers telling them that it is 'out of service' and to call a different number instead. Those who do as directed are tricked into using a pricey 118 service.

One customer who thought she was calling optician Specsavers was greeted with a recorded message saying the number was out of service - and that she should call 118 023.

Believing this to be a message recorded by the high street optician, she dialled the premium rate number - hanging up after realising her mistake. She was charged £7 for a 22-second call.

She says: 'I was not advised of any charges when I listened to the message and was shocked to see the charge on my bill. I am extremely unhappy that people are getting away with scams like this.'

Another person was charged £25 for a call lasting less than six minutes. He had originally called a Northampton-based landline and was told to dial 118 023. When he rang and the operator found the number he was looking for, he was automatically connected.

This meant he was also charged the premium rate for the duration of the connected call - not just the initial contact with the 118 service.

A 93-year-old man who was recently discharged from hospital mistakenly dialled a number he believed was for an MOT centre based in Staffordshire. He was informed that the number was out of service and to call 118 023. Information about this number's premium rate was not supplied until 26 seconds into the recorded message, but the victim had already hung up.

As a result of this rip-off, the company behind the 118 number - PowerTel - was fined £200,000 by the Phone-paid Services Authority, which regulates premium rate services. The fine was levied because the service's cost was not clear, the tactic misleading, and the company had not renewed its registration with the regulator.

Back in March, a company known as 'Call The 118 113 Helpdesk' was also fined £425,000 for telling customers there was a fault on the landline they had phoned and to call premium rate number 118 820.

Complaints resolution service Resolver has heard from many people ripped off by 118 numbers.

Spokesman Martyn James says: 'It is a sad fact that we cannot trust businesses to be honest about the pricing of telephone calls.'


Since PowerTel's fine, the Phone-paid Services Authority has said it will ban companies from advertising directory enquiry services via 'unused number squatting'. Promotions advertising 118 numbers will only be allowed to exist on active numbers already in use for other legitimate purposes.

Providers must also reveal the cost of onward call connections to numbers that customers request, giving them time to consider and decline. These changes take effect from early next February. Communications regulator Ofcom recently announced it will cap charges for all customers who call 118 numbers - typically elderly people and those without access to the internet - to a maximum £3.65 per 90 seconds.

Even that, of course, is eye-wateringly expensive. This comes after research showed around 450,000 people pay £2.4 million more than they expect to for directory enquiry services, leading to 'bill shock'.

There are 86 providers offering more than 200 directory enquiry service numbers beginning with prefix 118.

Nearly 200,000 people pay more than £20 just to find a number. Ofcom's changes will be introduced next April.

David Hickson, of the Fair Telecoms Campaign, says: 'A major hope is that the price cap will drive some of the scammers away.'

He is also awaiting a final statement from the regulators on plans to tackle rip-off call connection services that trick people who search on the internet for numbers of well-established brands into making a premium rate call - when what they should be given is an 01, 02, 03 or free 080 number.

(1st January 2019)

(Mirror, dated 4th December 2018 author Vicky Shaw)

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There has been a five-fold increase in visits to a website from people seeking information about pension scams, following the launch of a joint campaign by regulators.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)'s ScamSmart website, which allows people to check pension opportunities they have been offered and find out more about avoiding scams, is being visited every 27 seconds typically.

The FCA and the Pensions Regulator (TPR) launched the joint drive to raise awareness about pension frauds in the summer.

Victims of pension scams last year lost an average of £91,000 each to fraudsters.

They reported receiving cold calls, offers of free pension reviews and promises that they would get high rates of return - all of which are key warning signs of scams.

Before the launch of the awareness drive, an average of 562 visits were being made to the ScamSmart website per day.

But after the launch, an average of 3,145 visits to the website per day were recorded - around five times the number previously and the equivalent of one visit to the website every 27 seconds.

Nicola Parish, TPR's executive director of frontline regulation, said: "The dramatic increase in the number of people visiting ScamSmart for information is very encouraging but this is not the end of the campaign.

"Every pension holder is a potential scam victim so it's vital that we continue spreading the word about scammers and how they operate to prevent more people handing over their funds to criminals."

What to watch for

The two regulators are urging all pension holders to be on their guard against pension scams as new research suggests that half (52%) of 45 to 65-year-olds with a pension do not think they are likely to be targeted by a pension scam.

The most common reasons given were that they believe they are too savvy to be scammed (21%) or that they do not think they have enough money saved in their pension (18%).

Research from the FCA estimates more than 10 million UK adults have received an unsolicited pension offer in just one year.

Mark Steward, the FCA's executive director of enforcement and market oversight, said: "Our research shows that many pension holders believe they are too savvy to be scammed.

"But pension scams are often very sophisticated and difficult to spot.

"Scammers will target people from all walks of life and with any size pension.

"The best way to protect yourself is to always check the FCA register to make sure that anyone offering you pension advice or any other financial service is authorised by the FCA."

Who's fighting the scammers

The FCA and TPR are part of Project Bloom, a task force working to combat pension scams.

The task force includes the Department for Work and Pensions, the Treasury, the Serious Fraud Office, City of London Police, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, the Pensions Advisory Service and the National Crime Agency.

The Treasury has laid regulations that will ban pension cold calling early in 2019.

Guy Opperman, minister for pensions and financial inclusion, said: "Pension scams are devastating for people and can rob them of the retirement they planned.

"Raising awareness of how these heartless criminals operate is key to tackling fraud, and the response to this campaign is encouraging.

"I would urge savers to always exercise caution and seek independent guidance or advice before making important financial decisions - free, impartial guidance is available from Pension Wise or the Pensions Advisory Service."

Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, said: "By launching a dedicated campaign warning about the dangers of scams - including a highly effective television advert - the regulators have already helped boost awareness among consumers.

"Ultimately improving engagement and understanding of scams is the most effective way to tackle the problem in the long term.

"The research published today tells us more work still needs to be done on this front, with many people aged 45 to 65 years old still seemingly oblivious to the fact they are prime targets for pension scammers."

The FCA and TPR are urging people to be ScamSmart with their pension and always check who they are dealing with.

4 steps to stay safe

The regulators recommend four steps to protect yourself from pension scams:

1. Reject unexpected pension offers whether made online, on social media or over the phone.

2. Check who you are dealing with before changing your pension arrangements - check the FCA register or call the FCA contact centre on 0800 111 6768 to see if the firm you are dealing with is authorised by the FCA.

3. Do not be rushed or pressured into making any decision about your pension.

4. Consider getting impartial information and advice.

- If you think you have been a victim of a pension scam, report it. Visit to find out more.

(1st January 2019)

(iNews, dated 30th November 2018 author Claudia Tanner)

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A woman who was duped out of more than £4,100 is warning about a sophisticated scam in which she received texts that appeared to be from the same number as her bank's.

Nurse Thomas was conned out of her only savings after fraudsters pretended to call from Royal Bank of Scotland's (RBS's) fraud team to alert her to suspicious activity on her account.

While some readers have told i the telephone number they called from was the same as their bank's, in this case Holly's was from a withheld number.

But she then received text messages that seemed to be from the same text stream as RBS's.

She told i that the fraud had left her worrying how she would cope financially because she has spent the last year off work recovering from spinal surgery.

"My sick pay has just ran out and it's my little boy's birthday coming up, then Christmas," she said. "I had experienced genuine fraudulent activity on my account a few months ago and I know that what the scammers said to me this time was identical to what the bank says to you.

"The text messages from them were grouped in the same message on my iPhone as the genuine ones from RBS.

"They convinced me to transfer my savings to a new account they said they'd set up for me. They even booked me in for an appointment with my local branch to collect my new card."

The Nurse, from Nottingham, has since received a partial refund from RBS, but has been left nearly £1,350 short. RBS has been approached for comment.

New rules to protect customers

A total of £145 million was stolen through authorised push payment (APP) scams - where people are tricked into authorising a payment to another account - in the first half of 2018, say trade body UK Finance.

Unlike Holy, many victims of this type of fraud haven't had a penny of their money back because banks argue the customer is at fault for giving permission for the payment to go through.

Earlier this year, the The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) proposed a new scheme that would offer better protection for victims who took sufficient care - meaning thousands might soon be able to recoup their losses.

Under the rules, banks sign up to a code of practice that outlines the steps they need to take to protect consumers. If they don't meet these obligations, and a customer loses money as a result, they will need to reimburse them.

Banks have pledged to provide effective warnings to customers about to make a transfer. Those signing up also promise to act faster to stop suspicious payments in the first place and do more to prevent accounts being opened by fraudsters.

Banks are also rolling out a system called 'confirmation of payee', which will warn customers when they make a transaction if the name they enter as the account owner doesn't match the bank's records.

Six things police and banks will never ask for over the phone or online

1. They will never phone and ask you for your PIN or full banking password

2. They will never ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them for safe-keeping or to aid an investigation.

3. They will never ask you to transfer money to a safe account for fraud or investigation reasons.

4. They will never send someone to your home to collect cash, PIN, cards or cheque books.

5. They will never ask you to purchase goods using your card and then hand them over for safe-keeping.

6. The police or your bank will never ask you to lie about why you are withdrawing or transferring money.

uaware comment

I always assume that newspaper articles are there to inform. Well in the case of this article the details it provided would help other scammers to scam the same person again. The article provided the victims full name, their geographic location and age. Further simple checks on websites like Ancestry and "" would fill in the blanks.

(1st January 2019)

(Guardian, dated 1st December 2018 author Miles Brignall)

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Lloyds Bank is refusing to compensate a customer who lost £5,200 to an email scam despite the money being transferred to another account at the same bank that a police investigation found had probably been opened fraudulently.

Surrey businesswoman Kate Levers is the latest victim of a fast-growing email scam, where a fraudster hacks into a company's emails and poses as a legitimate contractor requiring payment, but to a new account.

Levers, the finance director of a refurbishment firm, Demand and Supply, is preparing to take Lloyds to court to reclaim the loss, and plans to remove six business and personal accounts from the bank in protest. She has been a customer for 40 years.

The fraud occurred after she set up a bank transfer which she had been expecting. She then received a second email from the contractor asking her to make the payment to a different account. The second email was not genuine, and the new Lloyds account to which she sent the £5,200 was controlled by fraudsters. Previous victims of this scam have lost significantly larger sums.

Her case highlights the need for everyone to sign up to two-step verification on their email, and never to trust an email that asks for a payment to be made to a different account. It also shows how the receiving banks will deny liability, even if one of their accounts was used to launder the money.

Levers' case is unusual because, unlike most other email fraud victims who are ignored by the authorities, she managed to persuade the police to investigate. The lead officer in the Metropolitan police's Falcon (anti-fraud) unit told her that the Lloyds account used to process her firm's payment had been opened using a cloned identity.

An officer told her in an email: "Genuine details may have been fraudulently used to obtain the ID document used to open the account and I advised Lloyds as such.

"Organised crime networks employ people to enter the UK for very short periods of time, with the sole intention of opening fraudulent accounts. They play no part in, and often have no knowledge of, the fraud itself. The matter is complicated by the fact that false identities and documents are used to open these accounts."

Levers and her adviser, the fraud recovery specialist, Jack Buster, believe that Lloyds failed to carry out proper checks when the account was opened, and as a result was negligent. The bank denies this.

"Based on the statement issued by Falcon, it probably means that someone went into the branch of Lloyds bank in Broadway, Stratford in east London, with an identity card that was not genuine. It's absurdly simple but this is how organised crime networks open bank accounts at all UK high street banks. It would have been a similar story with the utility bill which are so easy to fake. Had Lloyds done a thorough check, they would have discovered what the police did, that the details didn't match. But they didn't bother, the fraudster tricked the bank, and Kate Levers' business has lost her money. It is clear the bank should refund her," Buster says.

The bank rejects what the police told Levers, and said its account opening procedures are robust.

In a statement Lloyds said: "We have a great deal of sympathy for Mrs Levers who has been the victim of a crime. We blocked the account immediately once she reported the fraud which was the day after the payment was made. Unfortunately by this point, no funds remained in the beneficiary account. We have fully investigated this case and all the evidence which indicates this was a scam where a genuine account, operational for a number of years, was unfortunately then used to carry out this fraud."

MPs hear evidence on online fraud

The frequent ways in which banks refuse to refund the victims of email and other online frauds has been laid bare in evidence presented to a parliamentary investigation.

Richard Emery, an independent expert who helps consumers fight their banks, told the Treasury select committee on Tuesday that the banks are mostly "dismissive and uncaring" - and often deny liability - when a customer is the victim of an email fraud or other similar scam.

Appearing alongside Richard Piggin, from the consumer group Which?, Emery says the banks frequently insist the scam victim was "grossly negligent" and on that basis refuse to refund a customer.

Banks typically rely upon a definition of gross negligence that critics say is wide open to interpretation. They argue that the victim may have been subjected to an incredibly sophisticated scam, which in some cases exploits a weakness in the bank's online operation.

The banks are supposed to refund any payment that is not "authorised" by the customer, but frequently do not, and instead will revert to the the gross negligence defence.

Emery said all the banks are bad in this regard but named Santander and Metro Bank as the banks who fight hardest against refunding customers who have been the victim of fraud.

Consumers and businesses are currently losing about £300m a year to authorised push payment frauds as they are known, the session was told. There were over 20,000 reported cases in the first half of 2018, according to UK Finance, which tracks bank fraud.

Emery told MPs that all the banks have also allowed the use of so-called "mule" accounts - particularly students accounts - to be used to funnel money stolen in this way. He said accounts that might have had a few pounds in them for a few years were suddenly receiving hundreds of thousands of pounds - and this was going unnoticed by the banks.

He told MPs that he understood that Lloyds Bank alone has identified 13,000 accounts that have been used as mule accounts.

As previously reported by Guardian Money, Emery said the introduction of faster payments had been a huge boon for fraudsters as they have allowed money to be quickly moved around the financial system.

He has called for the banks to offer a 24-hour delay on payments of £500 or more to new beneficiaries, and for the Financial Conduct Authority to set out in black and white what constitutes "gross negligence". This would encourage the banks to do more to prevent frauds in the first place, he argued.

UK Finance, which represents the banks, says the industry's fraud protection systems stopped £2 out of every £3 of attempted unauthorised fraud last year.

"Banks will always make every effort to help a customer recover any stolen funds and the industry has introduced new standards on how banks respond to scam victims. We are also working closely with the regulator and consumer groups on a new voluntary code to better protect customers from the threat of authorised push payment scams."

(1st January 2019)


(Microsoft, dated 29th November 2018 author Courtney Gregoire)

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On Nov. 27 and 28, over 100 local India law enforcement officials from Gurgaon and Noida raided 16 call center locations identified as engaged in tech support fraud by Microsoft, resulting in 39 arrests so far. These call center operations fraudulently represented themselves as affiliated with a number of respected companies including Microsoft, Apple, Google, Dell and HP. The New York Times reports that Senior Superintendent of Police Ajay Pal Sharma stated "the scammers had extracted money from thousands of victims, most of whom were American or Canadian." Microsoft alone has received over 7,000 victim reports associated with these 16 locations from over 15 countries.

Anyone may receive an unwanted phone call or experience a pop-up window on your device with a "warning" that your computer has a problem requiring immediate tech support. These messages are often very convincing and use scare tactics to entice consumers into contacting a fraudulent "tech support" call center. Call center operators typically encourage the victim to provide remote access to their device for "further diagnosis" before charging the victim a fee - typically between $150 - $499 - for unnecessary tech support services. In addition to losing money, victims leave their computer vulnerable to other attacks, such as malware, during a remote access session.

Recent law enforcement successes in India build on a solid track record of global law enforcement taking action to combat the multiple layers of tech support fraud supported by referrals from Microsoft and other industry partners. For example, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and multiple partners announced 16 separate civil and criminal enforcement actions against tech support fraudsters in May 2017 as part of "Operation Tech Trap." And, in June 2017, the City of London Police announced the arrest of four individuals engaged in computer software services fraud.

In 2014, Microsoft launched an online "report a scam" portal to enable victims to share their tech support fraud experiences directly with our Digital Crimes Unit team. The reports have been a critical starting point for our international investigations and referrals. Our data analytics and innovation team has added additional tools to proactively hunt and pull data from approximately 150,000 suspicious pop-ups daily targeting millions of people and use machine learning to identify those related to tech support fraud.

People who have experienced tech support scams should know they aren't alone, but there are steps you can take to identify and help defend yourself against criminals looking to impersonate legitimate companies. According to our recently released 2018 global survey, three out of five consumers have experienced a tech support scam in the previous 12 months.

The best thing you can do to help protect yourself from fraud is to educate yourself. If you receive a notification or call from someone claiming to be from a reputable software company, here are a few key tips to keep in mind:

- Be wary of any unsolicited phone call or pop-up message on your device.

- Microsoft will never proactively reach out to you to provide unsolicited PC or technical support.

- Any communication we have with you must be initiated by you.

- Do not call the phone number in a pop-up window on your device and be cautious about clicking on notifications asking you to scan your computer or download software. Many scammers try to fool you into thinking their notifications are legitimate.

- Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer.

- If skeptical, take the person's information down and immediately report it to your local authorities.

(1st December 2018)

(ZD Net, dated 28th November 2018 author Danny Palmer)

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Hackers are launching cyber attacks against companies in the pharmaceutical sector more than any other, and campaigns against firms who make drugs have more than doubled in the last year.

The figures come from researchers at security company Proofpoint who have analysed attacks against Fortune Global 500 companies and found that over the course of the last quarter, pharmaceuticals companies were the most targeted, with an average of 71 email fraud attacks per company.

It represents a 149 percent jump in the number of fraudulent business email compromise and phishing attacks against the sector in the same period last year.

Drug companies are a tempting target for cyber criminals because of the intellectual property they hold on new compounds and medicines. If an attacker can get their hands on information about promising research this could be very a very lucrative offering on the black market.

But organisations in all sectors are under attack from email fraudsters, with a large increase in attempted attacks detected across all sectors - up 80-percent compared with the same quarter in 2017 according to the security company.

In many cases attackers are attempting to trick selected employees into letting down their guard and allowing them into the network.

SEE: What is phishing? Everything you need to know to protect yourself from scam emails and more

It's also common for attackers to spoof the email addresses of contacts or high profile individuals in the company in an effort to trick users into giving up data - or transferring large amounts of money. It may sound like a simple form of attack, but the reason the numbers have risen by such a significant amount is because they're proving to be successful. Many of the most high profile and costly attacks in recent years have started with a humble phishing email.

Behind pharmaceuticals, construction firms were the second most attacked during the previous quarter, averaging 61 attacks each. Real estate came third, with those in the sector targeted by an average of 54 attacks during the quarter.

Over the course of the whole year, drug companies are the top target again, with companies in the sector reporting an average of 282 attacks. Real estate is just behind with 277 attacks per company.

Proofpoint suggest a number of ways that organisations can help to protect themselves from attacks, such as training users to spot and report malicious emails and having a back up plan in place in the event of a user falling victim to an attack.

(1st December 2018)

(Washington Examier, daed 28th November 2018 author Diana Stancy Correll)

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uaware Note : This is another example of how criminals are targeting different groups with the same ploy.

More than 400 U.S. military service members were tricked into believing they possessed child porn and surrendered more than $560,000 in order to avoid charges as part of a plot conducted by South Carolina inmates.

"With nothing more than smart phones and a few keystrokes, South Carolina inmates along with outside accomplices victimized hundreds of people," Daniel Andrews, director of the Computer Crime Investigative Unit of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, announced on Wednesday.

According to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, South Carolina inmates established fabricated online female personas on social media forums and online dating website and then singled out 442 service members from the Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps to extort them for money.

The inmates then pretended to step in as either the father of the female or police officers and claim that the female was a minor after the service members responded to the photos and requested money for the family to prevent them from pressing charges for obtaining child pornography, NCIS said.

Arrest warrants had been executed and summonses served by agents from military criminal investigative organizations for money laundering, extortion, and wire fraud. U.S. District Attorney Sherri Lydon said 15 people were indicted. NCIS told the Washington Examiner five arrests were made and five people were served summonses on Wednesday. More than 250 additional individuals are being investigated and could be prosecuted.

The incident was investigated as part of an investigation called Operation Surprise Party, spearheaded by NCIS since January 2017. The Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Army Criminal Investigation Command, and Air Force Office of Special Investigations were also involved with the investigation, as were several outside civilian law enforcement partners.

"This enforcement operation sends a clear message about our unwavering commitment to protect our nation's service members so they can focus on their mission of winning wars and defending the American way of life. Working with our fellow federal agencies and state partners, we will continue efforts to stamp out sexual extortion impacting our communities," Andrews said.

(1st December 2018)

(Britol Post, dated 26th November 2018 author Hannah Baker)

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Small businesses in Bristol are being warned to stay on their guard against a scam after local companies were targeted by criminals.

Not-for-profit business support organisation Brave Enterprise says cold callers have contacted several Bristol businesses to sell advertising space in a bogus publication for what they claim is a good cause.

Callers give the impression that the publisher is working with local charities, emergency services, crime prevention or community health initiatives, according to the national cyber-crime reporting centre Action Fraud.

Sometimes the caller will say that a business has placed an order previously, or that someone else in the firm has agreed to take out advertising space.

The fraudsters may also send the business invoices, whether or not the victim has agreed to advertise.

Nathan Thomas, who recently set up a French polishing business in Staple Hill, was approached by the scammers.

He said: "I have been approached twice by a woman claiming to be calling from a crime prevention magazine. She claimed that I had agreed to put an advert in the publications a few months before and had agreed to pay for the ad, which is nonsense.

"She said she first phoned me in May but I hadn't even set up my business then so wouldn't have had anything to advertise.

"When I told her I hadn't agreed to advertise I was threatened with court action and a visit by the bailiffs to recover the money.

"So I got in touch again with BRAVE and they confirmed that it was a scam and that quite a few people had been targeted.

"My concern is that some people may feel threatened by the prospect of court action and will pay money to these criminals so that they leave them alone."

Liz Sands, director of BRAVE Enterprise, added: "A number of our small businesses clients have been targeted by this type of fraud and one nearly paid money to the scammers involved.

"We want to warn others that these fraudsters are targeting new start-ups in the Bristol area so beware of anyone claiming to represent charities or the emergency services, and certainly don't send any money unless you're absolutely sure the caller is genuine."

To check whether a phone number has been reported as a scam, visit

To report a scam call or too get advice about cyber crime, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit

(1st December 2018)

(Which?, dated 23rd November 2018 author Hannah Walsh)

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uaware note : The actual article provides examples of scammers emails.

The UK's national fraud and cyber reporting centre is warning the public of a surge in TV Licensing refund emails.

Action Fraud is reporting that it received hundreds of reports of scam TV Licensing refund or payment issue emails in just a matter of days, adding up to more than 2,500 complaints throughout September and October 2018.

The fake emails are being sent by scammers in a bid to steal bank account and personal details.

How does the TV Licensing refund email scam work?

The emails claim that TV Licensing have been trying to get hold of the victim regarding a refund for an over-payment or that a refund is owed, but due to invalid account details it hasn't been paid.

The fraudsters include links to convincing-looking cloned TV Licensing websites designed to harvest bank account and credit card details.

We asked Action Fraud for examples of these scams. Look out for emails that don't include your correct name or that contain spelling or grammatical errors.

How does the TV Licensing payment issue scam email work?

Other fraudulent TV licence emails doing the rounds, state that the receiver's billing information records are out of date and need to be updated. As with the refund emails, these include a prominent link to a near-identical clone of the real TV Licensing website.

Victims who fall for these scams are asked for a lengthy list of personal and financial information:

- Full name
- Date of birth
- Address
- Phone number
- Email
- Mother's maiden name
- Credit or bank card number and details
- TV licence account number.

Once the victim submits this information, it goes straight to the scammers.

How to spot a TV licence scam

TV Licensing has issued several tips for identifying a genuine email from them:

- Check that the email contains your name TV Licensing will always include your name in any emails they send you.

- Check the email subject line Anything along the lines of 'Action required', 'Security alert', 'System upgrade', 'There is a secure message waiting for you', and so on, should be treated as suspect.

- Check the email address Does the email address look like one that TV Licensing use? For example, Look closely, as often the address may be similar.

- Check for a change in style Often the scammers will take the real emails and amend them. Look out for changes in the wording used, especially if it seems too casual or familiar.

- Check for spelling and grammar Are there any spelling mistakes, missing full stops or other grammatical errors?

- Check the links go to the TV Licensing website Hover over the links in the email to see their destination and check the web address carefully. If you're not sure, go directly to the TV Licensing website.

TV Licensing will never ask you to reply to an email to provide bank details or personal information, and you should be wary of any correspondence that does.

What to do if you've entered your personal details

If you've entered personal details, you need to be extra vigilant.

- If you receive any suspicious emails or odd postal messaging going forward, ignore them - they could be from a scammer hoping you'll fall for their next scam.

- Keep an eye on your credit report and bank accounts - scammers can use personal information to steal your identity and open new accounts or take out credit.

- The scammer could also add your details to a 'suckers lists' of people who are liable to fall for a future scams, commonly sold on the dark web.

Whatever form a message comes in, make sure you don't give away any bank details or passwords. Read our guide on how to spot an email scam for top tips about identifying email scams :

(1st December 2018)

(Coventry Telegraph, dated 23rd November 2018 author James Rodger)

Full article [Option 1]:

Scammers claiming to be from Tesco are running a fake competition in an attempt to steal people's bank details.

Fraudsters are targeting potential victims with an email asking them to fill in a survey to be in with a chance of winning prizes.

The link takes you to a form on an external website where it asks you to hand over your personal details.

'Winners' are then asked to choose one of three prizes and to pay £4.95 to cover the postage costs.

But instead of receiving your chosen prize, you gift the scammers your personal details instead.

One Tesco customer, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the Daily Mail to warn others not to fall for the scam.

They warned that the email was sent from a "very authentic Tesco site" and that they qualified to be entered into a prize draw if they filled out a customer satisfaction survey.

"I opted for the CBD oil. The winner was asked to only pay postage of £4.95. I clicked the link for the goods which did not lead to the product I had selected (CBD oil)," they told the Daily Mail.

"I became suspicious and called Tesco customer service department, which had no idea about the offer - it was a scam. I sent the real Tesco the email and pics of the scam Tesco site."

The supermarket confirmed that the email is a fake and has urged customers not to open it.

It added that it only ever ran competitions with accredited marketing agencies and would never ask for money in exchange for a reward.

Tesco also warns on its website that it doesn't run any competitions via email or social media offering free vouchers or rewards for liking, sharing and commenting on posts.

The retailer also warns about fake 'Tesco Offers' pages that pop up on Facebook, saying: "We don't have a separate 'offers' page.

"The fake voucher giveaway is just the bait used to trick people in engaging with the bogus page and there are no real prizes up for grabs."

Customers can report a scam to the Tesco customer service team on 0800 505555.

(1st December 2018)

(Metro, dated 23rd November 2018 author Martine Berg Olsen)

Full article [Option 1]:

A conman who claimed he was a dentist targeted pensioners and gave them fake dentures.

Charlie Von Klemperer, who took out an advert in a local newspaper advertising his dentistry service, was caught after a woman complained about her dentures following a sting operation at a care home, a court heard.

The 66-year-old, claimed the General Dental Council (GDC) was just being 'difficult' and argued that he was qualified.

The GDC launched an undercover investigation and exposed Von Klemperer after getting him to visit a care home to measure up a lady for her false teeth.

Von Klemperer had repeatedly attempted to register with GDC under different names, but was never accepted, Portsmouth Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Christopher Prior said the fake dentist took out adverts offering his dentistry services knowing he was not authorised to do so.

Mr Prior told the court Von Klemperer was caught out when he took £225 from an old lady for fitting her dentures. She complained after having issues with them.

Mr Prior told the court: 'An employee contacted the man purporting to be Mr Smith and arranged for him to attend a care home in Bexhill-on-Sea. 'She gave the impression her mother required a new set of dentures.

'The defendant attended purporting to be Mr Smith, confirmed that he was a dental professional, thus giving rise to the fraud.

'He was arrested and gave his name as Von Klemperer. In searching his property a record book, a diary, was found - there were a great number of names.'

The court heard all the clients were contacted, with a further two victims of the denture fraud being found - one having lost £400, while the other was charged £399 but did not pay.

Von Klemperer, of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, admitted three charges of fraud between 2016 and 2017.

In mitigation, the court heard a number of his clients were contacted after he was arrested and only a small number complained.

Von Klemperer is trained in podiatry and is making £3,000 a month while also practising as a foot care specialist.

Judge Timothy Mousley QC sentenced Von Klemperer to 150 hours of unpaid work and ordered he complete days of rehabilitation and to repay his two victims who paid him for dentures.

The judge told him: 'The letter you've written me shows remorse.

'I have some hesitation accepting that as genuine as, of course, the letter is written by someone who is an accomplished fraudster and has been for most of his life.'

uaware - further information

General Dental Council :

Find a NHS dentist :

(1st December 2018)

(Chicago Sun Times, dated 23rd November 2018 author Alexandria Jacobson)

Full article [Option 1] :

uaware note : This is a USA article, but the scam is internationally transferable and similar to the HMRC / iTune scam

When Samantha Stahl, a Columbia College Chicago graduate student, was offered a $450-a-week nanny job, she didn't hesitate to take it.

She often babysat for extra cash, finding work through, a website where families can post jobs and caregivers post their profiles and references.

That's where she was hired last year by someone posting under the names "Brenda and Cody Davies" - supposedly a couple moving from Ontario to Chicago with their 2-year-old son.

"It really sounded all legit because of all the details she was giving me and the location of where they were moving," says Stahl, 24, who was living in Wrigleyville and since has moved to New York. "It just sounded real."

But it wasn't. And this latest version of a fake-check scam that consumer experts call the nanny scam, usually targeting younger people looking to make a little money, ended up costing Stahl $1,500.

Contacted by text, Stahl says she was asked if she could help with a few errands to set up the house before the couple arrived from Canada. Stahl was sent a check for $2,000. "Brenda" told her to keep $450 for her first week's pay and use the rest to buy Apple gift cards she said were for family members' birthdays. Stahl deposited the check in her bank account and bought $1,550 in gift cards.

Then, Stahl's new employer asked her to scratch off the gift card codes and text photos of the numbers, supposedly just so the family wouldn't have to wait to receive their gifts.

That made Stahl suspicious. She put the woman off, saying she couldn't do that right away because she was swamped with schoolwork.

The next day, her bank alerted her that the $2,000 check - a fake - had bounced.

Stahl tried to confront "Brenda" about the bad check, but the woman disappeared.

Stahl was glad she hadn't divulged the codes, but she was still on the hook to her bank for the $1,550 for a lot of gift cards she didn't need.

"It's really crazy how people think they can prey on young adults," she says. "But I can see how easy it is because we want the money."

The nanny scam is one of a burgeoning series of cons that involve getting people to send money to scammers via gift cards or reloadable debit cards.

These things are big business. According to the Federal Trade Commission, reported losses from gift card and reloadable debit card scams have amounted to $53 million this year just by September. That's up from $40 million in 2017 and $27 million in 2016.

Young people lose money to these scams at a much higher rate than older consumers do, according to the FTC. Of those who reported losing money to fake cheque scams, 36 percent were under 30.

Con artists like to use gift cards because, once they have the codes to them, they can grab the value in a transaction that's fast, anonymous and irreversible.

In the nanny scam version of the scam, fraudsters look for victims on "Nanny" or childminding websites. They say they're moving to the nanny's area, need someone to care for a child, a parent or even a pet, and they give a story about why they need to send the nanny a cheque in advance.

Or, in another version of the ruse, the scammer "accidentally" sends a check for more than needed to buy supplies and asks the nanny to wire back the overpayment. The counterfeit check bounces, and the nanny is stuck.

"If someone sends you a check and asks you to deposit it and then to send money to some third party for whatever reason, that's always going to be a scam. Every time," says Todd Kossow, the FTC's Midwest regional director.

"The fact that the money appears in your account does not mean the check is cleared. By law (US), the bank has to make the funds available. And it can take as much as a week or longer for the bank actually to determine that the check is phony."

(1st December 2018)

(Irish Mirror, datd 22nd November 2018 author Aakanksha Surve)

Full article [Option 1]:

uaware note: This form of scam can easily be committed within the UK

Irish farmers have been warned to protect themselves against online scams.

Older farmers in particular have been warned to look out for one of the most common scams called "Goods Not Received".

In this scam, farmers order and pay for products online but never receive the delivery.

A Limerick farmer was recently scammed out of a "considerable amount of money" when he tried to buy hay, the Irish Independent reports.

The farmer paid the money into the seller's bank account but never received the bales of hay.

Denise Cusack, FarmIreland Ulster Bank's Community Protection Advisor, warned farmers to do their research well regarding the website and sellers, and look for reviews if possible.

Ms Cusack said: "Remember seeing is believing, where possible view the item you are buying or look for relevant documentation before handing over any money."

Another scam that farmers need to be aware of is "The Overpayment Scam" where legitimate sellers are targeted.

The scammer pays using a cheque or draft paying a higher price than what was agreed upon.

Ms Cusack said: "The seller then receives an email to inform them a mistake has been made and they have been overpaid in error.

"The fraudster asks the seller to return all or part of the money electronically, as quickly as possible."

The original cheque and draft, which is forged or counterfeit, will be rejected so the seller loses money.

Other scams include fraudsters calling or texting pretending to be from their bank, gardai, or other companies to fish out personal information and scam them out of money.

"They often use sophisticated technology to make the number appear like it's a genuine number," she said.

(1st December 2018)

(BBC News, dated 21st November 2018 author David Quinn)

Full article [Option 1]:

A Royal Bank of Scotland customer had more than £4,300 stolen from her account by a fraudulent caller who answered one of her security questions wrongly, BBC Watchdog Live has found.

For more than a year, the bank insisted Charlotte Higman had been aware of the transaction and refused to refund her.

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) backed RBS after the initial complaint.

But earlier this month, RBS apologised and issued Charlotte a full refund, after Watchdog Live's investigation.

'I feel really angry'

Charlotte, from Totnes in Devon, believes that RBS repeatedly failed to pick up on evidence, including warnings raised in its own security processes.

In a recording of the fraudulent phone call obtained by Watchdog Live, a woman can be heard incorrectly answering a security question relating to Charlotte's occupation.

Despite this, a transaction of £4,318 is approved by the bank and it is only after the caller requests a second transaction, and is unable to answer additional security questions, that a warning is raised on Charlotte's account.

The bank's own records show that the phone call, in January 2017, was marked as a "potential account takeover" and the caller failed the bank's voice recognition checks. Despite this, the initial transaction was not reversed.

After reporting the call to the police, Charlotte discovered her phone line was diverted on the day of the call, explaining why the bank believed they were speaking to her at her home address.

"I just feel really angry that someone's been able to do it that easily," Charlotte told Watchdog.

"The bank said that the person was in the home, they did the transactions from the home and they passed all the security questions correctly - and that's why they believed that I'd done it."

Charlotte's case pre-dates a new voluntary code of conduct on such scams which most of the banks have signed up to.

In essence, the code says that if a customer - or the bank - has failed to heed warning signs, they will be liable for any subsequent loss.

Under the code, RBS would have been obliged to pay up.

The industry is still consulting on the issue, and the code is expected to be finalised next year.

Fraud lawyer Arun Chauhan told the programme: "I have a lot of sympathy for Charlotte,

"You can hear what [the caller has] tried to do is put together two transactions for the full balance of the account and the bank just don't pick it up as a warning sign.

"They know at the end this is fraud, but they've done nothing about the first transaction and that's why Charlotte should be so critical of the bank."

According to fraud prevention service Cifas, facility takeover fraud - when a fraudster abuses personal data to hijack someone's existing account or services - rose 7% last year to more than 24,000 reported cases.

Bank accounts remain the most targeted product for fraudsters, with more than 100,000 reported cases in the UK last year.

This is how the fraud on Charlotte was carried out:

- Bank records show the fraudster initially calls the bank, posing as Charlotte, and asks for her account to be reset for security reasons. Staff follow the bank's usual security protocol and call Charlotte's landline number, unaware the call has been diverted to a mobile phone

- The security reset is processed despite the caller answering a security question incorrectly. The caller then requests that more than £4,300 should be transferred to another account and the bank allows the transfer

- During the same 23-minute call, the caller requests a second transfer of a similar amount is made to a different account. This time security questions are flagged as being answered incorrectly and the transfer is denied, but the bank does not ask for the original transfer to be recalled

- The bank maintained that because it had called Charlotte's home phone number to verify her identity, it was clear she was aware of the transactions. Following an investigation by Devon and Cornwall Police, it was discovered that the fraudster had made a call to Charlotte's landline provider to fraudulently divert the number to a mobile phone number in a different part of the UK

The FOS warned banks earlier this year that customers should not automatically be blamed for money lost through scams.

It added that fraudsters' growing sophistication meant it was wrong to assume losses were because of customer carelessness.

The FOS aims to resolve issues for customers relating to financial services including bank accounts, insurance, loans, credit and debit cards and investments. Last year, it was contacted by more than two million people.

'Fair and reasonable'

A FOS spokesperson said: "We have made it clear to the banks that it's not fair to automatically blame a customer when they've lost money due to a scam, especially given the sophisticated way criminals exploit banks' security systems.

"When we look at complaints, we have to carefully weigh up the evidence provided by both parties to decide what we think is fair and reasonable in all the circumstances.

"We're pleased that Charlotte's complaint has now been resolved, and she's got her money back. If you've been the victim of a scam, and you feel your bank should have done more to help, please get in touch with us."

After being contacted by Watchdog Live, an RBS spokesperson said: "We would like to apologise to Mrs Higman that the service provided fell short of the high standards we expect.

"On review of Mrs Higman's case, and in light of new information provided to us, we have refunded Mrs Higman in full for her loss."

(1st December 2018)

(Gazette Live, dated 21st November 2018 author Naomi Corrigan)

Full article [Option 1]:

Internet porn viewers are being warned about a blackmail scam.

Cyber crime detectives are investigating several emails which threaten to expose people for viewing pornographic material online.

The criminal sends an email claiming to have installed spyware and filmed the recipient engaging in intimate acts via the webcam.

They threaten to send the footage to family and friends unless a fee is paid.

Cleveland Police said the email seems credible as it often contains a genuine password that the victim has used for one of their online accounts.

However the password has likely been stolen in a data breach.

he force has received eight reports from victims in the last year. Officers believe it may be more widespread with people too embarrassed to come forward.

Detective Constable Will Galloway said: "These emails make people really believe that they have been spied on, particularly if they have been indulging in what has been claimed.

"The messages are intimidating, threatening, and seek to cause fear and panic. Emails are sent out at random in the hope that an unsuspecting victim takes the bait and pays thousands.

"People can protect themselves by not clicking on any links in the email, not paying the demanded fee and not responding.

"I would encourage victims of this scam to contact action fraud, the national police team who are looking at these cyber scams."

Action Fraud

Website :

Telephone : 0300 123 2040

(1st December 2018)

(Chronicle Live, dated 19th November 2018 author Ben O'Connell)

Full article [Option 1]:

Unwitting victims in the North East lost more than £8.7million to fraudsters in the last three years, figures have shown.

Freedom of Information (FOI) data from Northumbria Police shows there were 4,730 cases of fraud against individuals (excluding businesses) in the region over a three-year period.

The Northumbria figures - which reflect that of other police forces across the UK - shows that those most likely to be victims are those aged 22 to 37, despite the common view fraudsters usually target the old and vulnerable.

The data, compiled by online finance broker Solution Loans, shows 20 per cent of personal frauds committed in the last three years were done so at the expense of those in the 18-29 age bracket, compared to just nine per cent aged 60 to 69.

Collectively, those aged 18-39 were the victims in 35 per cent of fraud cases.

This is put down to younger people's wider use of the internet and social media; millennials spend more time online overall than their older peers and are much more likely to be on social media, which is increasingly where fraudsters operate.

Previous research from the Policy Network has shown that 80 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds are willing to share their email address online and as many as 29 per cent were willing to divulge their mother's maiden name, a common security question.

In the Northumbria force area, the average lost to fraud was £1,389, however, 14 of the area's 4,730 fraud victims lost £100,000 or more. In total, £8,702,093 was lost to fraud in the three-year period covered by the data.

The force also reported 127 judicial outcomes to all fraud cases (against businesses and individuals) between October 2017 and March 2018.

Earlier this year, speaking to Northumberland County Council, Chief Constable Winton Keenan said: "The truth is, the world of policing is becoming more challenging. The public, those you represent, have really high expectations of what we can and should do for them.

"Unfortunately some of those expectations we have for all the right reasons are becoming ever more difficult to honour and that's going to increase because the complexity of crime, as you will all know, is changing massively (for example, cyber crime)."

(1st December 2018)

(Guardian, dated 19th November 2018 author Patrick Greenfield)

Full article [Option 1]:

The records of up to 3,000 doctors are being reviewed after it emerged that a woman worked as a NHS consultant psychiatrist for 22 years with fake qualifications before she was convicted of trying to defraud a patient.

Zholia Alemi, 56, was jailed for five years last month for faking an 87-year-old patient's will as part of an attempt to inherit her £1.3m estate after they met at a dementia clinic in Workington, Cumbria in 2016.

Following the trial, an investigation by the Cumbrian newspaper News and Star revealed Alemi had been working in the UK for more than two decades with forged qualifications from the University of Auckland.

The convicted fraudster had failed the first year of medical school in New Zealand in 1992, but subsequently managed to register as a doctor with the General Medical Council (GMC) with a forged degree certificate, forged primary medical qualification and a fake letter of recommendation from her most recent job in Pakistan, under a visa scheme that has since been discontinued.

The investigation has prompted an urgent review of all doctors who registered with the GMC under the scheme, which allowed graduates of medical schools in some Commonwealth countries to work in the UK without having to pass an exam.

The GMC said it was incredibly rare case but started a review after the News and Star made them aware of the details of Alemi's faked qualifications.

In October, a court heard how Alemi befriended Gillian Belham, then 84, who was struggling to deal with the recent death of her husband. Alemi redrafted the pensioner's will and fraudulently applied for power of attorney over her estate. The consultant psychiatrist was found guilty of four fraud and theft charges at Carlisle Crown court and was jailed for five years.

In response to the cases, Charlie Massey, the chief executive of the GMC, said: "It is extremely concerning that a person used a fraudulent qualification to join the register and we are working to understand how this happened. We have brought this to the attention of police and other agencies, including NHS England, so that they may also take any necessary action to support patients and answer any questions they may have.

"Our processes are far stronger now, with rigorous testing in place to ensure those joining the register are fit to work in the UK. It is clear that in this case the steps taken in the 1990s were inadequate and we apologise for any risk arising to patients as a result. We are confident that, 23 years on, our systems are robust and would identify any fraudulent attempt to join the medical register.

"Patients deserve good care from appropriately qualified professionals and place a great deal of trust in doctors. To exploit that trust and the respected name of the profession is abhorrent."

A Cumbria police spokesman told the News and Star: "Cumbria Constabulary is liaising with the General Medical Council and will be commencing further criminal investigations relating to allegations of fraud and any potential further offences. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time."

(1st December 2018)

(Independent, dated 16th November 2018 author Anthony Cuthbertson)

Full article [Option 1]:

Fake Black Friday and Cyber Monday apps have been spreading online, as cyber criminals seek to cash in on the annual shopping bonanza.

A report from cyber security firm RiskIQ found that Black Friday is a "feast for threat actors," with brand names of the five leading retailers used in malicious and fraudulent mobile apps.

These apps seek to fool people into sharing their login credentials or credit card details in the hope of finding the best Black Friday deals.

"For shoppers, what starts as an attempt to fulfil their holiday shopping checklist for pennies on the dollar can turn into a financial nightmare," the report states.

"With more people than ever poised to partake in this year's November shopping frenzy, attackers will capitalize by using the brand names of leading e-tailers to exploit users looking for Black Friday deals and coupons by creating fake mobile apps and landing pages to fool consumers into downloading malware."

The potential financial rewards for cyber criminals is enormous, with figures from Adobe Digital Index revealing online shoppers spent $19.6 billion in 2017.

This year, hackers pose an especially significant risk given the rise of Magecart, a collection of credit card-skimming groups that have already targeted sites like British Airways and Ticketmaster.

"Magecart attacks are surging - RiskIQ's automatic detections of instances of Magecart breaches pings us almost hourly," RiskIQ researcher Yonathan Klijnsma wrote in a September report on Magecart.

"Meanwhile, we're seeing attackers evolve and improve over time, setting their sights on breaches of large brands."

RiskIQ detected an average of 89,837 monthly instances of Magecart between August and October 2018. Of Black Friday-specific apps, more than 5 per cent of the 4,331 apps analysed were found to be malicious.

The names of the retailers used in the names of the scam apps were not listed in the report, though it is likely they sought to capitalise on the popularity of firms like Amazon and eBay.

"The top-10 most trafficked brands averaged over 17 blacklisted apps containing both its branded terms and 'Black Friday,' in the title or description, showing clear intent by threat actors to leverage the shopping holiday," the report states.

"For brands, what begins as an event that significantly boosts sales can turn into a security fiasco that erodes the trust of customers and prospects."

Shoppers are advised to only download apps from official app stores like Google Play and Apple's App Store, while remaining wary of any Black Friday-related links spreading on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Luis Corrons, a cyber expert from the security firm Avast, warned that even some apps listed on official stores could pose a risk to people.

"In the past, Avast has found fake apps on the Google Play Store that use logos and developer names closely resembling or identical to popular apps, in order to trick people into downloading them," he said in an email to The Independent.

Mr Corrons also warned that fake apps would be just one way criminals are likely to target consumers on Black Friday.

"Finding a discount is always exciting, but shoppers should be cautious of offers that are far below the market price, as this can indicate an untrustworthy deal," he said.

"Whether it be on social media or an online ad, shoppers should be careful when it comes to unknown shops, especially if they are promoting sales at ridiculously low prices."

(1st December 2018)

(This is Money, dated 9th November 2018 author Angelique Ruzicka)

Full article [Option 1]:

Fraudsters are cloning Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs contact numbers to help pass scam attempts off as 'legitimate' it has warned.

The aim is to then steal thousands of pounds from unsuspecting victims who go on to believe the ruse - and This is Money has received examples of this happening.

Criminals call potential victims using Voice over Internet Protocol technologies to copy the taxman number (usually 0300 200 3300) and cruelly pass themselves off as HMRC employees that are conducting audits and catching out tax evaders.

They tell their target they haven't paid their taxes in previous years and they need to make an immediate transfer of the 'outstanding' monies, or risk legal action and prison.

Some smartphones even display that the number comes from the HMRC making the scam more believable to people who then transfer money to criminals out of fear.

If the victim isn't home or doesn't answer the phone, the scammers aren't put off.

They often leave voice messages or send emails purporting to be from the HMRC and demanding immediate call backs.

An HMRC spokesperson told This is Money: 'We are well aware that fraudsters are trying to spoof our real numbers in order to legitimatise their crimes. We encourage people, as with any scam, to be vigilant.

'We will never call you out of the blue asking for money. If you're in doubt, you can put the phone down and call us back.

'You can report this scam to or Action Fraud at 0300 123 2040. All our phone numbers are listed on if people want to call us.'

Reports of a surge in taxman number cloning comes after our report last week in which a mum of two lost £2,900 from her HSBC savings,

It came after a scammer persuaded her that he was calling from the HMRC and threatened her with legal action and arrest.

Another reader from Surrey wrote in soon after our report conveying a similar story of how his wife was targeted by 'HMRC' fraudsters and lost more than £2,400.

She also banks with HSBC.

He said: 'My wife has just last week been involved in the exact same scam, and some of the similarities are really terrifying.

'I finished early last week and got home to find my wife and daughter both crying.

He added: 'My wife was on the phone and refused to tell me what was happening other than she was being investigated for tax evasion by HMRC, and that she was being monitored and wasn't allowed to speak to anyone else about the case as it would break the terms of their agreement.

'I eventually managed to convince her that this could not be genuine, but by that point the damage had already been done.

'They had been keeping her on the phone to make sure the payment she had made (£2,486) earlier on had gone through.'

A HSBC UK spokesperson said: 'Scammers are expert manipulators and use a range of techniques to find and use public and private information about their victims, both before and during contact with them, without them realising.

'They then use this information within different scenarios to convince people that a bank transfer is necessary and make it appear plausible and legitimate.

'In this case, there's nothing to suggest the scammer already had access to specific financial information about the customer.

'After being notified of the scam we acted quickly to contact the receiving bank, making it aware of the transaction in question and the suspected fraudulent activity.

'It is then up to the receiving bank to investigate and return funds to the customer.'

Number spoofing is a fairly simple technique for fraudsters. They clone the telephone number of an organisation they wish to impersonate and make it appear on the caller ID display seen by their intended victim.

Websites that offer this type of service are easy to find.

The scammer gains trust by drawing attention to the number on the display and uses this as proof of identity in order to disguise the fraud.

Many may not realise how easy it is for a fraudster to make a telephone number appear it is coming from a bank or a government organisation.

HMRC tips on how to identify a scam

- Recognise the signs - genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, password or bank details.

- Stay safe - don't give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren't expecting.

- Take action - forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to and texts to 60599, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls or use their online fraud reporting tool.

- HMRC debt management teams do contact members of the public by phone about paying outstanding debts.

- If a customer isn't confident that the call is from HMRC, it will ask them to call back. Depending on the circumstances and to give the customer confidence it is actually HMRC calling, information may be disclosed to the caller which only HMRC is party to.

- Calls from the majority of HMRC offices will leave caller identification data, i.e. the number the caller has used to contact you from.

- For up to date advice on scam HMRC phone calls, visit GOV.UK.

- HMRC will call people about outstanding tax bills, and sometimes use automated messages, however this would include your taxpayer reference number. If you are uncertain of the caller hang up and call HMRC directly to check - you can confirm our call centre numbers on GOV.UK if you are unsure. For tax credits it does not include your details in any voicemail messages.

Beat the Scammers

In 2016, This is Money launched its Beat the Scammers section, in a bid to help readers stay one step ahead of the latest fraud trends.

This HMRC prison scam is yet another example of how criminals adapt and attempt to play on fear in order to deceive people out of their hard-earned cash.

(1st December 2018)

(The Register, dated 8th November 2018 author Andrew Orlowski)

Full article [Option 1]:

While fraudsters traditionally prey on the gullible and feeble-minded, their wicked ways have ensnared British Labour MP Diane Abbott.

The UK Shadow Home Secretary admitted to handing over control of her computer to a stranger after a random caller asked her to install Remote PC. It's a common scam. Once the miscreant has control of the PC, they often attempt to steal sensitive information like passwords and bank details.

As Home Secretary - note that Ladbrokes offers 4-1 on Labour being the next government - Ms Abbott would be responsible for cybersecurity, as well as crime and policing. She would also have to decide whether Britain implements an identity card system, an idea currently being revived in the context of "digital government".

Yes. Sadly I was initially taken in
- Diane Abbott (@HackneyAbbott) November 6, 2018


We asked her office if Ms Abbott would consider helping to publicise the menace of PC Support fraud. Perhaps as its public face?

(1st December 2018)

(Guardian, dated 7th November 2018 author Anna Tims)

Full article [Option 1]:


An unauthorised transaction was made on my PayPal account and £220 was used to buy a Flightgiftcard. The fraudster then closed my account. PayPal opened an appeal and stated that the money should be put back into my account within 48 hours. I was then sent an email explaining that my appeal had been denied as I am no longer a PayPal customer. This is because the fraudster had closed my account. After three weeks of chasing, PayPal advised me to ask my bank to raise a dispute since I'm no longer a PayPal customer.

The bank told me that it couldn't help as the fraud occurred on my PayPal account, not on my debit card.

IB, Cardiff


This is a disgraceful case. For nearly a month PayPal washed its hands of you, declaring that it had closed your complaint because your account had been terminated.

It then erroneously claimed its hands were tied because your bank had issued a chargeback request (it hadn't) and, finally, that your bank had refused your chargeback request and returned the funds to the merchant (it hadn't).

Only when the Observer intervened did it discover that it had messed up. "Due to human error, the unauthorised payment on the customer's PayPal account was not appropriately dealt with," says a spokesperson. "We have apologised and issued a goodwill credit to her account for the inconvenience caused." The stolen money has now been refunded.

(1st December 2018)

(Mirror, dated 5th November 2018 author Dean Durham)

Full article [Option 1]:

Scams always increase this time of year in the run up to Christmas and consumers need to be more vigilant.

Richard, a reader from North Wales recently started to receive debt collection letters from two different companies, both claiming that he had arrears on two credit cards.

One letter referred to a card from three years ago and the second from five years ago.

Neither letter actually stated details of the card so Richard could not make further enquiries or ascertain if the information was correct.

In both cases the letters started to get, in Richards words 'heavy' and he was concerned.

Also, in both cases every time he tried to call the debt collection company he couldn't get through.

Richard then received a call on 3rd October from a man who announced himself as Stephen Gage from Consumer Debt Assistance.

He told Richard that his organisation helps consumers who are pursued for debts through the courts and that they had received notification that legal proceedings had been issued against him in the Caernaerfon County Court.

Richard knew nothing about this as he had not received any notification.

Mr Gage then explained that this was not unusual as the courts often took a long time to send out paperwork.

Mr Gage then threw on his cape and explained how he could wade in, like a superhero, and solve all of Richards problems.

He asked if he was being chased for any other debts. In response, Richard told him that he was being chased by two debt collection companies, who between them were claiming £13,750.

Gage explained that the court proceedings was in relation to one of these debts and that it was highly likely that the other would also go to the courts soon.

He then explained what he could do to help, which in short was to negotiate on his behalf to reduce the two debts.

Naturally Richard didn't want to pay anything as he wasn't sure they were genuine debts.

Gage explained that the best thing to do would be to agree a deal to get them off his back and then to prove the debts were not Richards and claim the money back. Richard agreed.

Two days later Gage gave him the 'good news' that he had negotiated with both companies and all Richard had to do was transfer £5,000 to him and both matters were solved.

Richard made the transfer and the rest is obvious - he found out it was all a scam. A neighbour put a note through everyone's door warning that someone had tried to scam them and it was the same person, same story.

(1st December 2018)

(Observer, dated 4th November 2018 author Sarah Butler)

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The government is launching an inquiry into the use of personal data to set individual prices for holidays, cars and household goods, amid rising fears of a consumer rip-off.

The research, supported by the competition watchdog, will explore the prevalence of "dynamic pricing" based on information gathered about an individual, such as location, marital status, birthday or travel history. With about 17% of retail sales now made online, according to the Office for National Statistics, there is rising concern about the use of technology, including artificial intelligence and bots, to "personalise" prices, to the disadvantage of some shoppers.

It has become common for online prices to fluctuate depending on time of day or availability - whether for gig tickets or Uber taxis. Now digital labels have begun to appear in shops, offering the potential to bring "surge pricing" into analogue sales.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), said: "With more of us shopping online, it's important we understand how advances in technology impact consumers … so we can understand how best to protect people from unfair practices where they exist. We will also use the results in our ongoing efforts to help vulnerable consumers."

The issue was raised at a meeting last week of the new Consumer Forum, which brought together watchdogs, including the CMA, Ofcom, Ofgem and the Civil Aviation Authority, with consumer minister Kelly Tolhurst. The chancellor, Philip Hammond, has asked a panel of experts led by Jason Furman, a former adviser to Barack Obama, to examine competition in the digital economy, including how machine learning and algorithms are used to set prices and whether firms could gang up to disadvantage consumers. The group's call for evidence also says it wants to learn more about how consumers pay for "free" services by handing over their data.

Business secretary Greg Clark said: "UK businesses are leading the way in harnessing new technologies … But companies should not abuse this technology and data to treat consumers, particularly vulnerable ones, unfairly."

(1st December 2018)

(Telegraph, dated 3rd November 2018 author Jessica Gorst-Williams

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On returning home today, I found a message on my answering machine claiming to be from HMRC.

The message stated that an arrest warrant had been issued under my name and I should press "one" to speak to my case officer.

I took no action as I considered this to be yet another scam.

However, I feel this should be highlighted as some people could be very frightened to receive such a call.

RM, Midlothian

Authors Response

I understand HMRC has heard from many other members of the public who have had similar calls.

HMRC says: "Phone scams are widely reported, and generally attempt to target elderly and vulnerable people. We are a well-known brand, which criminals abuse to add credibility to their scams.

"If someone calls you claiming to be from HMRC saying that you will be arrested, that we are filing a lawsuit against you, or even that you are owed a tax refund, and asks for information such as your name, credit card or bank details, then it's a scam."

However, HMRC adds that its debt management teams do contact members of the public by phone about paying outstanding debts.

Such communications, though, would not come out of the blue as the person being called would already know about the issue.

Also HMRC itself will call people about outstanding tax bills, and does sometimes use automated messages, but these automated calls would include the taxpayer reference number.

If there is any uncertainty, call HMRC on one of the call centre numbers listed at

(1st December 2018)

(U3A / Third Age Matters, dated Winter 2018)

An 89 year old friend, a U3A member, recently answered a phone call saying that her provider (not BT) had gone down and to press 1 to get advice.

This she did. In the ensuing silence, she began to be suspicious. When she checked her account, she found that the call had cost her £100.

Her son phoned the provider and argued successfully that this fraud had taken place in their name and they had some responsibility. The charge was removed from her account.

A few days later I received a recorded message that my BT service was "compromised". For advice I had to press 1, and to get another supplier press 2. I put the phone down and immediately dialed 1572, BT's free Call Protect service, to get the number of the last caller into the "junk" box.

Scam callers are becoming more sophisticated and numerous. They know their target, where they live and whether they live alone. Most scam calls occur around lunchtime and in the afternoon - when the people at home to receive them are mostly within the U3A age range.

BT stresses the importance of informing the provider after receiving a scam call. BT now has a special investigation department dedicated to eliminating scam calls and callers.

Submitted by : K Kinder, North Yorkshire

Call Blocker

For £50 you can buy a phone that blocks all nuisance calls, including those from con merchants. I have one and it works.

Submitted by : M Hathaway, Northumberland

Scam call

What a timely article on phone scams. The day after I received my copy of the U3A magazine arrived, I received a phone call purporting to be from Microsoft regarding my computer, which I was then able to report to the Action Fraud organisation.

Submitted by : D Balchin, Surrey

(1st December 2018)



(Business Insider, dated 19th October 2018 author Antonio Villas-Boas)

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A new scam is targeting people by disguising itself as a Spotify email asking you to verify your subscription information after being charged for a year's subscription of Spotify's Premium streaming service.

Potential victims aren't charged for Spotify's Premium service, but may click the link in the email because they're surprised to receive the email.

The link leads you to a fake Apple ID login site that expects you to use your Apple ID credentials.

Once you try to log in, your Apple ID credentials are likely sent to the scammers.

A new phishing scam is targeting people by using a fake Spotify email in order to get you to hand over your Apple ID.

The email contains the fake confirmation of a year's subscription to Spotify's Premium streaming service - it's likely intended to prey on your surprise that you may have been erroneously charged. The email prompts victims to click a link to cancel or "review your subscription."

(Dated 19th October 2018)

East Sussex Trading Standards are warning residents to be vigilant about companies who are cold calling and claiming to offer a home insulation scheme which is supported by East Sussex County Council. However, it is possible that similar improper approaches may be made anywhere across the county.

It is not in the remit for East Sussex County Council to support schemes that involve cold calling, and companies claiming that they do are misleading residents and may be breaking the law.

(ITProportal, dated 21st September 2018 author Sead Fadilpasic)

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There has been a significant rise in stolen corporate email accounts that are being used in phishing attempts. This is according to a new report by security experts Barracuda.

The security firm is claiming email accounts from employees all over the UK are being stolen. Hackers would then log into these accounts remotely and, posing as the email's legitimate owner, try to 'phish' out any valuable information.

Besides phishing for valuable information, the attackers can also use their disguise to try and get the victim to click on a malicious link, which would end up downloading a piece of malware onto the machine.

(Dated September 2018)

Phishing emails have been sent to the Virgin Media clients asking them to update their billing details. The company have said they had not sent them and asked the people not to respond to them.

(Market Watch, dated 4th September 2018 author Kari Paul)

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If an airline ticket deal you've seen recently seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Fake websites that appear to offer free tickets for Delta Airlines, easyJet and Ryanair are actually part of a phishing scam designed to glean people's sensitive details, according to a report released Aug. 13 by cyber data solution company Farsight Security.

Farsight researchers said that after Delta was informed of the scam, the website disappeared, leading the researchers to believe Delta told the web host disable it. Delta did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The fake sites advertising free tickets for Ryanair and easyJet remain online. Ryanair did not respond to a request for comment.

(Dated August 2018)

A man who operated websites which conned consumers out of £1.6m has been handed a one year suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay £200,000 within 28 days at Leeds Crown Court. The sentence comes after he pleaded guilty to breaches of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 following a National Trading Standards investigation.

The defendant was known by the name Richard Howard (aged 32 of Colliers Wood, Wimbledon) when operating his websites which misled consumers, however after National Trading Standards opened their investigation he changed his name to George Orwell. His one year prison sentence is suspended for two years and he must pay £200,000 within 28 days or face prison. The investigating officers are based with City of York Council and are supported by digital forensics specialists based with North Yorkshire County Council, and City of York Council brought the prosecution.

(Dated August 2018)

Local Banks, Police and Trading Standards have been working together to spot victims when they visit their local branch.

Branch staff, call handlers, police and trading standards officers have all been trained to identify victims.

Since it was introduced by Thames Valley Police in February 2018, a total of 73 emergency calls have now been placed and responded to through the scheme.

Banking Protocol enables bank branch staff to contact police if they suspect a customer is in the process of being scammed, with an immediate priority response to the branch.

Across the country the Banking Protocol has now led to a total of 197 arrests and prevented almost £25 million in fraud, while 3,682 emergency calls have now been placed and responded to through the scheme.

As well as stopping fraud taking place, the scheme ensures a consistent response to potential victims and gives them extra support to prevent them becoming a victim in the future.

UK Finance has led the development and implementation of the Banking Protocol, with support from the National Trading Standards Scam team and the Joint Fraud Taskforce.

Dated August 2018)

The MOD has been made aware of a possible phishing fraud. Targets of the fraud have received emails purporting to originate within the MOD attempting to make contact or seeking money.

Anyone who receives suspicious emails that might match this profile should take the following action:

- Not to respond to the suspicious communication, or cease all further correspondence if they have already responded

- Report it to Action Fraud, the UK's national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre which can be contacted at or on 0300 123 2040.

(1st November 2018)

(BBC News, dated 31st October 2018)

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Staff in mobile phone shops have become key to the execution of "Sim swap" scams, Watchdog Live has discovered.

Undercover filming revealed that O2 and Vodafone employees are bypassing basic ID checks and handing over replacement Sim cards to potential criminals.

Once fraudsters gain control of a mobile number, they can intercept SMS text messages from banks containing security codes.

Scammers have drained thousands of pounds from victims' bank accounts .

O2 told the BBC it currently only asks for photo ID when replacing Sims on a monthly contract, and that customers on Pay As You Go contracts would always receive an authorisation code alerting them that someone is trying to access their number.

However, that did not happen with any of the numbers being used by the Watchdog Live team, who were able to walk out with a replacement Sim in almost every case.

O2 says it did send out authorisation codes, but they were not received by the victims' smartphones.

Vodafone said that it takes Sim swap fraud "extremely seriously" and that it is disappointed that two of its employees did not follow established security check procedures, despite being given mandatory training, reinforced by regular reminders to the contrary.

'A state of shock'

Previously, in some countries, Sim swap scams were used by scammers to ring and text premium numbers to run up large mobile phone bills .

But now that more online services use two-factor authentication, which requires text messages to be sent to mobile phones, there is more at risk.

Olga from Buckinghamshire had £2,000 taken from her bank account, after a fraudster managed to successfully request a replacement Sim for her mobile number without her knowing anything about it.

"It was like a state of shock and my first thought was that there must be some sort of error," Olga told Watchdog. "I was just sobbing down the phone saying all my money's been stolen."

Initially, Olga's bank refused to refund her the money, blaming her for not keeping her details safe.

But it eventually became clear that the fraudster had found a way in to her account after being given a replacement Sim card by EE.

Watchdog's undercover visits found that staff in EE and Three stores always stuck to their security policies by demanding photo ID.

How the scam works

Sim swap scams occur when a criminal is able to convince a mobile operator to issue them with a replacement Sim card, by claiming a false identity and pretending that their mobile phone has been either lost or stolen.

Criminals are able to do this using people's personal details that have been stolen using malware or cyber-attacks. Many of these details are then sold on the dark web .

The victim's Sim card stops working and the criminal can then access any online service that requires security codes to be sent to a user's mobile phone.

Security researchers have long believed that UK crime gangs are behind these scams, as the fraudsters manage to trick banks by logging onto mobile banking systems from locations close to the victim's home address .

In the past, this scam has been perpetrated by fraudsters calling the customer service call centres of mobile operators, as well as by hackers using fake mobile base station equipment bought from the black market .

While the scam has been in existence for at least three years - BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme demonstrated that they could attack bank accounts in 2016 - the number of cases of Sim swap fraud have rocketed by 60% since 2016.

(1st November 2018)

(Mirror, dated 31st October 2018 author Vicky Shaw)

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People could be more at risk of falling for an email scam than a more "traditional" con where a rogue trader turns up on their doorstep, research suggests.

More than a quarter (28%) of people would go ahead with a request for payment received by email without calling the supplier directly to check the details, a survey from Nationwide Building Society found.

This was a much bigger percentage than the 5% of people who said they would take the advice of, and pay, someone claiming to be a builder who knocked on their door and advised them that work urgently needed to be carried out.

With this type of con, criminals knock on someone's door unexpectedly offering their services.

Fraudsters convince homeowners to pay for work that is overpriced, poor quality, not necessary or not carried out.

The dangerous email con

Nationwide said it also wants to raise awareness around invoice scams that can be the result of emails being hacked - where criminals intercept personal emails, change the account details on an invoice to their own and resend.

The survey found that while 22% of those aged 55 and over would not check an email invoice via a phone call to the supplier - potentially putting themselves at risk of fraud - this increased to 37% of 25 to 34-year-olds who would not check.

In general, people who transfer money from their bank account directly to a fraudster run the risk of never seeing their money again - as they have authorised the payment.

Stuart Skinner, Nationwide's director of fraud, said: "Criminals are not complacent, which is why people need to learn about new ways in which scammers are trying to get their hands on their hard-earned money.

"Scams constantly evolve and people need to understand how they could be targeted. Just because an email looks genuine, it doesn't mean it is and just because someone isn't physically at your doorstep, it doesn't make the threat any less real."

Pauline Smith, director of Action Fraud, said: "Fraudsters will often pose as well-known companies or people you know to trick you into parting with information and money.

"To prevent this from happening, always check the source of emails that request payment for goods before passing on any personal information. If something feels wrong, it's usually right to question it."

More than 2,000 people were surveyed.

Here are Nationwide Building Society's tips for avoiding scams:

1. Do not rush to get work done by someone knocking on your door - take your time to do your research and look out for neighbours who may be more likely to feel pressurised.

2. Fake invoices received by email can be very convincing - check personally using separate contact details before parting with your money.

3. Report suspect activity to Action Fraud. Nationwide also has fraud awareness events in branches.

(1st November 2018)

(Wales Online, dated 30th October 2018 author Jason Evans)

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A man used other people's personal details to try to open more than 60 bank accounts, a court has heard.

Carl Winston Jones began making dozens of applications to banks just two days after getting out of prison following his release from a sentence for doing exactly the same thing.

Swansea Crown Court heard Jones' plan was to use the overdraft facilities on each account, transferring cash up to the limit on each one to other accounts, and then withdrawing it.

Tom Scapens, prosecuting, said that between July 10 and September 4 this year Jones made online applications to open 43 accounts with Lloyds Group banks, and another 19 with HSBC, under various names.

On August 31 he managed to successfully transfer £1,000 from one of the new accounts to a different account using the name Mr Worswick, and then withdraw the cash.

Two days later, the 32-year-old tried another transfer from a different account but the transaction was picked-up by the bank, and the alarm raised.

Mr Scapens said that had Jones been successful in getting all the accounts set up and their overdraft facilities used to the full, the scam could have been worth £92,500.

The court heard police went to Jones' house on September 26, and during a search of the property found a list of people's personal details that Jones had been using in the applications.

The officers also found a quantity of amphetamine on his bed.

During his subsequent police interview he answered all questions "no comment".

Jones, who also goes by the name Carl Daniels, of March Hywel, Cilfrew, Neath, had previously pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation, converting criminal property, and possession of amphetamine when he appeared by videolink from Swansea prison for sentencing.

The court heard that in May this year Jones was jailed for the same offences - fraud by false representation and converting criminal property - which had involved opening multiple accounts with HSBC. On that occasion he had got away with £13,650.

He had been released from that sentence two days before his latest offending began.

Jones also had a previous conviction for supplying the drug ecstasy in 2009, for which he had received a suspended sentence.

No mention was made in court of where or how Jones obtained the personal details he used in the frauds.

Lee Davies, for Jones, said a friend of the defendant's had shown the Swansea-born dad-of-three how to apply for multiple accounts using people's information.

But he said banks were good at spotting such fraudulent applications, and "very few" of his client's attempts had been successful.

Judge Paul Thomas told Jones his actions had been "brazen", starting as they did so soon after his release from prison for the same offence.

Giving the defendant credit for his guilty pleas the judge sentenced Jones to 28 months in prison for the fraud and to 28 months for converting criminal property - the sentences will run concurrently, making a total of 28 months.

Jones will serve half that time in custody before being released on licence.

The judge ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the lists of personal details, and of the amphetamine.

Speaking after the sentencing detective constable Ben O'Shea, who investigated the case for the dedicated card and payment crime unit (DCPCU), a specialist police unit sponsored by the banking industry, said the case should send out a clear message to others tempted to engage in such activity.

He said: "This convicted fraudster began offending again as soon as he was released from prison.

"Now thanks to the work of the DCPCU he was been swiftly brought to justice.

"This sends a clear message to any would-be fraudsters that you will be caught and punished."

uaware comment

Many reading this article would be lead to believe that this was victimless crime. I mean, banks will just claim off their insurance won't they ! Well, if this miscruant was using actual peoples details, they are the victims. Effectively the crook was stealing peoples identities. If he took further action, such as going overdrawn on the bank accounts or forfeiting after taking out a loan; that would affect the credit rating of the individuals (victims) his forged.

So, in the future the victims will not be able to take out a loan, hire a mobile phone, get a mortgage, set up a gas electricity or water account. That is just the tangible things, what about the victims health ?

28 months sentence, out in 14 !

(1st November 2018)

(Mail on Sunday, dated 29th October 2018 author Toby Walne)

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Victims of vile 'ransomware' computer attacks are being urged to ignore the sick demands - or face yet more blackmail threats.

Hundreds of readers have contacted The Mail on Sunday in the past few days to share their horror at receiving a twisted demand for money to avoid embarrassing details of their private life being exposed to everyone - even though they have done nothing wrong.

The vast majority of those targeted have ignored the unpleasant messages - as they should - but not everyone.

The new web crime, revealed in The Mail on Sunday last week, involves emails from criminals claiming the recipient has been caught watching an adult website and that this act has been captured on their computer camera.

To make it appear credible the blackmail threat also includes personal information about the target, such as online passwords and phone numbers. There is then a financial ransom demand - £250 or more - that must be paid in Bitcoins to stop private details and images being shared with family, friends and work colleagues.

Stuart Peck is cyber security strategist at computer consultancy ZeroDayLab. He says 'If an attacker had really managed to compromise your computer they would not want you to know about it. These emails rely on panic and intimidation that threaten to destroy your life. If you pay up the attacker will know you have something to hide.'

Once on the criminal's radar, you can then be put on a 'sucker list' where further demands for money will be made - and your details sold to other criminals who know you are susceptible to online and phone fraud attacks. For those concerned about being a target of a 'ransomware' attack, Peck has some basic, but effective, advice.

He says: 'You can always find a small piece of paper to stick over the camera of your laptop, tablet or possibly even smartphone. This way you can be certain no one is watching you with a view to subjecting you to a ransomware attack.'

A key reason why many 'ransomware' targets are stressed by the experience is a nagging fear criminals have indeed hacked into their computer - confirmed by their knowledge of passwords and phone numbers. Peck adds: 'Unfortunately such private information can come from public breaches and be picked up for free by criminals. If you have been compromised in the past change passwords immediately.'

To find if you have been hacked from such a breach, Peck suggests that you visit - a website set up by Australian security researcher and blogger Troy Hunt who wants to stamp out the crime. Tap in your personal email address and the website will indicate whether any personal information may have been leaked.

The most recent high-profile data breach was at British Airways. Last week, the airline confirmed a cyber attack earlier this year had been more extensive than initially indicated, potentially affecting 565,000 passengers rather than the 380,000 it had first suggested. Hackers could have stolen personal and financial details provided by passengers when booking flights.

In another major data loss, 50 million Facebook accounts were compromised, giving hackers potential access to user names and passwords. Although it is impossible to protect yourself from a data breach you can be vigilant about any of your personal details landing in the lap of hackers.

Hackers try to steal personal details by 'phishing' - tricking you into parting with information such as passwords and bank account details. They might pretend to be an organisation such as your bank, favourite internet shopping website, an online payment system such as PayPal or even the taxman.

Typically, they state there has been a security breach and that you must not share your private information with anyone but them. They then use the details to empty your bank account.

You should also be wary of clicking on an 'unsubscribe' link. Before proceeding, check the email has been sent from the company it claims to be. Click on the 'address' the email was sent from - usually a fake sender will have a different name from the company it reports to be, with a foreign suffix rather than more common '' or 'com' endings.

Clicking on pop-ups claiming to offer you extra security - such as anti-virus software - should also be avoided. They could be crooks.

Much of the headache of fending off cyber criminals can be avoided by installing security software. But never download software offered in a pop-up window as it may be 'malware'. This is the term for malicious software used by criminals looking to plant viruses on someone's computer, enabling them to steal key personal data.

Anti-virus software can be downloaded for free from providers such as Avira and Sophos to stop such unwanted pop-ups. Packages from security software firms such as McAfee, Intego, Norton and Bitdefender cost around £30 a year. These should stop viruses getting into your computer - though they will not necessarily prevent 'ransomware' threats.

(1st November 2018)

(Mirror, dated 21st October 2018 author Dean Durham)

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Reader George from Sheffield received a shock this week when he received court papers served on him by an unscrupulous trader.

On 27th June George received an unexpected parcel containing an electric blanket and an invoice for £259.99 payable in 14 days.

George called the number but there was no answer.

For the next three weeks he continued to try the number, and, on each occasion, no-one answered.

He then received a debt collection letter stating that he had 7 days to pay in full, failing which court proceedings would follow.

Again, George tried to call the number without success. All then went very quiet.

There was no return address with the packaging/invoice but there was a phone number displayed.

Then on 11 th October George received a further letter this time containing court papers claiming payment of the £259.99 plus £125 solicitor costs and £25 court fee.

George contacted me for help.

I've immediately told George that this is a scam, but rather than taking his money he's in the unique situation where the fraudster is the one that's lost out this time.

Here's why: George did not order the electric blanket, so this is classed as 'unsolicited goods'.

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 state that where a consumer receives unsolicited goods they are treated as an unconditional gift - meaning that you do not have to pay for them or return them.

These court proceedings are therefore doomed to failure. Its also worth mentioning that George has now seen the same electric blanket for sale in Argos for £109.99.

In contrast to George's story, Helen from Leeds was sent two pairs of trainers by Sports Direct 'by mistake'.

She asked me if she was entitled to keep them and I advised that she wasn't, as they had been sent to her in error and Sports Direct were therefore entitled to get them back or receive payment.

However, in these circumstances Helen did not have to pay the cost of sending the trainers back.

(1st November 2018)

(Daily Mail, dated 20th October 2018 author Victoria Bischoff)

Full article [Option 1]:

Scammers are using cheap and widely available technology to make calls and send texts which appear to come from your bank.

The deception, known as spoofing, lets the caller choose what phone number is displayed on the recipient's phone when they call up.

It means a fraudster could find out the number of the victim's bank and make it flash up on the recipient's phone when they call - even though they are in fact calling from an entirely different number.

Text messages can also be 'spoofed' to make it look as if your bank is messaging when it is actually coming from a scammer's phone.

A Daily Mail investigation has discovered that with a simple Google search anyone can access a host of online services which allow people to make spoof calls and text messages.

Experts warn that while these websites and mobile apps advertise themselves as a harmless way to 'prank your friends', they can just as easily be used by people for more sinister purposes.

Money Mail has heard from scores of bank transfer victims who said fraudsters had managed to convince them they were really calling from their bank. They told them to check the number they were calling from against the one on the back of their debit or credit card or on the firm's official website.

When it matched, the victim was reassured the call was genuine and followed the caller's instructions to transfer vast sums of money out of their account.

One provider of the spoofing service - CrazyCall - allows people to change their caller ID and alter the sound of their voice to make it higher or lower pitch.

On its website it says: 'CrazyCall is the ultimate tool for making prank calls and fooling your friends. You can change your caller ID, so when you call someone he sees on his caller ID display the number you selected.'

It sounds like harmless fun but for just 75p per minute (plus an access charge) Money Mail was successfully able to use the site to call a landline from a mobile phone and make it look as though the call was coming from Lloyds' customer service number.

So if someone picked up the phone they would think the call was coming from their bank. Some services block official numbers such as those belonging to certain banks and the taxman. But even then not all numbers are barred.

For example, British website prevented users from posing as most major UK banks.

But it was possible to make it look as though the HMRC income tax office was calling. And using the US version of that site - - Money Mail was still able to call a UK landline from a UK mobile phone and make the HSBC customer service number flash up on the caller ID.

Separately, experts said fraudsters can use other legitimate services - that allow people to make calls and send messages over the internet - to send texts which appear in the same chain as previous genuine messages from their bank.

It means it is often impossible for customers to tell if a text message is really from their bank.

As part of the Mail's Stop The Bank Scammers campaign, we called on telecom providers to do more to identify and stop scam text messages getting through.

Just last month Money Mail revealed how even a top fraud chief at Britain's biggest bank can sometimes not tell the difference between a fake and genuine text message.

Regarding the fake texts which appear in the same chain as past real messages from your bank, Scott McGready, from the National Cyber Security Tactical Advice team which aids law enforcement, said: 'A fraudster only has to learn a few lines of basic code - rules that instruct a computer to do something - and they can use these systems to make it look as though a text message has been sent by a legitimate company such as a bank.

'The infrastructure behind the whole mobile system needs overhauling. If Royal Mail can stop suspicious letters being posted through people's letterboxes, why can't mobile phone companies do the same thing? We need a spam folder for text messages like people have for their emails so people know to be cautious.'

Gareth Shaw, from consumer group Which?, said: 'People lose life-changing sums of money after falling victim to this type of scam, which is becoming increasingly difficult to spot.' and CrazyCall did not respond to requests for comment.

The City of London police said number spoofing apps and websites are legal. However, it is illegal to use them to commit a crime.

(1st November 2018)

(Heart FM, dated 20th October 2018)

Full article [Option 1]:

There's a warning to elderly residents in Kent to be on the look out for rogue traders.

It's after a man demanded £3000 to clear a pensioners drains.

He called at her door in an area close to Robin Hood Lane- claiming that a neighbour had already agreed to have their drains cleaned and had gone to the bank to get money.

But when pressed to provide details the fraudster refused citing data protection laws.
Lukcily the woman refused to hand over any money and called police.

Sergeant Andy Gallon said:

'This man appears to be targeting elderly people by cold calling and demanding cash up front. Often in these circumstances any work that is subsequently carried out is either completely unnecessary or substandard. Our advice remains the same for anyone dealing with cold callers. Do not deal with people who knock on your door offering work on your home or garden and if you have any concerns about their behaviour call the police.'

Kent Police is reminding residents of further steps to take to deter rogue traders, who may also offer services such as cleaning driveways or roof and guttering repairs:

- Genuine companies will not expect cash in advance or tell you to go to the bank to withdraw money.

- Use reputable traders who are members of the KCC Trading Standards approved trader scheme, run in partnership with Checkatrade.

- Ask for quotes in writing and check that the tradesperson is from the company they say they are from.

- Ring at least three traders to get a feel for an average price for the job.

- Call 101 to report any problems involving suspected rogue traders or call the Citizens Advice Consumer Services Consumer Direct on 03454 040506.

uaware comment

These rogue traders may be operating in Kent this week, but they may be knocking on your door tomorrow !

(1st November 2018)

(Daily Mail, dated 18th October 2018 author Angelique Ruzicka)

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A long-awaited name check safeguard will be launched next year to help fight fraud and alert bank customers to suspicious transactions if the name of someone they are paying does not match the account details they're filling in online.

It is hoped the new 'confirmation of payee' service will help tackle authorised push payment fraud - which happens when people are tricked into making a bank transfer directly to a criminal.

Paul Horlock, chief executive of new payment body Pay.UK, said: 'Confirmation of payee will let you check you have the correct name for the person or business you're paying, giving better protection against certain types of fraud, and helping to stop accidental mistakes too.'

'When someone is setting up a new payment, if the name matches, there will be confirmation of this - which could be a green tick, for example.'

Gareth Shaw, Which? money expert, welcomed the move but added: 'Customers will wonder why banks have dragged their heels and not implemented this system years ago, as it could have prevented a significant amount of fraud.

'With losses to bank transfer fraud increasing drastically it's clear this measure can't come in soon enough.'

Figures from trade association UK Finance show that in the first half of 2018 consumers lost £92.9million because of APP fraud.

Currently, the account name is not checked when sending an electronic payment - but under the new service banks will check the name on the account when someone is setting up a new payment or amending an existing one.

Consumers will be warned if the details do not match up - which should help prevent payments being made to fraudsters or even prevent mistakes.

Banks, building societies, and other payment providers will be able to roll out confirmation of payee during 2019 as a way for their customers to check who they are paying.

Pay.UK said the move will reduce the risk of errors and certain types of fraud, such as malicious redirection invoice scams where, by posing as a legitimate business known to customer, people are convinced to redirect a payment to an account controlled by a fraudster.

Victims end up losing huge amounts of money because their bank made the transfer on their instructions - unlike in cases when payments are fraudulently made without customers' authorisation and banks are generally obliged to give a refund.

Horlock said: 'Sending a payment with an incorrect sort code or account number is like addressing a letter with the wrong post code.

'Even if you have used the correct name it won't reach the intended destination - and fraudsters have become increasingly sophisticated in using this to trick people into sending money to the wrong account.

'If the name does not match, it is then up to the sender to decide whether or not to proceed with the payment - but the risks will have been made clear to them beforehand.'

Account providers have previously been criticised for not doing more to shoulder the burden when victims lose money as scams become increasingly sophisticated.

A new industry code is also being developed which could help victims of APP fraud get their money back when they have shown a requisite level of care.

However, someone who makes a payment despite being told the name does not match may risk being judged not to have taken due care - ruling out any form of compensation.

The confirmation of payee won't be the solution to all types of crime. It doesn't, for example, tackle scams where people are tricked into paying up-front for goods which never arrive.

Shaw added: 'While we await its introduction, it's crucial that an agreement is reached on the funding mechanism to reimburse all victims of bank transfer fraud who have been left out of pocket through no fault of their own.'

A spokesman for trade association UK Finance said: 'Pay.UK's announcement provides some useful clarity on the development of confirmation of payee, which will play an important role in preventing fraudsters from tricking victims into sending money to the wrong account.'

He said the industry will continue working with other bodies to ensure the plans can be put into place.

He added: 'At the same time, the industry will continue fighting fraud on every front, investing millions in advanced security systems to protect customers and supporting law enforcement in combating the organised criminal groups responsible for fraud.'

Six ways to outfox the cyber--criminals (Compiled by Laura Shannon)

- ASSUME any caller claiming to be your bank or utility provider could be a fraudster. It might sound unfair and the call may be genuine - but being sceptical from the start could help protect you.

- CALL your bank back on a different phone line if you are not sure a call is authentic. Use the phone number on the back of your credit or debit card. If calling from the same phone wait at least five minutes for the current call to be disconnected. Otherwise a fraudster could simply stay on the line while you dial.

- KNOW the hallmarks of fraud. There will be convincing lies throughout a scam and the perpetrators will sound intelligent and authoritative. But typical requests include being asked to: provide a code, a PIN, move money to a different account, repay a sum accidentally put in to your account, reveal passwords or allow remote access to your computer. Do not comply.

- BE careful about what links you click on emails, or what attachments you open. Scammers know how to imitate your friends or big brands in messages. These links could contain viruses that, once on your computer, allow fraudsters to spy on you when you enter log-in details for online banking. Or they will pose as big brands and demand personal information that you should not surrender.

- UPDATE anti-virus software on your computer and regularly change passwords on online accounts.

- LEARN more ways to protect yourself with help from websites such as and

(Yorkshire Evening Post, dated 18th October 2018 author Andrew Hutchinson)

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Bank customers will be warned if the name of someone they are trying to pay does not match the account details - in the latest step to combat scams where people are tricked into transferring money to a fraudster.

Payments body Pay.UK has unveiled details of how the new "confirmation of payee" service will work.
Currently, the account name is not checked when sending an electronic payment - but under the new service banks will check the name on the account when someone is setting up a new payment or amending an existing one.

Consumers will be warned if the details do not match up - which should help prevent payments being made to fraudsters or simply when a mistake has been made.

Banks, building societies, and other payment providers will be able to roll out confirmation of payee during 2019 as a way for their customers to check who they are paying.

Consumer group Which? welcomed the move - but said customers will wonder why banks have "dragged their heels" and not put it in place before.

Pay.UK said the move will reduce the risk of errors and certain types of fraud, such as malicious redirection invoice scams where, by posing as a legitimate business known to customer, people are convinced to redirect a payment to an account controlled by a fraudster.

It is part of wider efforts to combat authorised push payment (APP) fraud - which happens when people are tricked into making a bank transfer directly to a criminal.

Victims can end up losing huge amounts of money because their bank made the transfer on their instructions - unlike in cases when when payments are fraudulently made without customers' authorisation and banks are generally obliged to give a refund.

Paul Horlock, chief executive of Pay.UK, said: "Sending a payment with an incorrect sort code or account number is like addressing a letter with the wrong post code.

"Even if you have used the correct name it won't reach the intended destination - and fraudsters have become increasingly sophisticated in using this to trick people into sending money to the wrong account.

"Confirmation of payee will let you check you have the correct name for the person or business you're paying, giving better protection against certain types of fraud, and helping to stop accidental mistakes too."

When someone is setting up a new payment, if the name matches, there will be confirmation of this - which could be a green tick, for example

If the name does not match, it is then up to the sender to decide whether or not to proceed with the payment - but the risks will have been made clear to them beforehand.

Alongside these changes, a new industry code is being developed which could help victims of APP fraud get their money back when they have shown a requisite level of care.

Someone who makes a payment despite being told the name does not match may risk not being judged not to have taken due care - potentially making it more likely they will never see their money again.

There will be some scams which confirmation of payee cannot address - such as when people are tricked into paying up-front for goods which never arrive.

Figures from trade association UK Finance show that in the first half of 2018 consumers lost £92.9 million because of APP fraud.

Account providers have previously been criticised for not doing more to shoulder the burden when victims lose money as scams become increasingly sophisticated.Pay.UK was previously known as the New Payment System Operator.

Gareth Shaw, Which? money expert, said: "It's right that banks and building societies have finally been forced to introduce this much-needed check at the point of transfer. However, customers will wonder why banks have dragged their heels and not implemented this system years ago, as it could have prevented a significant amount of fraud.

"With losses to bank transfer fraud increasing drastically it's clear this measure can't come in soon enough.

"While we await its introduction, it's crucial that an agreement is reached on the funding mechanism to reimburse all victims of bank transfer fraud who have been left out of pocket through no fault of their own."


(1st November 2018)

(Guardian, dated 18th October 2018 author Rupert Jones)

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Name checks will be carried out when UK bank customers send money to other people from next year in a bid to halt a rising tide of bank transfer fraud.

At the moment, anyone wanting to transfer money is asked for the recipient's account name, account number and sort code. However, the bank does not currently check if the account name is correct.

In recent years, fraudsters "have become increasingly sophisticated in using this to trick people into sending money to the wrong account," said the UK's payments operator, Pay.UK.

It added that the new measures should help prevent many fraudulent payments from being made by "introducing another hurdle" for criminals and issuing effective warnings about the risks of sending money to an account where the name does not match.

From next year, the so-called "confirmation of payee" system will mean customers can check they are paying the right person.

When a customer sets up a new payment or amends an existing one, there will be three possible outcomes. If they used the correct account name, they will receive confirmation that the details match, and can proceed with the payment.

If they used a similar name to the account holder, they will be provided with the actual name to check. They can then update the details and try again, or contact the intended recipient to check the details. But if the customer enters the wrong name for the account holder, they will be told the details do not match and advised to contact the person or organisation they are trying to pay.

In the past few years, fraud in the UK payments industry has soared as criminals develop increasingly sophisticated tactics to steal cash. Criminals have been hacking into the email accounts of builders, solicitors or other tradespeople that the consumer has legitimately employed, then getting them to send large amounts of money to criminal accounts.

The Guardian has featured a number of these cases, which are also known as "authorised push payment" scams or email intercept fraud. In October 2017 it emerged that an Essex couple lost £120,000 after sending money to what they thought was their solicitor's bank account.

It is understood the new regime is expected to be in place for many, but not all, banks by the middle of 2019.

Gareth Shaw from the consumer group Which? said: "It's right that banks and building societies have finally been forced to introduce this much-needed check at the point of transfer.

"However, customers will wonder why banks have dragged their heels and not implemented this system years ago."

(1st November 2018)

(Mirror, dated 17th October 2018 author Tricia Phillips)

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No one is safe from financial crooks but the under 21s are fast becoming the key target for fraudsters.

There has been a 24% increase in the cases of younger people falling victim to identity fraud over the past year, new research reveals.

And a worrying 26% rise in the numbers of under 21s being persuaded, or duped, into acting as money mules for rogues.

The latest figures from Cifas, the UK's leading fraud prevention service, also show that more than a third of victims of plastic payment card fraud on debit, credit or store cards were younger people.

Chief Executive Officer of Cifas, Mike Haley, said: "Our new figures are alarming to say the least. Young people are increasingly at risk of becoming victims of identity fraud, with little idea of how to protect themselves.

"We're calling on bank in particular to ensure that they are providing young people with the necessary knowledge to prevent them falling victim to fraud - or becoming fraud perpetrators."

Some £236million was lost to scams in 2017 and financial firms such as Lloyds Banking Group have 24/7 fraud teams dedicated to trying to protect customers from the every-increasing risk from financial fraud.

Their mule hunting team has frozen more than £1million from crooks trying to trick people into receiving and transferring cash.

Paul Davis, Retail Fraud Director, Lloyds Banking Group, said: ""We have sophisticated, multi-layered defences in place to help protect our customers from scammers.

"Fighting financial fraud is a concerted effort between the banks, the police and all of us - the more we all know about how to spot it, the safer we will all be."

We all need to be on our guard to try and keep ourselves safe from clever crooks who keep coming up with sophisticated scams that even the experts sometimes find hard to spot.

What is identity theft?

Crooks gather personal information about a person such as name, address, date of birth - often information they can gain very easily via social media sites - so they can impersonate someone to get access to their financial accounts or to take out credit in a victim's name.

They will use every trick in the book to try and get people to give them personal and financial information and to gain access to someone's computer and financial accounts.

Becoming a victim of ID theft causes havoc to peoples' lives and can take months, sometimes years to get finances back on track. It can lead to people being unable to access any credit or to end up being hit with extortionate rates of interest on the products they do get offered.

5 ways to stay safe

1. Keep a regular eye on your credit report. You can then spot if anyone else is trying to access credit in your name and shut it down immediately.

2. Make sure anti-virus software is kept updated on all of your devices.

3. Use different passwords for each account - and choose them carefully, mixing upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.

4. Check your bank statement regularly for signs of fraudulent activity.

5. Only carry out financial transactions or access financial accounts over a secure internet connection - never on free WiFi in cafes, on trains or other public places.

What is a money mule

This is where an individual allows their bank account to be used to facilitate the movement of criminal funds, a form of money laundering which carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Social media is a key place for criminals to recruit money mules with offers of quick and easy way to make some cash.

The consequences of getting caught moving fraudulent funds are serious. Mules will be left with no bank account, a damaged credit score and that will mean they won't be able to apply for a mortgage, loan or even a mobile phone contract in the future.

There is also the risk of up to 14 years in prison.

Don't Be Fooled is a partnership between Financial Fraud Action Uk and Cifas to inform students and young people about the risks of giving out their bank details to try and help deter them from becoming money mules.

How to keep yourself safe

- No legitimate company will ever ask yo to use your own bank account to transfer their money.

- Be especially wary of these types of offers from people or companies overseas - this will make it harder for your to find out if they are legitimate.

(1st November 2018)

(Guardian, dated 17th October 2018 author Anna Tims)

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Both of these letters are depressingly similar and should be a warning to everyone who banks online.

I transferred £20,000 into our pension plan, but the money never arrived. I had asked my financial adviser at Brewin Dolphin for the relevant bank details and he sent them by email. It seems it was intercepted and the bank details changed so the transfer went into someone else's account.
Brewin Dolphin says its email system has not been corrupted. My provider says my email address has not been compromised in the last six months. My bank has tried to recover the money but says it has vanished.

CC, Fort William, Highland


I had some building work on my flat. The builder emailed me his bank details, but, before I'd paid, he emailed again to ask if part of the amount could be paid into a different (Lloyds Bank) account. I duly transferred £6,300. However, the request was fraudulent.

The builder's PC had been hacked, and he noticed I had replied to an email that had not been sent by him. It was then too late to stop the payment, but I immediately alerted my bank (HSBC) and also reported it online to Action Fraud.

The fraudster continued to email me, asking if I was going to make another payment, and this, too, I reported. However, I now seem to have reached a dead end.

Action Fraud says it cannot provide updates within three months of a complaint. Lloyds Bank says it cannot deal direct with me, and HSBC has passed me to its "fraud complex complaints team" (which doesn't appear to have a phone number or email address and won't give me a contact name). This tells me that Lloyds won't provide details of the beneficiary account due to data protection, but that some of my money is still there. To recoup it, it says, is a civil matter I'd have to pursue in the courts.

I cannot understand why HSBC will not act on my behalf, at least to ascertain how much is remaining in the account.

JV, Exeter

Both of you are victims of an increasingly prevalent scam whereby criminals hack into personal or business email accounts, intercept any messages concerning pending payments and send an email from the hacked account changing the details in their favour.

The scam cost consumers £145.4m in the first half of this year, according to UK Finance. It's known as "push-payment fraud" and, unlike credit card or direct debit payments, there is no protection for customers who lose out.

This could change. A code proposed by the Payment Systems Regulator last month might require banks to reimburse victims - provided they were not negligent when making the payment - although the code would be voluntary and it's not clear who will fund the compensation.

In the meantime, you have both been left in legal and regulatory limbo. In CC's case, Brewin Dolphin maintains its system was not compromised and therefore the hacker must have targeted your account.

It points out that the Have I Been Pwned website, which checks whether emails have been affected by data breaches, shows your email has been compromised five times.

Moreover, the scam email you received contained a different domain name to Brewin Dolphin's. Ordinarily, the Financial Ombudsman Service can investigate whether a company has dealt reasonably with such a complaint, but not in your case because email hacking isn't a regulated activity.

Unless you can stomach the prospect of challenging Brewin Dolphin's system security through legal action there is, excruciatingly, nothing more you can do.

The problem for JV was that the fraud only came to light four days after the payment.

HSBC says it contacted Lloyds immediately and Lloyds says it froze the beneficiary account, but, by then, contrary to what you were told, the money had apparently vanished.

Depressingly, the authorities have been of no help. Action Fraud eventually told you that, due to overload, it would not be investigating and referred you to the police.

The police replied that they, too, could not do anything "because of the high level of fraud reporting and limited police resources to investigate economic crime".

HSBC referred you to the Ombudsman but the response was the same, and it is yet to investigate.

Precaution, therefore, is the only protection. If details are sent by email, and particularly if they suddenly change, ring the person or company to check they are bona fide. When possible, pay by credit card - or even by cheque, which can, at least, be stopped.

(1st November 2018)

(BBC News, dated 17th October 2018 author Kevin Peachey)

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The majority of those tricked in "rom-cons" after meeting people on dating sites lost more than £2,000, research by Barclays suggests.
Fraud experts have said that thousands of people have lost millions of pounds in online dating scams.

Barclays found those aged 45 to 64 were most likely to be victims, according to reports it has received from people tricked into making payments.

Dating site users are being urged not to take everything at face value.

The bank suggested that many people were judging those they met online based on their social media profile, their job, or simply trusting them too soon.

"While millions of us take to dating websites and apps to find true love, criminals are getting ready to pounce on anyone who lets their guard down," said Jodie Gilbert, head of digital safety at Barclays.

"We must all remain aware whilst looking for the warning signs, such as someone asking you to help them out of an 'unfortunate situation' by sending money."

The bank said its figures showed that 37% of those who had lost money had paid more than £5,000 to a fraudster.

The BBC has highlighted a number of cases in recent years including one woman who lost more than £300,000 and said she felt emotionally "brutalised". She thought she was paying money to her new love interest for food, rent and medical bills.

In another case, a lonely 86-year-old man said he was left suicidal after a woman he messaged through online dating, but had never met, conned him out of £6,000.

Online safety advice (Source: Action Fraud)

- Criminals who commit romance fraud trawl through profiles and piece together information such as wealth and lifestyle, in order to manipulate their victims

- Police can investigate and help to provide support, but often cannot get the money back

- It is very simple for fraudsters to cover their tracks by masking IP addresses and using unregistered phone numbers

- Never send money to someone online you have never met

- Think twice about posting personal information which could be used to manipulate or bribe you,

Action Fraud :

(1st November 2018)

(Derby Telegraph, dated 16th October 2018 author Martin Naylor)

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A "Svengali-like" fraudster from Derby who fleeced more than £32,000 from elderly and vulnerable pensioners has been described by a judge as "deceitful and dishonest beyond measure".

Conman Shaun Rafferty span lie after lie to his main victim, an 88-year-old city man, telling him his own son had been involved in a suicide attempt, his sister had died and his daughter had been seriously injured in a road accident.

When the police first became involved, the 47-year-old, of Mayvale Grove, told the man he would tell the police how the pensioner had sexually assaulted him.

Then, while under investigation for stealing more than £30,000 from that victim, he targeted female pensioners, one of whom suffered with dementia.

He took that woman, who was aged 78, to her bank in St Peters Street, telling staff there he was her grandson and asking for them to provide him with a debit card so he could access her account.

'You fleeced them mercilessly'

Jailing him for 40 months, Judge Shaun Smith QC said: "You are a user and manipulator who is deceitful and dishonest beyond measure.

"You quite deliberately targeted elderly and vulnerable people, one of who had dementia.

"The victims were aged between 78 and 88 and you fleeced them mercilessly.

"In terms of the male victim, he is a good Christian man who felt good about giving you money because he thought he was helping you.

"One of the many sad things about the case is that he genuinely wanted to help you, and he thought he was, and you fleeced him.

'How low can a human being go?'

"You span stories about family members who had died, been raped and suffered serious injuries.

"And one time you tried to scare him by saying you would go to the police to say he had sexually assaulted you.

"How low and despicable can a human being go than to do that to an 88-year-old man who, at that stage, had given you something in the region of £20,000?"

Rafferty's 'despicable' crimes

Sarah Allen, prosecuting, said the main offence against the 88-year-old man spanned from December 2016 to September 2017.

She said they started speaking to each other through a chance meeting in the street, but within days Rafferty had gained the man's trust enough to start asking him for money.

Miss Allen spent more than 30 minutes outlining a number of occasions when Rafferty told lies to the man, a committed Christian, who was later to tell police he saw him as "a Svengali-like" figure.

She said: "He told him his sister had died in Ireland and that he needed money to fly him and his family to the funeral.

"He told him his son had died and he needed £100 for a new suit.

"On another occasion he said he needed money to take his daughter to Skegness on holiday, but the following day he came back for more money saying she had been involved in a road accident on the way to Skegness that saw her cousin killed."

###Withdrew money without receipts

Miss Allen said for the first few months Rafferty would accompany the victim to the cash point machine and told him not to order receipts for the withdrawals.

She said the bank became suspicious when the victim began internet banking and frequent transfers were made into Rafferty's two bank accounts.

Miss Allen said the other five victims had smaller amounts of money taken from them by Rafferty when they paid him upfront for jobs he never carried out.

He pleaded guilty to six counts of fraud.

Victim personal statements were read out for some of the pensioners.

'I wanted to help him'

The man said: "He told me a number of stories and I believed them.

"I am a Christian man, I wanted to help him, I didn't believe that anyone would lie about the death of a family member."

The son of the dementia-suffering victim, in his statement, said: "How can someone do this to a 78-year-old woman in her condition?

"I feel deep anger that someone can behave in such a callous manner."

Simon Molyneux, for Rafferty, said his client has a 13-year-old daughter and a wife who had written a letter to then judge on his behalf.

In this, she said she had been "destroyed by his drug addiction".

Mr Molyneux said: "He knows he going to serve a considerable prison sentence that he richly deserves."

(1st November 2018)

(Daily Mail, dated 15th October 2018 author Press Association)

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A fraudster has been jailed after he took a £1 million loan meant for humanitarian work and spent it on motorbikes and a Jaguar car.

Keith Morgan, 61, convinced a New York City-based investment manager the money would be spent to set up a mobile field hospital for refugees.

He told would-be investors he was a successful investment specialist who had dealt with billion-pound transactions and owned prime real estate in Hollywood where he planned to build and sell homes worth 50 million dollars (£38 million).

One investor in the US was taken in by Morgan's lies, and handed over £998,900 thinking it would be used to help set up the mobile hospital.

Cardiff Crown Court heard Morgan immediately laundered the money and made a number of extravagant purchases, including a £68,000 Jaguar and two motorbikes costing a total of £17,000.

South Wales Police began investigating Morgan when his bank alerted them about the large sum of money deposited in his account.

He was arrested and on Monday was found guilty of fraud and two counts of money laundering.

Morgan, from Church Village, Rhondda Cynon Taff, was jailed for eight years and eight months.

Approximately £750,000 from his fraud has been recovered.

After the sentencing Detective Constable Neil Richards said: "This was a long and complex case but which had at its core a relatively simple concept - a persuasive conman who managed to obtain, fraudulently, a huge sum of money which he then attempted to spend.

"We are pleased that the majority of the money has been recovered, although work will continue to attempt to get the remainder back as well.

"I want to pay tribute to colleagues in South Wales Police as well as the banks involved, and partners across the world, who have helped us pursue this investigation."

uaware comment

Sometimes an act of goodwill is not what it seems. Check with the Charity Commission before donating to a charity you have never heard of.

(1st November 2018)


(Cheshire Live, dated 15th October 2018 author Andrew Cain)

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Cheshire police have announced that this week they are carrying out a week of action against rogue traders, fraudsters and scammers , who employ cunning tricks to try and con people, often the vulnerable or elderly, out of their hard-earned money and savings.

There has been a number of scams in the news recently, many of which we report on here at Cheshire Live , and always these reports tell people of the warning signs you need to watch out for so you know when you're being conned.

But the tricks used by fraudsters are getting more and more sophisticated, and in some cases scammers are adapting their tricks to keep up with the modern world.

With that in mind, here are eight scams which have been in the news recently, some which have been around for years and some which are brand new.

They have been featured on this website and some of our sister titles, along with advice on what to watch out for to make sure you don't fall victim to the con artists.

iTune scams

Cheshire 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. But Detective Chief Inspector Karen Jaundrill said: "As part of our ongoing work to prevent this type of fraud we're working closely with supermarkets and convenience stores to prevent vulnerable residents from purchasing large quantities of vouchers.

"I'd also urge residents to talk to any vulnerable friends or family about the scam to help ensure that nobody else falls victim.

"The message is clear - no reputable company, nor any government organisations, would ever call you and ask you to settle a balance over the phone using vouchers, nor would they threaten to arrest you."

2. Police officer impersonation scam

A Macclesfield business was called last week (Monday, October 8) by someone claiming to be called 'Mark Shepherd', who said he was a police officer calling from Cheshire Constabulary. The caller asked the person who answered to sponsor a company named Prevent by buying advertising space, saying Prevent go into schools to provide online safety lessons for children.

But police warned that even if the company is genuine, they do not work with them, with PC Bryan Dutton saying: "We do not work with this company and aren't aware of them working with schools in Cheshire. We also do not support or affiliate ourselves to any companies which cold call businesses or members of the public.

"If you receive a call requesting money and you cannot verify who they are then we would advise you don't give out any bank details, funds or personal details."

While fraudsters may not always pose as police officers they may still create a fictitious identity, so the message of verifying that people are who they say they are is still a valid one.

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 Winsford 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 our sister site 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 massively 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. Our sister website the 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.

(Mirror, dated 12th October 2018 author Vicky Shaw)

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Anyone can fall prey to a fraudster - so learning more about the tricks scammers use is a key line of defence, writes Vicky Shaw

Could you spot the tricks scammers use? It may be harder than you think, as frauds become increasingly sophisticated.

Consumers lost £92.9 million to scams - where they were tricked into transferring money directly to a fraudster - in the first half of 2018 alone.

And adding insult to injury, people who have been tricked in this way may sadly never see their money again.

A voluntary code for banks to follow has just been proposed, which could give people more help in getting their money back.

However, victims may still find themselves out of pocket - so it's always best, if at all possible, to avoid falling for a fraud in the first place.

Nationwide Building Society recently found that three in 10 (30%) people would be willing to transfer their own money into another account 'to keep it safe' if asked by someone they thought was from the police - even though the police or a bank would never ask anyone to do this.

Stuart Skinner, director of fraud at Nationwide, whose branches are running fraud awareness events, says: "The key to thwarting the scam artists and fraudsters is education. We'd urge people to learn as much as they can about the tricks that scammers use."

Here are some of the warning signs to spot, highlighted by trade association UK Finance...

1. Purchase scam

The victim pays up-front for goods or services that are never received. These scams often happen online, such as when someone uses an auction website or social media.

A warning sign could be if you spot something of high value, such as a car, phone or computer, advertised at a low price. Fake holiday rentals and concert tickets may also be advertised online.

Victims may be persuaded by the fraudster to pay for the goods via direct bank transfer, instead of using websites' secure payment options.

2. Advance fee scam

With this scam, victims may be tricked into parting with their money as a 'fee' after being promised a larger reward.

Criminals may claim they have won an overseas lottery, or that gold or jewellery is being held at customs - and a fee must be paid to release money or goods which don't really exist.

3. Investment scam

People are persuaded to move their money into a fictitious fund, or to pay for a fake investment. The criminal usually offers high returns to entice them. These scams include investment in items such as gold, property, carbon credits, land banks and wine.

4. Romance scam

The victim is convinced to make a payment to a person they have met, often online through social media or dating websites, and with whom they believe they are in a relationship.

The 'relationship' is often developed over a long period and the person is convinced to make multiple, generally smaller, payments to the criminal.

5. Invoice and mandate scam

Scammers step into the middle of people's legitimate transactions to swipe money that was intended for someone else.

Someone could be paying a solicitor or a builder, for example, but the criminal intervenes and convinces the victim to redirect the payment into their account instead.

The criminal may persuade their victim that the bank details of the person they intended to pay have changed. Businesses can also be tricked by this scam, when trying to pay a supplier.

6. Impersonation scam

Someone pretends to be from the police or the victim's bank, to convince them to make a payment.

Often, they will claim there has been a fraud on the victim's account and they need to transfer the money to a 'safe account' to protect their funds.

However, the criminal actually controls the recipient account.

Criminals may pose as the police and ask the individual to take part in an undercover operation to investigate 'fraudulent' activity.

7. Pretending to be from a legitimate company

Fraudsters pose as organisations such as utility companies, communications service providers or government departments, and claim that the victim must to settle a fictitious fine or to return an erroneous refund.

The scams can often involve the criminal requesting remote access to the victim's computer.

8. CEO fraud

This mostly affects businesses. Criminals may access a company's email system or use spoofing software to email a member of the finance team, with what appears to be a legitimate email from the chief executive with a request to change payment details or make an urgent payment to a new account.

(1st November 2018)

(Teeside Live, dated 13th October 2018 author Gareth Lightfoot)

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A fraudster who swindled or stole from women with serious health conditions has started a long prison sentence.

Douglas Gribbin, 42, subjected a 68-year-old widow with a serious illness to an "elaborate deception" as he stole her jewellery and bank card.

He took her and her late husband's wedding rings and pawned them in December last year, having befriended her and become a "permanent fixture in her life".

The swindler first approached her pointing out a problem with the drive of her Middlesbrough home, said prosecutor Victoria Lamballe.

He later dug up her driveway and replaced pipes for £1,300 and the woman, who had breathing difficulties and could not walk any distance, was pleased with the work.

Gribben started visiting her almost daily and she came to regard him as a friend, Teesside Crown Court heard.

'She had not eaten for five days'

She paid him hundreds of pounds to pave her drive, fix a handrail and produce a portfolio of photos. At one point he drove her to a bank to withdraw £800 for him.

Gribben continually promised the work but it was never done.

He stole her bank card and withdrew more than £2,000 from her account in November and December, at one point intercepting her mail carrying a new PIN.

He pretended to deal with the bank on her behalf as she struggled financially without access to the account, once telling him she had not eaten for five days.

'At the end of her tether'

The deceit dawned on the woman when she contacted her bank to find she was £9 overdrawn when she should have had thousands of pounds.

She discovered jewellery of sentimental value were missing.

Gribbin also knocked on the door of a couple in their 60s in Hartlepool as a salesman, saying their driveway needed renovation.

He was paid £11,450 for legitimate work on the driveway and back garden in November 2016, and the couple were happy with it.

But when they noticed weeds growing through their driveway, which Gribbin had promised would not happen, he offered to carry out more work on the house for £7,000.

Diagnosed with motor neurone disease

The 65-year-old woman who lived there handed over thousands of pounds, including £5,400 in January and February 2017.

When she asked for some money back, he made a partial repayment and claimed he was at risk of bankruptcy.

Shortly after she was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, Gribbin texted her while she was on holiday saying weather had stopped some of the work.

Her health worsened to the extent that she would not walk or speak and could communicate only by typing through a tablet.

She texted him arranging work dates, only for him not to turn up.

Spent the money on other things

Despite being told the extent of her condition, Gribbin did not complete the work and confessed he had spent the money on other things.

He claimed he would repay it and lied to the couple repeatedly about why he had not turned up.

He claimed it was a legitimate business deal gone wrong, not a fraud, and said he always intended to pay the money back.

Finally he cold-called a 75-year-old Stockton woman and said he would carry out work for £1,075, which he did not do, and got her to sign contracts which breached consumer protection regulations.

###Previously left pensioner with just 7p

Gribbin, of Moorcock Close, Bankfields, Middlesbrough, admitted two charges of fraud, one of theft, two of possessing criminal property and three of unfair trading.

He was jailed for 20 months for theft after he helped himself to £3,000 from a 73-year-old woman's bank account to feed a cocaine habit.

She had given him her card and PIN to do shopping, but she found she had just 7p in her account when she wanted to treat her grandson.

The vulnerable pensioner, who had suffered a stroke and needed care, was hospitalised four weeks after the theft came to light.

In 2016, a judge told him: "It would be an outrage if you walked out of this court."

This time Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, jailed Gribbin for five-and-a-half years.

Gribbin was given a 10-year restraining order banning him from contacting victims or going to their homes.

(1st November 2018)


uaware comment

So instead of looking at the faults and fixing them the Government is going to rely on the open market to come up with a reliable and safe password verification system. Who is going to host that system ? Commercial organisations work to a price and that price could be poor system security. Month after month there are articles describing how this bank, airline or NHS has had customers / patients accounts hacked. No one seems to have asked if there is any commonality in these failures.

Now we are going to "rely" on commercial organisations to provide security for the UK's benefits system verification. Who pays up when benefits go fruadulently astray and claimants go without for months ?


(The Register, dated 10th October 2018 author Andrew Orlowski)

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It's official: the UK state's expensive-but-comatose digital identity system Verify has been taken off life support.

The minister responsible confirmed to Parliament yesterday that it will halt funding for the project after cash has been exhausted - and it's up to the private sector to decide whether to keep the vegetable alive.

But it's an unenviable option. The government can no longer guarantee that Verify will be an exclusive or even preferred ID system for public services.

"The Government expects that commercial organisations will create and reuse digital identities, and accelerate the creation of an interoperable digital identity market," said Oliver Dowden, Minister for the Implementation [sic] at the Cabinet Office. "This is therefore the last investment that the Government will provide to directly support the GOV.UK Verify programme. It will be the responsibility of the private sector to invest to ensure the delivery of this product beyond the [stated] period."

It's no surprise - Verify lost the confidence of Whitehall years ago. The project was launched in 2011 (as "Identity Assurance") with the goal of providing a single sign-on ID for public services ranging from tax collection to benefits. The goal was to have 20 million users by 2020. Consultants and the Cabinet Office's Nudge Unit dreamed (PDF) of it playing a role for consumers, too.

"The days of creating different user names and passwords for every new website are numbered, thank goodness," promised GDS Maximum Leader Mike Bracken* in November 2011.

A successful identity framework would mean departments didn't have to roll their own. But that's exactly what happened. HMRC was obliged to extend the ageing Government Gateway itself, and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decided Verify couldn't cut the mustard for the Universal Credits system, as we exclusively revealed here. DWP also had to develop its own identity system. The other big service, the NHS, never took Identity Assurance/Verify serious in the first place.

People had problems too, as the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones found in 2014. Two years later, the success rate for creating new identity accounts was just 72 per cent.

How it all went wrong

The Cabinet Office and GDS were putting a brave face on it right to the end - while attempting to conceal the cost of the failure.

In July, public administration watchdog the Infrastructure and Projects Authority downgraded its likelihood of success.

Unlike most of the other major projects for which data is provided, the government did not list the budget for the year or the whole life cost of Verify, instead stating: "Exempt under Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (Commercial Interests)."

Over seven years, no one outside The Reg gave the failure as much scrutiny as blogger David Moss. Last year he noted that GDS - originally intended to end the consultancy racket - was providing lots of work for outside consultants. If the government was slow to cotton on to the flop, that's because the Cabinet Office kept its lack of progress hidden as best it could.

Asked to list the main reasons Verify failed, Moss included lack of technical knowledge ("GDS dressing up in Google's clothes doesn't make them Google"), lack of experience, and poor social and interpersonal skills that alienated Whitehall clients.

"We may all hate office politics but you better be good at it if you want to get anywhere," said Moss.

Some of the blame-shifting that characterised Bracken's GDS is evidenced in a Cabinet Office statement. "User volumes have been lower than forecast due to slower than anticipated digital transformation across government," the department said. "Work is underway to develop cross-government agreement on the approach to digital identity in the intermediate term."

(1st November 2018)

(Mirror, dated 9th October 2018 author Emma Munbodh)

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"Good morning, this is a call from Microsoft Tech Support to fix your computer, have you got a moment?"

Millions of people experience issues with temperamental phones, routers and laptops every single day - from slow downloads to computer viruses - it's incredibly common.

That's why receiving a seemingly helpful a call from a Microsoft expert trying to fix it can make perfect sense.

Until you realise it's not them.

In a new warning, the UK's anti-fraud agency has issued an alert to consumers over the 'computer software' scams that are conning people out of money - and their data - every single day.

This type of fraud can start with either a phone call, an email or a pop-up message appearing on your computer, stating there is something wrong with your device or internet connection that needs to be addressed.

They may pose as a reputable company, such as Microsoft, Google or Samsung, or may even call under the guise of a well known broadband supplier.

In some cases you might be told you have won the 'Microsoft Lottery' or that you need to supply credit card information to 'validate your copy of Windows'. There have also been instances where fraudsters have used this method to watch the user type in passwords for services such as online banking.

However, somewhere along the call, there will either be a demand for a payment to fix the problem, or a request for access to install harmful software onto your computer.

Over the past 12 months, Action Fraud has received 22,609 reports of this type of scam with a total of £21,365,360 being lost to fraudsters. That's almost £1,000 each.

It said figures by the City of London Police's National Fraud Intelligence Bureau found men and women are equally susceptible - but the average victim is 63 and living in either London or Bristol.

"These fraudsters prey on vulnerable victims, doing everything they can to convince them there is something wrong with their computer," explained City of London Police's detective chief inspector, Lara Xenoudakis.

"They use this as a way to gain immediate and in some cases multiple payments from the victim.

"We are asking people to do everything they can to protect themselves from this type of fraud and stop fraudsters from thinking that this is an easy way to make money from unsuspecting victims."

How to protect yourself from Computer Software Service fraud

- Computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer.
Fraudsters make these phone calls to try to steal from you and damage your computer with malware. Treat all unsolicited phone calls with scepticism and don't give out any personal information.

- Computer firms tend not to send out unsolicited communication about security updates, although they do send security software updates. If in doubt, don't open the email.

- Computer firms do not request credit card information to validate copies of software. Nor do they ask for any personally identifying information, including credit card details.

- More specifically, Microsoft does not request credit card information to validate copies of Windows nor will it ever ask for any personally identifying information, including personal banking details to verify a download or transaction.

- The 'Microsoft Lottery' does not exist -so it's not true if you're told you've won.

(1st November 2018)

(Daily Mail, dated 9th October 2018 author Sebastian Murphy-Bates)

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Two men behind a cash-for-crash scam that may have topped £8million and involved 250 collisions were today slammed by a judge who said all insurance customers will pay for the fraud through higher premiums.

Boota Ram masterminded the sophisticated, large-scale fraud by orchestrating crashes with innocent drivers, mainly on mini-roundabouts.

The 38-year-old from Slough used false driving licences and fake documents to make claims against dozens of insurance companies for fabricated injuries or vehicle damage.

Police found the baker's car boot crammed with items necessary to make claims including dozens of fake IDs and insurance documents, with a judge branding the vehicle a 'mobile fraudster's office'.

Ram's laptop contained an immaculate spreadsheet with information for more than 500 claims, some so old the insurance firms had no details on whether they had paid out, prosecutor Michael Rogues told Reading Crown Court.

An estimate based on the spreadsheet puts the potential extent of the frauds at more than £8million. But the proven profit of the fraud based on corroborating documents from insurance companies was £4million.

Ram was handed a nine-year prison sentence after a jury convicted him of conspiracy to commit fraud over a three-year period. He was jailed in his absence after absconding part way through the trial.

His nephew, Gagandeep Gagandeep, was jailed for three years for his part in the conspiracy.

The 30-year-old deposited and withdrew claims money through his accounts, applying for insurance on cars he bought for the scam. He also took damaged cars to scrap yards.

Judge Paul Dugdale said every person in the UK would feel the impact of this significant fraud through increased insurance premiums.

'This involved a fraud which lasted three years and it involved the two defendants and a number of others carrying out induced accidents, manufactured accidents, where the fraudster's car was deliberately driven into cars driven by innocent parties who were not involved in the fraud in any way,' he said.

'This was so the fraudsters could fake insurance claims for personal injury which were dishonest.

'When Ram was arrested the contents of a car parked on his driveway can be described as a mobile fraudsters office.

'Not only was there a cost to the individuals involved in the incidents, the loss because of this kind of fraud affects almost every person in this country who drives a car.

'Insurance companies do not absorb this kind of loss. They find it forms part of their profit and loss operations and when costs increase they just pass it on to their customers who pay the higher premiums.

'Nobody should think that a conspiracy like this affects insurance companies alone. Ordinary people pay insurance premiums and they themselves become victims of this sort of conspiracy.

'It is no surprise that ordinary people who pay insurance premiums get very angry and its quite understandable in this situation. People go to work every day, perhaps each year they have to work out carefully each month how much they can afford.

'It will have a particular affect on the people of the Slough area where postcodes are taken into consideration will also be directly affected by having to pay higher premiums.

'The most aggravating factor is that for each claim it involved at first a deliberate crash where the car deliberately hit another car driven by somebody who was completely innocent.

'The collisions were not at speed and mainly on mini roundabouts. But each time a fraudster caused a collision they would not have known who was in the car, whether they be a robust driver, a vulnerable driver, a young driver or a driver with children in the car. Indeed on one occasion there were two young children in the car.'

Judge Dugdale said he had to pass sentence on Ram despite the fact he vanished from the courtroom and was suspected of being in London, because he did not think he would be picked up by police for up to 15 years due to high number of false drivers licences and false documentation he had.

'Ram gave evidence and said he was innocent and he was guilty of stupidity, laying the blame on a man called Daljit Singh. I believe Boota Ram and Daljit Singh were one and the same person.'

Ram, of Slough, Berkshire, was convicted by a unanimous jury of one count of conspiracy to defraud and two counts of possession of articles for use in fraud.

Gagandeep, of Slough, Berkshire, was convicted by unanimous jury of one count of conspiracy to defraud.

Mohammed Popat, 56, of Slough, Berkshire, was cleared of one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and one count of conspiracy to drive dangerously.

See also

(In Your Area, dated 11th October 2018)

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(1st November 2018)

(Stoke Sentinel, dated 8th October 2018 author Jonathan Bamber)

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Staffordshire Police are warning parents to be on their guard as a growing number of children playing the popular online Fortnite game have been targeted by fraudsters.

Fortnite gamers are drawn in to the scam by an advert on a social media channel which claims that by following a web link and entering some information they will receive free Vbucks - the in-game currency.

The fraudsters ask the victims for information about their account which allows them to log in and create fraudulent charges.

They also ask for the gamers' phone numbers in return for Vbucks and then sign the victim up to a premium rate subscription service, selling access to other people's Fortnite accounts, and offering Vbucks for free and then charging for it.

Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, received 35 reports of Fortnite-related fraud between April 1, 2017 and March 31 this year, with a total loss of £5,119, an average of £146 per person.

In the same period it received 37 reports of fraud involving Steam Cards - giftcards used on the digital game distrubution platform Steam - with a total loss of £44,455.98, an average of £123.88 per victim.

That scam involves fraudsters calling victims and claiming to be from well-known organisations. The victims are told to buy Steam Cards in order to pay for the processing of tax fund rebates, PPI refunds, administrative costs for processing loans and providing anti-virus software. The victim is asked to read out the serial code on the back of the card over the phone.

Action Fraud director 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. It is also important that parents make their children aware of the threat of fraud online.

"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 links to unknown. If you think you have been a victim of fraud, contact Action Fraud."

A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: "We are supporting Action Fraud by warning parents and online gamers of the risk of fraud involving Steam Cards and Fortnite.

"Please do not provide personal details under the premise of free Vbucks, and if you are downloading or purchasing game add-ons make sure that you use the official website."

Many members of the public believe it is easy for young gamers to become victims of fraud.

Dad Mark Turner, aged 60, of Blythe Bridge, said: "Adults get scammed so what chance have teenagers got. I do not understand how there is not the technology to take these fraudulent links down straight away."

Paul Mountford, aged 47, of Hanley, said: "It is so easy for teenagers to be scammed and be talked into using their parent's credit card."

His son, James Mountford, aged 14, added: "I have played Fortnite and it is easy to be the victim of fraud."

Mum Emma Johnson, aged 36, of Blurton, said: "If parents have not got passwords they are asking for it. On our X-Box, as soon as they go on something it has a password.

(1st November 2018)

(Mail on Sunday, dated 6th October 2018 author Sally Hamilton)

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Holiday rentals giant Airbnb is stepping up security measures to help end the scourge of fraudsters using its website to dupe holidaymakers into sending cash to scam accounts.

The menace of fake Airbnb bookings was exposed last year by The Mail on Sunday after numerous families were tricked into transferring payments for seemingly genuine properties to conmen disguising themselves online as the real property owners.

Now, as the US-based company reports that booking numbers are exploding - ten million British holidaymakers alone arranged accommodation via its online service in 2017 - it has pledged to stamp out the practice.

As well as reinforcement measures such as ID checks and checking names against regulatory, terrorist and sanctions watchlists, the company has introduced stricter authentication requirements when customers log in from an unrecognised device.

It has also developed new guides to help guests and hosts protect themselves, compiled with the help of internet safety group Get Safe Online.

Nick Shapiro, global head of trust and risk management at Airbnb is former deputy chief of staff at the CIA.

He says: 'While we already take steps to help keep bad actors off our platform we think these guides will further protect customers.'

The growing band of booking websites rely on trust between owners and bookers. But some users have paid thousands of pounds for properties that turned out to be sham listings.

Among them were the Gilmour family from South London who handed over more than £5,000 to a fraudster posing as the real host of a luxury property on the Balearic island of Majorca.

Other victims are also hoodwinked by websites set up by fraudsters using photos and details lifted from genuine web pages.

In all cases the holidaymakers are tricked by convincing patter to send cash quickly by bank transfer to secure a booking.

Figures from Action Fraud reveal crooks stole £6.7 million from holidaymakers last year - but it is the tip of the iceberg as embarrassment means many frauds go unreported.

Airbnb checks the ID of members but this does not stop fraudsters from hijacking real profiles.

Customers using online marketplaces such as Airbnb can protect themselves by only communicating with owners through the booking website's private messaging system - and paying via the firm's own secure payment set-up.

But not all online marketplaces do ID checks or provide secure booking.

One way to be safe is to pay by credit card. Your bank may provide a refund if the booking proves fake.

If a bank transfer is the only option then do extra homework. Use Google maps to track down properties and search engines to verify an owner's details.

Report any holiday fraud to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

(1st November 2018)

(Daily Mail, dated 5th October 2018 author Stephen Wright)

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A rogue airport parking firm run by a convicted conman is leaving holidaymakers' cars unattended on free public roads rather than in secure compounds.

Legacy Parking, which charges around £60 a week, says on its website that customers' vehicles are kept in a 'fenced and secured parking facility'.

But a six-month investigation into the company - where cars were monitored with tracking devices - revealed they are left unprotected on streets near Gatwick Airport in Sussex.

It is claimed the firm parks around 200 cars a week and is on course to make more than £200,000 profit in its first year of trading.

According to a dossier seen by the Daily Mail, the vehicles are kept on an industrial estate where car drivers park for free.

This week, the Mail saw dozens of cars there covered in dust, suggesting they had been parked for a long time while their owners were away on holiday. Pictures and tracking device data from the undercover investigation involving test deliveries of cars established that Legacy Parking leaves customers' vehicles there.

The company also uses two secure car parks which it does not have legitimate access to, according to sources. Its 'meet and greet' drivers are believed to use pin codes to gain unauthorised access.

Legacy Parking is owned and run by disgraced accountant ??????, who defrauded a former employer out of £155,000 to feed a gambling addiction and narrowly escaped a prison sentence five years ago.

Undercover footage shows ????? collecting a customer's vehicle from a car park at Gatwick in March. Evidence shows the car was later parked on a public street, not a safe compound.

Last night a furious customer called on trading standards officials to close down Patel's firm. Recruitment director Alex Ross-Scott, 31, who found out that his Audi A3 convertible had been parked on a public street, demanded tighter regulation of 'meet and greet' firms at Gatwick.

He was stunned when an investigator contacted him to say it had been kept on a street while he and his fiancée were on holiday in Portugal last month. Pictures show it was left on Whittle Way at the Manor Royal industrial estate near Gatwick.

Mr Ross-Scott, who lives in Sussex, said: 'We thought getting a meet and greet service meant the car would be parked in a 24-hour gated area. If anything had happened to my car, the insurer would not have covered it.

'The company should be closed down. It is misrepresentation of sale.' Last night Legacy failed to respond when asked to comment and ????? was said to be not at his home in Crawley.

Gatwick Airport said: 'Gatwick has never had a relationship with the company.' It recommended passengers use officially-approved car parks.

uaware comment

Official airport car park prices can be reasonable if you book online and are normally kept secure.

Also remember, if you use a bogus parking company your insurance will probably be invalid if any damage is caused.

You may also be liable if the bogus company driver commits an offence driving your car.

(1st November 2018)

(Reuters, dated 2nd October 2018)

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Six fraudsters were jailed in Britain on Tuesday for orchestrating a 17 million pound ($22 million) scam to sell and install solar energy panels, often targeting vulnerable people.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said it had brought the men to trial after the ringleaders - two brothers and former directors of Solar Energy Savings Limited - were caught during a routine police traffic stop after seven months on the run.

The men manipulated their victims with deceitful sales techniques, lies and false guarantees of reimbursement to misrepresent their deals and maximize sales. Around 1,500 victims lost up to 20,000 pounds each, the SFO said.

The men paid themselves almost two million pounds and drove Lamborghini and Porsche sports cars, had cosmetic surgery and took private flights to Switzerland and Italy.

They offered their victims a cashback scheme that falsely guaranteed that their costs would be invested and returned in a number of years. But in reality, the cash was transferred between a string of businesses in a scam so crude that investigators said the names of companies had been manually crossed out on certificates.

Ludovic Black, David Diaz, Steve Wilson, Robert Ross, Niall Hastie and Kenneth Reid received sentences of between three-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half years each.

"These men built predatory schemes to steal thousands from the hard-earned savings of vulnerable people while pretending to offer them a chance to improve their own financial security," said SFO director Lisa Osofsky.

(1st November 2018)



About 18 months ago I attended a course run by Trading Standards on Scams.

I was told that one of the tracts of a scammer / fraudster was their ability to gain the trust of the individual being scammed. On the basis of that trust the fraudster is then able to take advantage and illegally make a financial gain.

Trust and loyalty are on the "same side of the coin" literally. So are insurance companies scammers or are they just using a marketing ploy to increase their customer base ?

(The Sunday Times, 29th September 2018 author Andrew Ellson)

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The City watchdog will investigate home and car insurers in response to concerns that loyal customers are being exploited by huge increases in premiums every year.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said that it had been concerned for some time about longstanding customers being charged more for some financial products than those that had just joined.

The watchdog has powers to change how markets operate to increase competition and ensure that customers are treated fairly. Previous market studies have led to enforcement action.

Citizens Advice recently lodged a "super-complaint" with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), finding that households pay almost £900 a year too much for staying loyal to mobile phone, broadband, insurance, savings and mortgage providers.

The authority must publicly respond to the the complaint within 90 days. The CMA said that it would work with the relevant regulators in each area.

Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the FCA, said: "Citizens Advice has raised a number of important issues and we will work closely with the Competition and Markets Authority as it investigates this super-complaint.

"We expect firms to look after the interests of all customers and treat them fairly, whether they are new or longstanding. It is important to get balance right so that existing customers do not miss out on the benefits of competition and innovation, including when they purchase or renew their general insurance products.

"The study was have announced today will help us examine the issues we have already identified in the markets in more detail."

The average cost of hom insurance incrased by almost 8 per cent- triple the rate of inflation - in the year to April, according to the consumer group Which ? It did not differentiate between new and existing customers but the average increase for those who did not shop around is likely to have been significantly higher.

The super-complaint raised concerns about competition in the mortgage and savings markets but the FCA said that it had already undertaken work in these areas. It did not indicate whether it intended to complete further investigations into these markets.

The Association of British Insurers says that it had already taken voluntary action to ensure that longstanding customers did not lose out. Huw Evans, its director general, said: " This includes commitments from firms to review premiums charged to customers who have been with them for five years and the industry publishing a report on progress within two years."

This year the FCA said that it was taking action against insurers who failed to show the insurance premium that customers had paid the previous year.

In April the watchdog said that it had found that some companies, including the RAC, were still failing to implement the rules. The RAC agreed to contact affected customers.

Further reading (uaware additions)

(The Sunday Times, dated 29th September 2018 author Mark Atherton)

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Home Insurance

The Golden rule is never to automatically accept your renewal quote. Insurers will typically bump up your renewal premium and hope that you dont notice. Go on to price comparison sites and find out whats on offer. Ideally you should use several sites, because each might have a slightly different approach. Its also important to check out those insurers, such as Direct Line and Aviva, that can offer competitive rates, but don't appear comparison sites.

Money Saving Expert, a price comparison site, looked at the best time to buy home insurance and found you could get the cheapest price about three weeks before the renewal. The average annual premium for a combined buildings and contents policy was £148 if you bought 21 days before renewal, but £180 if you left it until the day itself.

Gary Cafell, th money editor at Money Saving Expert, says: "knowing when to pounce is a game-changer".

Car insurance

Again, never accept a standard renewal quote from your insurer. By searching price comparison sites you will almost certainly be able to get a better deal. Ifyou are midway through your policy you might be able to make money by switching., if you can cancel your existing policy for a modest fee and get the rest of the years premiums refunded.

The time when you are likely to be quoted the cheapest premium is 21 days before your renewal date.

(5th October 2018)

(BBC News, dated 28th September 2018)

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More consumers who fall victim to "push" payment scams may be reimbursed by their bank under proposed new rules.

A draft voluntary code for banks aims to prevent "Authorised Push Payment" (APP) scams.

Such scams trick account holders into authorising a payment to another account - usually a fraudster.

At the moment banks typically refund only about a fifth of the money that goes missing, leaving some thousands of pounds out of pocket.

The new code establishes the principle that if customers take "the requisite level of care", they should be reimbursed by their bank.

But consumers will still have to prove that they took "reasonable steps" to make sure that the person they paid was who they thought they were.

At the same time the payments regulator has announced that a new tool to counter such fraud, known as "confirmation of payee" should be in place by July next year.

'Significant win'

Consumer rights group Which? initiated a super-complaint about APP scams two years ago.

Jenni Allen, managing director of Which? Money, said the call to reimburse innocent victims of such scams was a "significant win" for consumers.

But she warned the new code would only be judged a success if banks protected more customers from scams and "swiftly" reimbursed those targeted by criminals.

"It's simply unacceptable that in cases where banks claim they could not have done anything more, it will still be the victim who is left to bear the cost - often with devastating consequences."

One APP victim was Angelene Bungay of Shrewsbury, who was duped into paying £13,000 to someone posing as the builder carrying out her loft conversion.

Her bank said that despite Mrs Bungay being one of a growing number of APP victims, she would not be refunded.


The code aims to make it harder for criminals to commit push payment fraud, and sets out how consumers can get better protection and support from their banks.

But it lists eight ways that banks can justifiably refuse to reimburse customers who have been defrauded.

These include cases where customers:

- refuse to heed warnings from their bank
- "recklessly share" their security credentials
- fail to take steps to make sure they person they paid was who they thought they were
- fail to be honest with their bank
- are "grossly negligent"
- fail to heed a confirmation of payee result (see below)

Questions also remain about who is liable when both the bank and the customer appear to have taken all the necessary steps to prevent fraud.

What is confirmation of payee?

Under the current system, anyone making an online payment to another person has to enter their name, their sort code and their account number.

But as long as the sort code and the account number match up, the payment will go through. In other words the name on the account is not checked by the bank.

Under the confirmation of payee system, a message will bounce back to customers, saying " Did you mean to pay Joe Bloggs?" - giving the actual name of the account-holder.

This should stop fraudsters posing under false names. This system is now due to come in by July 2019.


A draft is open for consultation until 15 November and the final version is intended to be agreed by early next year. In the meantime five banks have said they will start to implement the draft code.

Stephen Jones, chief executive of UK Finance, which represents banks, said the industry would work with partners to identify a sustainable way to reimburse consumers.

"It is vital that we get the right outcome for customers... while ensuring innocent victims and customers are not penalised for the criminal actions of others," he said.

Financial services firms "have now got a clear sighting shot as to the overall direction of travel" in terms of reimbursement for fraud, he said, while consumers should have greater consistency in being able to get money back.

Some of the issues must be resolved by new regulation, rather than a voluntary code alone, UK Finance added.

(London Evening Standard, dated 25th September 2018 author Sophie Williams)

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Fraudsters have stolen more than £500 million from British bank customers during the first half of 2018.

According to trade body UK Finance, £145 million of that was lost through unauthorised push payment (APP) scams. These scams involve people being tricked into authorising a payment to another bank account.

The remaining £358 million was stolen using unauthorised transactions carried out by a third party and not the account holder.

Most victims of unauthorised fraud receive a full refund however there is no legal protection for those duped by APP scams.

UK Finance said that £30.9 million of the £145 million lost through APP scams this year had been returned to customers.

Almost two thirds of reported APP scams in the first six months of the year were purchase scams. This is where victims pay in advance for a product or service such as a car or holiday rental which is not received or does not exist.

This type of fraud often takes place online, through auction websites or social media.

There were also 3,866 reported cases of impersonation scams, where the criminal claims to be from the police, bank or another organisation in order to trick the victim into transferring money.

The nature of these scams means victims are often persuaded to transfer significant sums of money, with the average loss in police and bank impersonation fraud amounting to £11,402.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said the figures showed scams posed a "major threat" to the UK.

"The criminals behind it target their victims indiscriminately and the proceeds go on to fund terrorism, people smuggling and drug trafficking, whether or not the individual is refunded," she said.

She added that the industry was taking action to tackle the problem, by investing in security systems and cyber defences, as well as bringing in new standards to ensure victims get support from their payment providers.

The organisation said financial institutions had prevented two-thirds of unauthorised fraud in the first half of 2018.

But Gareth Shaw, money expert at consumer group Which?, said banks' efforts had been "woefully insufficient".

"It's now two years since our super-complaint highlighted the lack of protection for victims of bank transfer scams, but these shocking figures show just how widespread the problem still is," he said.

"Banks... have not done enough to protect their customers, who continue to lose life-changing sums of money to ever-more sophisticated crooks.

"The Payment Systems Regulator has rightly committed to introducing a reimbursement scheme for victims. It's about time that banks step up and properly compensate customers who have lost money through no fault of their own."

(5th October 2018)

(Mirror, dated 26th September 2018 author James Andrews)

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No one likes paying tax, so the news you are due an unexpected rebate of hundreds of pounds is something that will see hearts leap across the land.

Except it's fake - and rather than getting a nice little windfall, you'll be handing your details straight to scammers.

"We identified an error in the calculation of your tax from the last payment," one example of the email pretending to be from HMRC reads. It adds that £675.95 has already been sent back.

Then comes the hook.

"In order for us to return the excess payment, we need to confirm a few extra details."

To get the money you need to click on the link, then put in your details on the scammer's site - and as soon as they have that information they will either use it to steal cash from you, or sell the details to someone else who will.

Sadly, the example of the scam sent to one of Mirror Online's team is far from the only one.

"We had a 200% increase on searches based on the previous week," consumer complaints site Resolver told Mirror Money.

Do not trust it

Complaints site Resolver points out vigilant consumers can beat this sort of scam if they know what to look out for.

"HMRC never contact customers who are due a tax refund by email. They always send letters via post," Resolver founder James Walker explained.

"HMRC do sometimes contact you by text, but they'll never ask for any personal details or financial information. Beware of texts directing you to follow a link.

"If you've received an email or text claiming to be from HMRC, you should send it to and then delete it straight away.

"You should never open any attachments or links in one of these emails."

When HMRC will contact you about a tax refunds

HM Revenue and Customs will never use texts or emails to:

- Tell you about a tax rebate or penalty

- Ask for personal or payment information

The tax body also said it would never put a figure on the alleged non-payment in the message itself.

If it does get in touch via phone, email or text, it will ask the customer to log into their account.

If HMRC needs to contact you about anything confidential they'll write to you instead.

I've replied to an email: What should I do?

Contact the HMRC security team if you think you've given any personal information away in reply to a suspicious email or text.

Include brief details of what you disclosed (for example name, address, HMRC User ID, password) but don't give your personal details in the email.

To contact HMRC's security team, email , or report any phishing activity to .

HMRC tax contact numbers

You can call 0300 200 3600 anytime Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm, 8am to 4pm on Saturdays and 9am to 5pm on Sundays.

Report a fraudulent HMRC email or text message

- You can forward any suspicious emails to HMRC's phishing team: .

- If you receive a text, forward it on to 60599. Text messages will be charged at your network rate

What to do if you think you've been scammed

If you receive an email, call or correspondence that seems suspicious, or if you see any unusual information on your account, do not ignore it.

Change your passwords and report your concerns to Action Fraud - they'll be able to look into the case for you :

Where you believe your bank details may have been compromised, notify your bank as soon as possible.

You can also request a copy of your credit report - this will list your entire six year financial history - including any misuse of your personal information, such as an unidentified loan application.

Review every entry on your credit report and if you see an account or even a credit search from a company that you do not recognise, notify the credit reference agency. They all offer a free service to victims of fraud.

(5th October 2018)

(This is Money, dated 26th September 2018 authors Victoria Bischoff and Amelia Murray)

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Their plan to dodge refunds for scams costing families £1million a day are EXPOSED in leaked letter

- Letter was sent by Stephen Jones, chief executive of trade body UK Finance
- Claimed it wasn't right that banks should be 'financially responsible' for scams
- Spokesmen for UK Finance and Payment Systems Regulator refused to comment

Shameless banks have mounted a secret lobbying campaign to avoid having to refund victims of fraud.

Watchdogs will spell out tomorrow the steps banks must take to tackle scams costing families £1million a day.

It was hoped the measures would include a proper compensation fund.

However a letter leaked to MoneyMail reveals that banks have told regulators and government officials they should not be made responsible. Figures published yesterday show that around £145million was lost to 'authorised push payment' fraud in the first six months of the year. Only £31million was refunded.

Many of the victims were persuaded by fraudsters to transfer cash to another account for safety - only to see it vanish.

'The banks are shameless,' said Suzanne Raftery, a former Scotland Yard detective and fraud expert at Requite Solutions. 'They often don't care about the devastation these scams cause for people. They care about money.'

Gareth Shaw, of Which? Money, said: 'It's two years since we highlighted a real lack of protection for people targeted through no fault of their own - but people are still losing life-changing sums of money every day and action from the banks has been woefully insufficient.

'The finance industry and regulator must quickly introduce measures to stop these scams from happening in the first place and commit to reimbursing all victims who are not at fault - otherwise they risk further eroding trust in the banking system.'

f fraud continued at the current rate, banks would be on the hook for an extra £200million of losses this year.

The biggest five, Lloyds, RBS, Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered, made profits of £9.3billion between them in the second quarter of the year.

The Mail is campaigning for clearer rules to protect victims, help them to trace their stolen money as well as get access to compensation.

The leaked letter was sent last month by Stephen Jones, chief executive of trade body UK Finance, to a number of officials including Andrew Bailey, who heads the Financial Conduct Authority.

Mr Jones said: 'I speak for all payment service providers (banks) involved to date when I state that they do not believe they should be required to compensate a consumer for the (presently) unquantifiable 'residual risk' to which your letter refers.

'This is not because they do not wish a consumer who has acted reasonably to be reimbursed in such circumstances.

'They do. It is because PSPs do not accept they should or could be automatically liable for this risk.'

He claimed it was not right that banks should be 'financially responsible' for scams that start with data breaches in other sectors such as telecoms and retail.

He warned that a code of conduct that did not put more onus on the customer might lead to more fraud. It is not known whether the rules will demand better compensation for victims.

The code is the result of eight months of work by banks, charities and consumer rights organisations, which were part of a steering group appointed by the Payment Systems Regulator.

The rules are likely to include giving customers timely warnings if they notice suspicious activity on their account and taking measures to prevent criminals opening accounts in the first place.

The idea is that if banks then fail to meet these minimum standards of care they must refund victims.

The proposed code, which should come into force at the start of next year, will be voluntary but it is expected that most major banks will sign up. It will also include a requirement for customers to take reasonable steps to protect themselves against fraudsters.

If they behave recklessly or negligently banks would not be expected to refund them.

However, experts say that most scams these days are so sophisticated that even the smartest of people are at risk of being conned.

But while banks admit that it is right that these victims should be refunded, they refuse to accept this is their responsibility.

Nicky Morgan, the Tory chairman of the Commons Treasury committee, said: 'As online banking and payments become more prevalent, millions of customers are exposed to the risk of economic crime. As part of the Treasury committee's inquiry into economic crime, we'll look at how consumers are affected, and the response of the regulators and financial institutions, including banks.

'Whilst we all have a responsibility to protect ourselves against fraud, financial institutions also have a role to play in stamping out such criminal behaviour.'

John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, said: 'For too long banks have been able to place the blame on intelligent and careful individuals when they are conned by sophisticated fraudsters manipulating the banks' processes.

'It is high time the financial services industry faced up to the fact that these people are not wilfully making payments - they are being tricked and the results are devastating.

'Banks need to face up to the problem and reimburse their customers when they fall victim to scams instead of washing their hands of them. I am in full support of the Daily Mail's campaign.'

When the code is published the steering group is expected to continue to work together over the next couple of months in a bid to find a solution for a compensation scheme for 'authorised fraud' victims.

Spokesmen for UK Finance and the Payment Systems Regulator refused to comment.


1. Follow the stolen money

Criminals bounce stolen money from account to account - often within the same bank - so it becomes 'lost'.

At present, once money leaves someone's account it is typically gone for good.

Banks must set up an industry-wide system that enables them to trace where that stolen money goes - to give them a chance of clawing it back.

2. Make banks accountable

If they have not done enough to stop fraudsters opening accounts they use to store stolen funds - for example if scammers have used fake ID - the banks must be responsible for the losses and refund the missing money.

3. Set up fraud hotlines

All banks must have a dedicated fraud hotline that victims can call 24 hours a day / seven days a week.

Currently delays reduce the already small chances of banks being able to claw bank their money.

4. Phone firms must help

Telecom providers should identify and stop scam text messages and calls getting through.

Untold numbers of victims are caught out because the scam message appears within a sting of genuine communications from their bank.

5. Watchdogs with teeth

The Payment Systems Regulator should draw up clear rules on exactly when banks should refund fraud victims - and police these rules strictly.

The Financial Ombudsman should be given more power to investigate fraud regardless of who the customer banks with.

6. Compensate victims

A total of £130million is sitting in frozen bank accounts once used by criminals. With a simple change in the law it could be used to compensate victims.


- Hang up on ALL cold callers.

- If you are worried that your bank really might need to talk to you, put down the phone and call it using the number on the back of your bank card or on its website.

- Use a different telephone from the one the call came in on - fraudsters often remain on the line after people hang up. If you have to use the same phone, wait at least 30 minutes before calling back.

- Remember banks will NEVER ask customers to move money to another account to keep it safe from fraudsters.

- Be suspicious if the caller seems to be in a rush and eager for the transaction to go through quickly.

- Never disclose personal information even if the caller sounds convincing and appears to know personal details.

- Never respond directly to unsolicited emails or texts.


- Call your bank straight away but only on a number taken from your bank card or its website.

- Tell the call handler that you think you have been scammed and ask for the money to be recalled straight away.

- Do not ask for the fraud team as there may be a queue - the crime can always be investigated later.

- If the money has already gone out of your account, tell the call handler to contact the receiving bank and freeze the money so it cannot be cleared from the account.

- Note the time of the call and any time spent waiting in telephone queues. If there are delays this could be used to support a complaint later.

- Write down everything about the fraud. Ask the bank to explain what happened to the money when it left the account.

(5th October 2018)

(Daily Record, dated 25th September 2018 author Vicky Shaw)

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A cold-calling fraudster can sound very convincing, but there may be some warning signs that could help you spot that someone is about to attempt to steal your cash.

To avoid falling victim to a scam, people are being urged to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign - which is backed by major banks and financial services providers.

To help you out even further, we've gathered together a handy list of their advice - detailing out the things to look out for to avoid getting scammed:

The 'nice guy' routine:

Previous research by Take Five delved into the techniques financial fraudsters commonly use to trick people into handing over financial or personal information over the phone, often when they are posing as someone in authority such as a fraud detection manager or a police officer .

It found that while many people are more likely to trust a stranger over the phone if they sound like a "nice person", in fact a caller acknowledging someone's concerns and sounding apologetic can be the hallmark of a scam.

Using your information against you:

Looking at evidence from real-life scam phone calls, it found fraudsters will use snippets of information about their targets, gathered together from different sources, to sound like they know what they are talking about.

Creating a sense of urgency:

Alarm bells should also start ringing if the caller suddenly switches tempo and starts piling on the pressure - perhaps by creating a false sense of urgency and making their victim think they need to act quickly so they have no time to think it through.

If you start to have doubts or something does not feel right, put the phone down.

There are also some common types of scam to watch out for.

These include purchase scams, when victims pay up-front for goods, often after seeing them on auction websites or social media that are never received.

Criminals also advertise fake holidays and concert tickets.

A warning sign could be if you are asked to pay by directly bank transfer instead of a website's secure payment options.

People may also be persuaded to part with their cash after being convinced this will result in the release of a much larger payment back to them, for example after being tricked into believing they have won an overseas lottery or that valuables are waiting for them at customs and a fee must be paid to release the goods.

General advice:

- A genuine bank or organisation will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your Pin, full password or to move money to another account.

- Only give out your personal or financial details to use a service that you have given your consent to, that you trust and that you are expecting to be contacted by.

- Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected email or text.

- Always question uninvited approaches in case it is a scam. Instead, contact the company directly using a known email or phone number.

(5th October 2018)

(The Telegraph, dated 25th September 2018 author Sam Meadows)

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Scammers stole £800,000 every day in the first six months of this year, according to new figures released by the banking trade body.

UK Finance, which tracks bank data on bank transfer fraud, last night announced that £145.4m was lost to so-called "authorised push payment" fraud between January and June.

This type of crime is Britain's fastest growing and the announcement suggests that 2018 will see a sharp increase in the amount stolen from 2017, when victims lost £236m over the whole year. Telegraph Money has been campaigning for banks to do more to help victims of bank transfer fraud.

By far the most common fraud of this type is purchase fraud, whereby a victim believes they are paying for a legitimate service or item, with £19.4m lost in 21,483 cases. There were also around 4,000 cases of impersonation, in which a criminal will pose as a trusted third party to redirect a payment, for example a solicitor or bank.

Investment fraud resulted in £20.9m of losses while 571 victims were tricked by romance scams for an average loss of £9,282.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance said data breaches are increasingly fuelling fraud.

"Fraud and scams pose a major threat to our country," she added. "The criminals behind it target their victims indiscriminately and the proceeds go on to fund terrorism, people smuggling and drug trafficking, whether or not the individual is refunded. Every part of society must help to stamp out this menace."

Tony Blake, head of fraud prevention at the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit, a specialist police squad, said: "Criminals are after your money and they are clever at getting it, impersonating people and organisations to groom even the savviest into acting.

"If you get a call, text, email or social media message asking for your personal or financial details or to transfer money, it could be a scam so stop, think and 'take five'.

"Check every request is genuine by doing some research and contact the organisation using the details from their official website, a latest bill or statement."

A further £358m was lost to "unauthorised" fraud, which relates to transactions made without the victims' knowledge.

Victims are usually refunded by banks in these circumstances, but transfers due to authorised push payment scams are made willingly, and so banks are often reluctant to reimburse victims.

A forthcoming reimbursement code is set to force banks to take more responsibility in these cases.

The UK Finance figures also reveal that the finance industry prevented £705.7m of unauthorised fraud in this time period, a total of £2 in every £3 attempted by fraudsters.

(London Evening Standard, dated 26th September 2018 author Justin Davenport)

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Londoners were tricked out of more than £860,000 last year by conmen claiming to be offering help to fix computer problems, new figures show.

A total of 1,073 people in the capital fell victim to crooks pretending to be from "tech support" attached to big firms such as Microsoft or Apple . The problem is so serious that Microsoft has seconded an employee to work with City of London police's fraud intelligence unit to help combat the scammers.

The victims, mostly elderly, are targeted with either a phone call, an email or a pop-up message on their computer stating something is wrong with the machine or the internet connection. The message will claim to be from a group such as "'Microsoft Tech Support", or will ask for credit card information to "validate your copy of Windows".

A demand for payment to fix the issue follows, or criminals install software to access personal and financial details.

Another scam tells people they have won the "Microsoft Lottery". Action Fraud, the reporting centre for cyber crime, has launched a campaign to help people avoid becoming a victim. Londoners lost a total of £862,585 in the financial year 2017/18. City police's fraud intelligence bureau said the average age of victims was 63. There were 22,609 reports of such frauds across Britain, with losses of £21.3 million, but officials believe the figures are far greater as many people do not report cases.

Lara Xenoudakis, temporary detective chief inspector at City of London police, said: "These fraudsters prey on vulnerable victims, doing everything they can to convince them there is something wrong with their computer as a way to gain immediate and in some cases multiple payments from the victim."

Police urged computer users to treat all phones calls and messages with suspicion as firms never make unsolicited calls to help fix a problem, never request credit card details to validate software, and never ask for personally identifying information, including card details.

(5th October 2018)

(iNews, dated 25th September 2018 author Andy Jones)

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Fewer than one in 20 reported fraud crimes are being solved in the UK according to research by consumer watchdog Which.

Figures obtained from UK police forces through FOI requests also reveal most regional forces have seen a substantial drop in their fraud investigation success rates - with some solving almost 40 per cent fewer cases during 2016 than they did in 2014.

In the first six months of 2018, Brits were defrauded by £145m - losing a total of almost £1m a day. The figure was 50 per cent greater in the same period of 2017, according to trade body UK Finance.

Banks logged almost 35,000 cases of push payment fraud in the year to July - a rate of almost 200 a day - with just £31m of the stolen £145m returned to customers.

Gareth Shaw, an expert at Which? Money, says banks need to do more to protect vulnerable customers, many of whom have no access to branches or one-to-one advice. "Consumers continue to lose life-changing sums of money with few protections as more and more of us are encouraged to do our banking online.

"The regulator and industry must now seize the opportunity to introduce a reimbursement scheme that delivers for victims of push-payment scams who have lost money through no fault of their own. But ultimately, banks should be doing much more to protect their customers against scams in the first place."

Man waits to find if he will get any of £15,000 stolen cash returned

As i reported this month, Jack Armstrong, 25, from Altrincham, Greater Manchester was conned out of £15,000 by an elaborate fraud which conned him using a fake Amazon Prime email and a phone call claiming to be from his bank. Mr Armstrong even checked the number online and it matched the anti-fraud number commonly used by his bank, Natwest. The caller convinced him his Natwest accounts were at risk after £400 had been fraudulently spent at Argos online.

The thieves had already "phished" part of his details by sending him a fake request from Amazon Prime that asked for his bank sort code, account number, mother's maiden name and mobile number two weeks before. The final call, pretending to be from Natwest, then got other security questions including his date of birth.

The following day, Mr Armstrong's bank card was declined when he tried to buy something, and he discovered all his money had been swiped and moved to another bank. He has been left with no money to pay his bills and mortgage, and has been forced to borrow from family.

He told i: "I became suspicious when a man who said his name was Andrew from the Natwest Fraud Team rang me. So I Googled the number he'd called me from, but what confused me is that it was the same as the official fraud team's number. "I had never heard of this type of fraud and wasn't aware they could do that, so I'd like to warn other people about it."

He is yet to discover if he will receive any of the £15,000 back. Many banks refuse to pay cash lost to fraudsters if victims have willingly given away their bank details or transferred cash on demand, even if the victim has been 'told' to do so because they believed their account was at risk.

For advice on how to protect your personal details as well as your bank account speak to your bank or visit Get Safe Online :

(5th October 2018)

(Which?, dated 24th September 2018 author Josh Robbins)

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More than 96% of cases reported to the UK's national fraud reporting centre Action Fraud go unsolved, exclusive Which? Money analysis can reveal.

Less than one in 20 crimes handled by Action Fraud result in a suspect being charged, cautioned or dealt with some other way by the justice system, according to official statistics.

Our Which? investigation reveals the low-rate of success for solving fraud cases and explains how Action Fraud works, and what to do if you're targeted.

Police losing the battle against fraud

Exclusive Which? research found that less than 4% of crimes reported to Action Fraud are solved, and probably much less.

Our estimate is based on two statistics.

The first is the proportion of crimes reported to the Action Fraud, which are then forwarded to local police for investigation. This can be worked out by comparing the number of Action Fraud crime reports against the number of forwarded cases in each year, which are published annually.

Around 25% of cases have been forwarded in the last four years. That means 75% of Action Fraud crime reports are closed unsolved without ever being sent to a local force for investigation - typically because there is no viable line of enquiry.

The second - and crucial - figure relates to how many fraud investigations local police are solving. This cannot be found in routine publications, making it unique among crime groups. Furthermore, we don't feel this lack of transparency has been explained adequately.

But we unearthed some data tucked away in the appendix of a written submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee by the City of London Police. It showed that in 2016-17, local police solved 3.1% of fraud cases, while 85% were unsolved, and in 12.1% of cases were ongoing.

Combining these secondary figures with the 25% dissemination rate, we concluded that 0.8% of Action Fraud cases are solved, 96.3% are unsolved unsolved and 3% of cases are ongoing.

----Original article has a graphic that describes figures--------------

Fraud solved less often than other crimes

Comparing our research with other crime statistics shows that police solve significantly less fraud cases than any other crime group.

Alarmingly this comes as fraud offences continue to rise. UK residents are now more likely to be victims of fraud and cyber crime than any type of offence, according to the ONS.

Fraud and cyber crime offences are now ten times more common than burglary.

Fraud policing vs other crime groups 2016/17 (Interpretation of graph figures)

Drug offences : 80%
Possession of weapons offences : 59%
Misc. crimes against society : 29&
Sexual offences : 9%
Public order offences : 21%
Violence against the person : 20%
Robbery : 13%
Theft offences : 12%
Criminal damage and arson :11%
Action Fraud : 3.1%

What is Action Fraud?

A scam carried out online or over the phone can snare victims right across the country.

For this reason, a centralised fraud-policing system was established in 2009. Action Fraud, and its sibling agency, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), are at the heart of this process.

Both are branches of the City of London Police, which has expertise in battling economic crime.

Most victims of fraud in the UK should report an incident directly to Action Fraud. Individual reports are then passed on to the NFIB, where connected crimes are pooled into a single investigation package.

The NFIB doesn't go after offenders. Instead, it assesses whether there is a viable line of enquiry and, if so, forwards the investigation to another agency. In most cases, this is a local police force, typically the one where the suspect resides.

How are local police tackling fraud?

Which? Money sent Freedom of Information requests to local police forces, asking them about the outcomes of fraud investigations conducted in the last four years. We received responses from 30 of them.

The data was messy and inconsistent in some cases, so it would be unfair and inaccurate to compare local forces based on what they sent back.

However, the responses we received show a general decline in police performance against fraud at almost every force. Nearly all of them saw their solved rate fall by more than 20% between 2014 and 2016, while 10 of them saw performance fall by more than 40%.

Local police proportion of fraud cases solved in 2017 (Original article shows figures for 4 years)

Avon and Somerset * : 33%
Cambridgeshire : 14%
Cleveland : 36%
Cumbria : 27%
Derbyshire * : 48%
Devon and Cornwall : 22%
Durham * : 38%
Dyfed Powys : 21%
Essex : NA (2016 - 19%)
Gloucestershire : 16%
Greater Manchester : 5%
Herts * : 53%
Leicestershire : 11%

Note : We don't believe this data justifies comparing individual forces. Forces marked with an asterix [*] disclosed a very low number of crimes and should be treated with extra caution. Significant differences between forces are likely to be due to the complicated fraud reporting model: we believe some forces have only included frauds directly recorded, and not those passed on by Action Fraud/ NFIB, while some included both, and others only included NFIB crimes. Ongoing investigations and those forwarded to other agencies aren't included. a Many 2017 investigations are still ongoing, meaning these numbers are likely to change. Source: FOIs to 43 local forces (30 responses).

The local police force figures look much healthier than our "less than 4% solved" discovery because they do not include the 75% of cases that the NFIB never forwards on.

In addition, these figures may include frauds directly acted on by local police without being forwarded on by Action Fraud, further explaining inconsistencies with our main analysis.

Why are so few fraud cases being solved?

To start with, fraud is difficult to investigate because offenders are often 'invisible'. More and more of our financial transactions take place on the internet, so criminals have set up camp online. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that around 55% of frauds have a digital element.

Although investigators may have cutting-edge technologies to track down online or telephone fraudsters, it's an uphill struggle. The offender might not be based in the UK, and there may only be a social media account or web address to look into.

In contrast, a detective working on a robbery investigation will have a head start if there are eye witness reports and CCTV evidence - or if an offender is caught red-handed, as they typically are in weapons and drugs cases.

These difficulties are compounded by the reality that police forces must prioritise. Fraud can be a devastating, life-changing event for victims. But this has to be weighed against the threat, risk and harm of other offences, including violent crime.

To make matters worse, police budgets and officer numbers have been significantly cut in recent years, and officers say this has had an effect on their ability to deliver justice.

Det Supt Alex Rothwell from City of London Police told us: 'Whereas perhaps the traditional view of policing is detecting crime, the police now spend a significant proportion of their time dealing with social issues, mental health and so on. Balancing all of that against the need to investigate fraud is a challenge.'

But the City of London Police emphasises much of its work goes beyond catching criminals. It also disrupts websites, telephone numbers and bank accounts linked to fraud.

Detectives interviewed by Which? were also keen to stress the increasing role local police play in victim care. The ONS estimates that 15% of bank and credit card fraud victims have been successfully targeted before. Providing appropriate care and advice to a victim in the aftermath of a fraud is therefore crucial to preventing further crimes.

The NFIB provides all local forces with profiles of specific groups deemed vulnerable to fraud within their jurisdiction - these can be used to safeguard at-risk groups.

How to report a fraud

If you're the victim of fraud, it's important that you inform law enforcement. This is vital to helping investigators to build as complete a picture as possible of the UK fraud threat.

In most cases, you should go directly to Action Fraud - you can report online, or by calling 0300 123 2040. You should also do this if you have information that could help local police identify a fraudster.

(5th October 2018)

(Sky News, dated 24th September 2018)

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More than £21m has been stolen from over 22,000 people in the UK by fraudsters offering fake help with computer issues, according to new figures.

Action Fraud, the specialist nationwide reporting point for cyber crime run by City of London police, has launched a campaign to educate people about Computer Software Service fraud.

It can start with either a phone call, an email or a pop-up message appearing on your computer, telling you there's something wrong with it or with your internet connection, and claiming that it needs to be fixed.

The scammers will then demand payment to fix the issue, or they will trick victims into installing software on their computer which could allow the criminals to access personal and financial details.

Action Fraud stated it received 22,609 reports of Computer Software Service fraud with a total of £21,365,360 being lost over the last financial year.

According to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, men and women are equally susceptible to being targeted by the fraudsters, and victims are on average 63 years old.

The bureau's figures show that people living in London and Bristol are most likely to fall victim too.

Fraud became the most common type of crime in England and Wales in 2016 because of the increasing profits to be made through cyber fraud and computer misuse.

Protection advice from Action Fraud and City of London Police will be issued on their social media channels to help people learn how to protect themselves.

The forces are also encouraging businesses to warn customers that they will never be contacted in that way if any issues are detected.

City of London Police's 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.

"During this campaign week, we are asking people to do everything they can to protect themselves from this type of fraud and stop fraudsters from thinking that this is an easy way to make money from unsuspecting victims."

Warning advice

- Computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer. Fraudsters make these phone calls to try to steal from you and damage your computer with malware. Treat all unsolicited phone calls with scepticism and don't give out any personal information.

- Computer firms tend not to send out unsolicited communication about security updates, although they do send security software updates. If in doubt, don't open the email, click the link or download any attachments.

- Computer firms do not request credit card information to validate copies of software. Nor do they ask for any personally identifying information, including credit card details.

(5th October 2018)

(Daily Mail, dated 24th September 2018 author Ruth Sunderland)

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The nightmare begins with a seemingly innocuous call or email, purporting to be from your bank, a solicitor, an online retailer or even from the police.

You are drawn into an entirely credible conversation and in good faith disclose security information - passwords, PINs, account details - before making a transfer of funds. And then the contents of your account disappear into the ether.

Banks describe it as 'authorised push-payment fraud' - financial jargon that does no justice to the cruelty of the scam, or the misery it inflicts. It is a huge criminal enterprise that infects the whole high street banking system.

As the Mail reveals today, Britons will have been fleeced of at least £300million this year alone if current rates are maintained, with thousands of victims.

Unlike with debit or credit card fraud - in which there is a limit on liability once you have informed the card issuer - banks will often refuse to refund a single penny.

Your losses are likely to be deemed to be entirely your own fault - hence the term 'authorised'.

It is grotesquely disproportionate that banks making billions of pounds in profit between them can abandon loyal customers in this way.

A central compensation fund would go some way to addressing the injustice - not least because it's the banks that are making their customers vulnerable to fraudsters through relentless pressure to shift accounts online.

For them it's far cheaper than maintaining a branch network. Branches are closing at the rate of 60 a month, and even ATM machines are being mothballed due to cost-cutting, despite vociferous protests from communities that are being turned into banking deserts.

Many victims are elderly and vulnerable, but by no means all. We are all finding our way with new and constantly evolving technology, and even the most astute customers can be ensnared in the web of deceit. Those taken in have even included finance professionals.

I shudder at the memory of how I almost gave away security information at the prompting of an authentic-looking email, supposedly from Amazon. It said there was a problem with an order and asked me to submit my payment details again.

At the last minute I checked the order number on the email against my Amazon account and realised it was bogus. I also refuse to bank online - despite constant blandishments to do so - until I am persuaded that fraud safety nets are vastly improved.

The banks expect us to exist in a permanent state of hypervigilance and instead of doing their utmost to protect our accounts and help defrauded customers they eschew responsibility. Victims are blamed even though they did not recklessly divulge information, but were inveigled into doing so by sophisticated and practised criminals.

All they are guilty of is an unguarded moment - hardly a crime that deserves to be punished with the loss of thousands of pounds of savings. Technically, the banks may be within their rights, but their stance is unsympathetic, unethical - and yes, immoral.

They boast of state-of-the-art detection systems that are supposed to identify and block unusual transactions. So when these fail to prevent push-payment fraud, they must share in the responsibility.

And how is it that legitimate savers are put through the third degree when trying to open a new account, but fraudsters somehow find it easy to operate accounts to receive their illicit transfers? Why are the banks that receive the cash extracted by deception able to hide behind data protection rules and refuse to co-operate in efforts to retrieve and return it?

The truth is that while the banks aren't footing the bill for these scams, there is little incentive to stop them, or bring the guilty to book.

New technology can give real benefits to customers in terms of convenience, lower costs and help with money management. But it will come to naught if we cannot be confident in the security of the technology - and if we are abandoned by our banks the moment fraudsters pounce.


(Independent, dated 25th September 2018 author James Moore)

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"There's one born every minute, and stupidity has always been a capital crime. Can we really expect the banks to make good losses people incur through their own foolishness?"

Some £145m went up in smoke due to unauthorised push payment scams, in which people were conned into transferring money to other accounts in the first half of 2018.

You will usually be refunded in the event of your falling victim to people using your bank details to make transactions without your knowledge - all too common in an era of identity and data theft (£358m was lost this way).

However, if you consciously click on the "pay" button, and your money vanishes, it's a different story.

Many would argue that's the way it should be. If people are daft enough to send £10,000 to deposed Prince Whathisname, after receiving an email promising 10 times that if he can just recover the funds that have been locked up in various banks as a result of his country's internal strife, then more fool them.

If we ask banks to refund people suckered like that, if we order them to indulge in hand holding, we'll all pay more. They will pass on the costs they incur. Their services will become harder and less convenient to use as they seek to protect their bottom lines.

That misses the point. Scams like the aforementioned still net the occasional victim. There are billions of people on the planet. Send enough emails out and you'll eventually hook someone. It's why they are so popular and enduring.

But there are plenty of more sophisticated fraudsters capable of drawing in even those people who might otherwise seem quite savvy. Find out that someone's moving house? Why not target their deposit. Given how stressful the process is, you stand a good chance of catching them unawares if you contact them at the right time, and then it's cha-ching!

People's personal finances are the repositories of their hopes and dreams. They can be quite vulnerable when it looks like those hopes and dreams are about to be realised, through the purchase of a dream home, a car or a holiday cottage.

Most of us want to believe that people are basically decent, despite all evidence to the contrary. We can thus very easily become prey to clever crooks brokering such purchases who then vanish - pop - after our savings have been transferred.

The internet is manna from heaven for this type of vermin. It loads the dice in the huckster's favour to an alarming degree.

Companies' addiction to collecting our data, and their carelessness with it, helps them find out about us. There are "suckers" lists traded around the dark web to help them zero in on the vulnerable; past victims and the like.

But even the savvy can get caught. Want to check out a web address or a person or a bank account you're paying into? Banks and other organisations aren't always helpful.

I found that out when I was caught up in the Ticketmaster data theft. As a result, I was told I could have my details monitored by Experian. To do this I had to click on a link. I was wary about. It looked suspect. So I contacted Ticketmaster to check it out. The calls centre was hopeless and it was only after kicking up a fuss that I established it as legitimate.

I've since been told by Experian that my data's being passed around. Would I like to sign up for something called Cifas? Well yes, yes I would. Could you send me details please, Experian?

Computer says no (at least so far). The data monitoring specialist ain't so hot at responding to requests for information about, you know, data monitoring.

You see where I'm going with this? No? Then let me explain.

Stuff like this happens all the time. If it has put at risk a hard bitten, cynical, cautious, financially sophisticated journalist like me, if even I'm struggling to protect myself, how on earth is nice Mrs Nelmes at the bottom of the road going to manage in this dangerous new world?

The answer is that she's not, especially not if her name's on the mug's list and some arsehole who looks legit tricks her into paying them for a holiday she was hoping to treat Mr Nelmes with on their anniversary.

Reforms are coming. One, called "confirmation of payee", is designed to prevent people from being tricked into paying the wrong person. A "request to pay" asking consumers to approve regulator payments is also due. But not until 2020. And neither is a cure.

Banks need to do more, and perhaps a lot more, even if the net result is costlier and more fiddly banking, because the simple fact is we're all at risk and until they act we will remain so, even if we're careful.

(5th October 2018)

(NZ Herald, dated 23rd September 2018)

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An Italian court sentenced a prolific TripAdvisor fake reviewer to prison for nine months in what the company called one of the first cases of review fraud leading to a criminal conviction.

TripAdvisor detected and blocked more than 1000 attempts to submit fraudulent reviews by PromoSalento, an online marketing site targeting hospitality businesses, the company said in a pair of statements Tuesday. Some reviews were posted and later deleted for hundreds of properties.

The scheme by the man, who was not named, was to write and sell the reviews to companies to boost their prominence.

Sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, and commerce giants like Amazon, have gone on the offensive against fraudulent paid online reviews, saying they mislead consumers and undermine buyer confidence in retailers.

The ruling in Italy is a signal that both companies and courts may be getting more serious about the elaborate and lucrative operation of fake review sales, said Tommy Noonan, founder of ReviewMeta, a website that helps consumers spot suspicious Amazon reviews.

TripAdvisor hosts more than 661 million reviews of travel destinations around the globe, according to the company.

The Criminal Court of Lecce decided that using a false identity to write fraudulent reviews violated Italian law, the company said. The man was also ordered to pay about US$9300 in costs and damages. The company submitted extensive evidence of the man's activity after an investigation.

"We see this as a landmark ruling for the Internet. Writing fake reviews has always been fraud, but this is the first time we've seen someone sent to jail as a result," said Brad Young, an attorney for TripAdvisor.

The company said the man was alone in his scheme. TripAdvisor said it penalised customers of the scheme by lowering their popularity ranking or flagging their profile to consumers with a red badge on their page.

Online consumer reviews have become the lifeblood for retailers and businesses looking to draw shoppers. About half of adult consumers in the United States routinely read reviews before buying something for the first time, Pew Research Center found in 2015.

(5th October 2018)

(Action Fraud, dated 21st September 2018)

Watch out for these fake TV Licensing emails.

We've seen a sharp increase in reports about fake TV Licensing emails claiming to offer refunds. The emails state that the refund cannot be processed due to "invalid account details". The links provided in the emails lead to phishing websites designed to steal personal and financial details.

Always question unsolicited requests for your personal or financial information in case it's a scam. Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected email or text.


Bogus example :

TV License - still pending

After the last annual calculation we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tv license refund. Due to invalid account records, we were unable to credit your account.

Please submit the tv license request and allow us 2-4 weeks for the amount to be credit to your account.

Click "refund me now" and follow the steps in order to have us process your request.


Best regards

TV License

(5th October 2018)

(iNEWS, dated 17th September 2018 author Claudia Tanner)

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A man has lost all his savings after falling victim to a sophisticated scam combining email phishing and 'number spoofing'.

Jack Armstrong has had more than £15,000 wiped from his current and business accounts after giving personal information to a fraudster appearing to call from a legitimate number belonging to his bank, Natwest.

The caller convinced him his accounts were at risk after £400 had been fraudulently spent at Argos online. Two days before, Mr Armstrong had entered his bank account details online after he was sent an email that looked to be from Amazon Prime.

The 25-year-old - who lost money he'd made through a side-line glamping business - has been left with no money to pay his bills and mortgage, and has been forced to borrow from family.

He is speaking out to urge others not to fall for the trick.

He told i: "I became suspicious when a man who said his name was Andrew from the Natwest Fraud Team rang me. So I Googled the number he'd called me from, but what confused me is that it was the same as the official fraud team's number.

"I had never heard of this type of fraud and wasn't aware they could do that, so I'd like to warn other people about it."

Phishing scam

Action Fraud says that 'phishing, vishing and smishing' is: "Any website, online service, phone call or text message that poses as a company or brand you recognise."

These scams are designed to convince you to hand over valuable personal details or your money, or download something that infects your computer.

The three terms are all plays on the word 'fishing' - the fraudsters fish for potential victims by sending emails, social media messages or text messages or making phone calls with urgent messages in the hope of persuading someone to visit the bogus website.

Mr Armstrong, from Altrincham, Greater Manchester, said he didn't realise until it was too late that he'd entered his bank sort code, account number, mother's maiden name and mobile number into a fake Amazon Prime site two weeks ago.

Then two days later, the sales worker got the call purporting to be from Natwest that asked further security questions including his date of birth.

It was the following day after Mr Armstrong's bank card was declined when he tried to buy something that he discovered all his money had been swiped and moved to another bank.

Mr Armstrong has been told by his bank that it is now investigating his case which could take up to 45 working days.

A spokesperson for Natwest said: "We sympathise with Mr Armstrong and appreciate that this has been an extremely distressing experience for him. In response to Mr Armstrong informing us of the scam, we took prompt action in an attempt to recover funds on a best endeavours basis, unfortunately no funds remained at the beneficiary bank."

She reminded customers to never make a payment or divulge full security credentials at the request of someone over the phone purporting to be from the bank and said Natwest will never ask a customer to move money to another account to keep it safe from fraud.

It is possible for malicious callers to make an incoming call look like it is coming from a legitimate source, such as the recognised bank number, she added, and recommended customers call back from a device different to which they received the call on.

How to tell if an email is a phishing scam (Source : Action Fraud)

A favourite phishing tactic among cybercriminals is to spoof the display name of an email. To check the sender's real email address you'll need to open the email. Next to the display email name you should find a link entitled 'details' or 'view detail' which will show you the real email address of the sender.

Other warning signs:

- The email does not use your proper name, but uses a non-specific greeting like "dear customer".

- A sense of urgency; for example the threat that unless you act immediately your account may be closed.

- A prominent website link. These can be forged or seem very similar to the proper address, but even a single character's difference means a different website.

- A request for personal information such as user name, password or bank details.

- The email contains spelling and grammatical errors.

- You weren't expecting to get an email from the company that appears to have sent it.

- The entire text of the email is contained within an image rather than the usual text format.

- The image contains an embedded hyperlink to a bogus site.

The grounds a bank can refuse to refund a fraudulent transaction

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the UK's finance watchdog, states that banks can generally only refuse a refund for an unauthorised payment if:

- It can prove you authorised the transaction - though your bank cannot simply say that use of your password, card or PIN conclusively proves you authorised a payment.

- It can prove you are at fault because you acted fraudulently or because you deliberately, or with 'gross negligence', failed to protect the details of your card, PIN or password in a way that allowed the transaction.

- You told your bank about an unauthorised payment 13 months or more after the date it left your account, so make sure you contact the bank as soon as possible.

- If the payment was from an overdrawn current account or a credit card payment, your bank can only refuse a refund for an unauthorised payment if:

- It can prove the debtor (the customer), or someone acting on their behalf, authorised the transaction though a firm cannot simply say that use of a password, card and PIN conclusively proves a customer authorised a payment.

- The loss was due to the use of a credit token by a person who acquired it with the debtor's consent.

(5th October 2018)

(ZDNET, dated 17th September 2018 author Danny Palmer)

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A new phishing campaign is using an old trick in an effort to steal login credentials, payment details and other sensitive information from victims by claiming to offer them a tax refund which can only be claimed online.

The message claims to be the UK government's tax office, HMRC, and tells potential victims that they're due a tax refund of £542.94 "directly" onto their credit card.

In an attempt to pressure targets into falling for the scheme, they're told that the link to the "customer" portal" expires on the day the message is received -- the hope is that this will panic victims into thinking they'll miss out on a sizeable cash payment. The phishing scam was uncovered by Malwarebytes

The isn't exactly sophisticated -- not only is the subject line extremely poorly formatted and sent from an email address which has nothing to do with government, the attackers have put little effort into the fake HMRC website used to scoop up credentials.

Before reaching this site, those who click through to the 'portal' are first faced with a fake Outlook login page which asks victims for their username and password i