Almost £80,000 has been conned out of scam victims in Northern Ireland in the last four weeks, police have revealed.
Amounts of up to £25,000 were stolen from five people in the last month in a new type of scam which starts with a phone call claiming to be from a broadband company.
Scammers then persuade their victims to give them access to their computers and sometimes even offer them compensation.
Chief Superintendent Simon Walls explained how the scam works.
“We have put out a number of warnings about scams, but we have seen a particular increase in the number of scams where some type of broadband issue is raised,” he said.
“The phone call is normally teed up by the person on the other end of the phone saying ‘there is a problem with your broadband’, be it a speed issue or some other type of security issue,
“The person is then asked a number of questions and they are given a series of instructions about what to do. Sometimes, either the person either deliberately or inadvertently will download software, and that software will allow the scammer access to the person’s computer, and once they are into their computer, they can get into their online bank account.
“Once they are into the online bank account, a series of transactions can be made that takes money out of the person’s account and sends it off to a number of different accounts.”
Mr Walls said the scam has slightly changed recently with some victims offered compensation for slow broadband service.
“Someone may be offered £300 compensation and accept, but a figure much greater looks like it goes into their account,” he said.
“So £5,000 looks like it has been transferred to the person’s account, but it hasn’t been transferred at all.
“Once that inflated figure is put in, the person will then seek to refund that money and it is at that point that the payments will come out of their own account into the scammers’ account.”
In the last four weeks, police have received reports of five people scammed out of significant amounts of money.
These amounts ranged from £8,000 up to £25,000. In total almost £78,000 was taken in the last four weeks.
Mr Walls says they believe the scammers are based overseas.
The appeal was also supported by Danske Bank’s fraud manager Paul Brown.
He said they have been contacted by both customers and people who are not customers asking for advice.
Customers from a number of Northern Ireland banks have been affected.
Mr Brown said the apparent refund offer is a new twist on the scam they have seen recently.
“The caller will start out saying they think your email has been compromised, your Amazon account has been compromised, but it is all building up to saying they think your internet banking account has been compromised,” he said.
“The customer goes into their internet banking while sharing their screen and that means the fraudster can see how much they have, but they still need some key pieces of information to carry out payments.
“That would be a one-time use password, which is different for every bank. But the fraudster needs that to get the payment.
“Different screens will be presented to the customer and they will be prompted to either tell the fraudster their password or enter them in. Then the fraudster finds out the numbers.”
Both men urged people to be cautious over giving out personal information or allowing an unknown person access to their computer.
Anyone who thinks they may have been targeted by fraudsters should contact the PSNI.
More information can be found on the Scamwise Facebook page or the Scamwise website on www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni.