Callous predators and fraudsters scam over £620,000 in one month

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Many of us enjoyed lovely breaks over the last month or so but, unfortunately, scammers and hackers have been as busy as ever in Northern Ireland.

Welcome to this month’s update from the #ScamwiseNI Partnership where you can learn about some of the scams reported to the PSNI in August and how to protect yourself.

Just another Mandate Monday

You cannot be too careful when it comes to transferring money or sharing account details. Mandate fraud – where scammers hack an individual or a company’s email account and steal money – is very much doing the rounds across Northern Ireland.

Here are a few examples that were reported to the PSNI in August.

A Limavady business was defrauded out of €61,000 (about £49,000) when their emails were intercepted. They’d been in contact with their business partner and when time came to transfer money, fake bank account details were provided by scammers pretending to be their business partner, so the scammers received the money instead.

A man from Banbridge had regular dealings with an investment company. He received an email that seemed to be from them telling him that, if he wanted to invest any more money, he should send it to their new bank account. He sent £20,000 to this new account and later found out it was a scam when the real investment company contacted him because they hadn’t received the money.

A lady from Omagh got a call from a scammer pretending to be from her bank. He said her bank account had been hacked and criminals had access to it.

He convinced her to swap her money to a different account and she gave him her bank account details. He, of course, was lying and this new bank account was his own. She transferred nearly £1,000 which was every penny she owned. She then went to her local branch who told her it was a fraud.

REMEMBER: financial institutions will NEVER ask you to transfer money because your account is compromised.

Here’s a few tips on how to protect yourself:

If someone says anything along the lines of, “We’re having issues with the bank account, please send the money to this new account”, it’s very likely a scam, so stop immediately. If you think it’s legitimate, contact the person or company they claim to be or represent by other, secure means.

Check the email address every time to make sure you’re corresponding with the same person.

When you receive an email with details of a bank account to pay, telephone the other party directly to confirm the details are correct.

Loan sharks

We all feel the pinch from time to time. Should you find yourself in need of a loan, make sure you use a reputable company. If you need to pay any fees up front, be careful how you pay for them.

A legitimate business won’t ask you to pay fees using Apple or Amazon vouchers. A person from Newry lost over £1,000 this way when they applied for a £2,000 loan.

A man from Newtownabbey who also needed a loan, did some research online. Soon after, he was contacted by telephone by scammers pretending to be from a genuine loan company.

They said he needed to pay a fee of £90 using Amazon vouchers, which he purchased and gave them the code for.

They contacted him again, this time demanding £175 for insurance but then he realised it was a scam. Scammers like this will keep asking for more and more money but will never give you anything in return.

Remember, if a loan company asks for any fees paid by vouchers, it’s a scam.

Licence to steal

Another TV licence scam to be wary of. A Strabane lady received an email that appeared to be from TV Licensing. The email said her most recent direct debit for her TV licence had been declined and she needed to click on a link and provide updated details. Believing it to be genuine, she clicked on the link and provided her name, address, phone number, account number, sort code, and PIN number. Over the next few days scammers used her details to make purchases costing £300.

If you get an email like this and aren’t sure about it, you’re best to contact TV Licensing directly on 0300 790 6119. Find out more at tvlicensing.co.uk.

Buyer beware

A man from Ballyclare was interested in a motorhome advertised on an online marketplace. He started talking with the seller and they agreed a price of £7,500.

The man transferred the money and expected the motorhome to be delivered but it never appeared.

Soon after the transaction, all records of the seller disappeared from the website and his phone number no longer connects.

In a similar incident, a man from Maghera saw a digger advertised for sale on an online marketplace. He emailed the seller back and forth for a while and sent him £5,500 to buy the digger.

After he sent the money, he emailed the seller again to arrange delivery, and was ignored. Since then he hasn’t been able to contact the seller.

This is a tactic used by lots of scammers. Be very careful about sending money if you haven’t met the seller and seen the product.

Does not compute

A man from Rathfriland received a phone call from a scammer pretending to be from Microsoft. They told him his computer licence had expired and it would cost him £5 to get a new one. He gave them his bank details and they stole more £500 from his bank account.

If someone phones you out the blue and asks for money or personal details, it’s likely a scam.

If you can’t believe your luck, don’t

A Belfast lady got a message on Facebook which appeared to be from her sister saying there was a man who was giving away money for free.

She contacted this man who said he would send her £9,000 and asked for £1,000 to cover fees.

Thankfully, before she sent anything she spoke to her sister in person and learned her sister’s Facebook account had been hacked.

If you receive messages like this from what appears to be a family or friend, don’t proceed but do let that person know that their account has probably been hacked. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is!

Stay #ScamwiseNI. Don’t be the next victim. If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

To stay up to date, follow ScamwiseNI on Facebook. You’ll also find plenty of helpful information on the NI Direct website ScamwiseNI page (nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/scamwise).