Essex Police Fraud Update 23rd October 2020

Roboscammers – protect yourself from cold calling

With more people now working from home than ever before, you may have recently become more aware of the number of nuisance calls to your landline or mobile phone.

Robocallers are likely to have increased during lockdown, as they do not rely on human call centres.

Many of these calls are computer generated making them cheap and difficult to trace. The pre-recorded messages are often designed to scare people into handing over money or personal details—this includes the Amazon Prime scam and HMRC scams. These calls will often ask you to “Press 1 to speak to someone”.

HOW TO STOP UNWANTED CALLS

  • BT: The free BT Call Protect service monitors nuisance calls and sends them straight to junk voicemail. BT says it blocks 99 per cent of pest calls.
  • Sky: Free service Talk Shield stops fraudsters by insisting all callers provide a name.
  • TalkTalk: CallSafe screens and blocks unwanted calls for free.
  • Plusnet: Call Protect is free and blocks unwanted calls from a list that you can add to.
  • EE: Landline customers can block up to ten numbers at a time using the free Choose to Refuse option, which bars the last call answered. Dial 14258 and press ** when asked to confirm.
  • Virgin: You may be able to blacklist, silence or block calls, depending on your phone.
  • Mobile phones: Download free apps such as Truecaller, Whoscall and Hiya to block dodgy calls and alert firms to possible scammers.
  • Complain: By making a complaint about a robocall, you can help to stop them. Experts recommend directing complaints to three bodies: the ICO, by calling 0303 123 1113, visiting ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint, or writing to ICO, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF; the Telephone Preference Service, by calling 0345 070 0707 or visiting tpsonline.org.uk/complaint; or Ofcom, by calling 0300 123 3333 or visiting ofcom.org.uk/complaints

Essex Police Fraud Update 16th October 2020

Crimestoppers launch COVID hotline

The Crimestoppers COVID Fraud Hotline (0800 587 5030) has been set up by HM Government in partnership with Crimestoppers to enable individuals to report fraud within the public sector during COVID.

The hotline allows those with information to anonymously report their concerns in the knowledge that this information will be dealt with.

Giving Crimestoppers information in relation to fraud means we can help protect the public purse from individuals and companies seeking to undermine the stimulus schemes brought in by Her Majesty’s Government to assist people during COVID. Contact anonymously and free of charge on 0800 587 5030 or use the form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org if you have any information or suspicions about any potential crime involving the public sector.

If your information is in relation to the furlough scheme, please visit the HMRC Fraud website or if your information is in relation to benefit fraud, including universal credit, please visit www.gov.uk/report-benefit-fraud.To report fraud within the NHS, please use the NHS Counter Fraud Authority online form.

Amazon-themed phishing campaigns peak ahead of Prime Day

Police in the North East are warning of a number of phishing emails following the Amazon Prime Day earlier in the week.

The sophisticated campaigns attempt to leverage both Amazon features and consumer behaviours to lure victims to fraudulent webpages that harvest financial information, credentials and other sensitive data.

One new campaign targets “returns” and “order cancellations” related to Prime Day orders using a fraudulent site, www.amazoncustomersupport.net, that impersonates a legitimate Amazon site.

Parcel Delivery Service (PDS) hoax email

A number of residents have recently received a hoax email (right) that warns them about a parcel delivery scam in the lead up to Christmas.

The majority of the information provided in the email is incorrect or out of date. The number in question has since been repurposed by another company (although will still set you back £3.60 per minute).

However, residents should still remain alert if they receive a card stating a parcel they do not remember ordering could not be delivered, and should be wary of taking delivery of parcels they have not ordered.

If you receive this hoax email, please do not pass it on, simply delete the message. For more information, read the Action Fraud article here:

www.actionfraud.police.uk/news/hoax-email-from-pds-parcel-delivery-service

COVID-19 scams

With new Tier 2 Covid restrictions in place in parts of Essex, residents are reminded to remain vigilant for the Covid-19 scams that have previously been circulating.

If you would like copies of previous EFAS alerts relating to Covid-19 scams, please email: Essex.Fraud.Alert.System@essex.police.uk

Essex Police Fraud update 2nd October 2020

Starting on 5th October is a week long law enforcement campaign to increase awareness of Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking, in particular focusing upon child exploitation. As a result, the content of this EFAS has changed slightly in line with this campaign.

Money Mules

Criminals will sometimes try and launder money through the bank accounts of innocent people under a number of different disguises.

Fraudsters may ask you to receive money into your bank account and transfer it into another account, keeping some of the cash for yourself. If you let this happen, you’re a money mule. You’re involved in money laundering, which is a crime.

You might be approached by fraudsters online or in person. They might post what looks like a genuine job ad, then ask for your bank details.

Once you become a money mule, it can be hard to stop. You could be attacked or threatened with violence if you don’t continue to let your account be used by criminals.

Don’t Be Fooled by offers of quick cash.

Criminals need money mules to launder the profits of their crimes. Mules will usually be unaware of where the money comes from – fraud, scams and other serious crime –or where it goes.

Becoming a money mule can have serious consequences for you and
for others. Illegally obtained money from money mule accounts can be used
to fund other organised crime including:

  • Human trafficking
  • Child exploitation
  • Terrorism

For more information and advice regarding money muling, visit: www.moneymules.co.uk

Essex Police Fraud update 4th September 2020

Gift card scams – have HMRC really contacted you?

Many of us are aware that criminals regularly make telephone calls claiming to be HMRC. Increasingly, they are making these calls claiming that there is a warrant out for the arrest of the recipient and that they are required to pay their ‘outstanding debt’ in order to avoid arrest. However, they proceed to ask the recipient to pay off this debt using gift cards, including Amazon and iTunes gift cards.

Due to the fact that gift cards are relatively untraceable, this proves to be a low-risk, high-reward scam. As recently as this week, four people paid £1,000 each in Peterborough.

What to look out for:

  1. You cannot pay bills or outstanding debts using gift cards
  2. Fraudsters claiming to be from HMRC will try to panic you by informing you there is a warrant out for you arrest
  3. Once the gift cards have been purchased, scammers will ask you to scratch off the back of the gift cards and send them the codes underneath—this is particularly suspicious if they ask them to be sent via platforms such as WhatsApp.
  4. If you are unsure, hang up, and call back on a trusted number. Never use a number supplied by the person on the phone, and use an alternative phone if possible. Genuine organisations have no issue with you confirming who they are.

If you think you have been a victim of this scam or have received similar calls claiming to be from HMRC, report to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk

This can also happen to businesses. Be alert for any unusual requests from colleagues asking to purchase gift cards and check whether they have come from a genuine email address.

Gift Card Scams—Fake Asda email

Over 100 reports have been received of an email circulating claiming to be from Asda offering a £1,000 gift card for filling in an online form.

These emails are known as phishingand use prizes to entice people to give out their personal information. Fake emails from supermarket chains are particularly common and offer a large shopping voucher in return for completing online forms/surveys. They will often be accompanied by a number of glowing reviews from customers who allegedly received a voucher.

The reports of phishing emails have escalated during lockdown, with criminals increasingly turning to online scams to target those who have been spending more time at home. Earlier in the year, Essex Trading Standards released the following statement:

“Please be aware of these scam emails circulating to be from various supermarkets.The scammers cloak the email in the branding of a popular supermarket chain and inform the recipient that they have received a money off voucher to assist with purchases during the quarantine.The email then directs the recipient to click a link so that they may claim the coupon. Rather than being a kind offer from some of Britain’s most popular chains, it is a fraudulent email which aims to steal the credit card details of the recipient.

Look out for the telltale signs that the voucher offer is a scam, such as poor spelling and grammar; however, this is not always the case, and many look identical to official supermarket emails.

Never click the links or input your card details.If an offer sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.”

If you think you have received a phishing email, forward it on to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) at report@phishing.gov.uk

Essex Police Fraud update 21st August 2020

TV Licenses for over-75s

As many of you are aware, in August 2020 there will be changes to the over-75’s TV licence.You will now only be entitled to a free TV licence if:

  • You, as the licence holder are 75 years or older, AND
  • You, or your partner living at the same address, receive Pension Credit.

Households that do not fall into this category will need to begin paying for a TV Licence. During August and September, TV licencing will be writing to those who need to set up a licence explaining the next steps. However, we know that criminals have been exploiting TV licencing email scams for a number of years.

TV licencing have provided an excellent FAQ on how to spot a genuine TV licence email but the five key points to look out for are:

1.Check the sender—all genuine emails are sent from donotreply@tvlicensing.co.uk or donotreply@spp.tvlicensing.co.uk.

2.Check for a postcode—if you have provided a postcode to TV licencing then their emails will include part of that postcode.

3.Check your name—TV licencing will address you by name. Be suspicious of any that address you as ‘ Dear Customer’ or just use your email address.

4.Check the spelling & grammar—look for unusual hyphens and strange or missing full stops. They may also put capital letters on unusual words.

5.Check the links—always check where the links are taking you before you click on them—hover over them on a computer or press and hold on a phone/tablet.

REMEMBER: There are other ways of contacting TV licencing, including over the phone. There is also a helpline for over-75 TV licence queries—call 0300 790 6117.

Carnival Cruises data breach

Carnival Cruises have confirmed they were the victims of a data breach on August 15th 2020, meaning staff and customer personal data may have been stolen.Carnival have not stated how many customers had been targeted, or which brands had been affected (as Carnival operate a number of big brand names including P&O, Cunard and Princess Cruises).

Anyone who is a customer is advised to change their account password using the advice provided by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).It is also suggested that they monitor their bank account for suspicious activity and be vigilant for unexpected emails.

Paypal scam via Facebook Messenger

Action Fraud have warned of a widely reported scam where criminals use Facebook Messenger pretending to be a friend or family member asking for the use of residents PayPal accounts.

Scammers will state that they have sold an item on Ebay but cannot receive payment because they do not have a PayPal account. They request that the payment be sent via the message recipient’s PayPal account before being transferred to an account controlled by the fraudster. Once this has been done, the original transaction is reversed and the PayPal account is left in negative balance.

Again, residents are urged to update their PayPal password information and if possible turn on two-factor authentication (using another method to verify it is you).

For more info, read the Action Fraud article here.

Create a strong and memorable password for your email account (and other important accounts). 
Avoid using predictable passwords (such as dates, family and pet names). Don't re-use the same password across important accounts. To create a memorable password that's also hard for someone else to guess, combine three random words (for example cupfishbiro).
If you store your passwords somewhere safe, you won't have to remember them. This allows you to use unique strong passwords for all yoru important accounts. If you write your password down, keep it somewhere safe and away from your computer. Most web browsers will offer to store your passwords. It's safe to do this. You can also use a standalone password manager app.

Keep up to date with fraud and do even more online at essex.police.uk