Scams and fraudsters you should be aware of
If you suspect a scam please let us know the details. We will investigate and warn others. Although we might pride ourselves on our ability to smell a rat a mile off, swindlers aren't stupid; they make their operations look as plausible as possible so we need to be on our guard.
An email arrived in my personal inbox this week supposedly from Santander. It said someone had tried to send me money but as the transaction looked suspicious it was declined and my account is now restricted.
MINISTRY OF PENSIONS SCAM
Therefore I was asked to confirm some personal details to be able to access my account again. Although it looked quite genuine there were also a lot of spelling mistakes in the text, which hinted it might be a scam.
One of our employees was called up last week from a man claiming to be from the Ministry of Pensions. The number was from a mobile phone and although it sounded suspicious, the caller knew her name and address and told her she was due a backdated pension payout of £5,000. To get the money released she would have to pay £200 and at this stage she wisely hung up the phone.
A company pretending to be DHL emailed me to say it had attempted to deliver a parcel to my address but was unable to, and if I wanted to rearrange the delivery I needed to download a reference number.
Attached to the email was a PDF, which I stupidly thought would be safe to download. As soon as I did every file on my computer became blocked and I had to take the laptop into a local centre to get it fixed.
I have been in contact with a man who is stuck in Ghana after finishing work on an oil rig there for the Ghanaian government. He says he hasn't been paid yet and needs money for a ticket back to the UK and claims he is a structural engineer living in Manchester. The money needs to be transferred online but I believe it's a scam so I have instead alerted the British Commission in Ghana.
CO-OPERATIVE BANK SCAM
Someone posing as the Co-op emailed me last week to let me know about a potential fraud alert to my account. To avoid this, ‘the bank' has updated its security system I was told I need to hand over my sort code and account number by email to make sure my account is protected."
DATING WEBSITE SCAM
Ever since the end of last year, I've been in touch with a woman I met through an online dating website. Apparently she lives in Australia but is currently on a trip in London.
STUDENT LOAN SCAM
She emailed me yesterday to say that while over here she's been mugged and now no longer has her debit or credit cards or any cash. Therefore she's asked for me to transfer money to her for a flight back home. I believe this is a con.
» Find out how to get your money back after a scam
My inbox is regularly filed with scam emails and the latest claims to be from the student loans company. It says it’s being sent out to all students who have received grants and loans and asks for the student to verify their personal details. Within the email was an attachment which needed to be downloaded to complete the process.
Although my phone account is with BT I was a little suspicious when I received an email from the company recently. It was titled "action required" and said my last payment wasn’t processed properly. This was either because my personal details had been changed or there was an error when I had paid the bill. To resolve the situation it asked for further details, and included a link, so instead of carrying on I marked it as spam and deleted it.
NATWEST ONLINE SCAM:
Natwest Online Scam Email Address: helpdesk[at]natwest.com
Dear Esteemed Customer,
Your services has been short listed for maintenance, please take a moment to
review your active
Thank you for choosing NatWest.
Warning: Do not reply to the email. Just delete the email.
I have been trying to get a loan so I can take my wife on holiday and we had a phone call recently from a firm offering this. It seemed completely genuine and we weren’t asked for personal or financial details. We were told we should buy a voucher for £50 and then we would have the loan deposited into our account. However, we were never called back and there seems to be no way to get our £50 back. If they can do this to one person I wonder how many more times have they done it.
A lady with a Scottish accent called me this week suggesting I ring fence my assets, so that they could not be used in the event of entering a care home. The alarming thing is she mentioned a password I do actually use for some of my accounts but I’ve never had any dealings with this company before. I’ve now changed all my other passwords.
AMAZON SCAM 2
The public need to be aware of yet another Amazon scam in circulation. It is a voucher that advertises a £10 voucher for Amazon. However, once you sign up to the voucher and give your personal details to the company £29 will be debited from your account each month and will be described as an administration fee.
CHINESE INVESTMENT SCAM
Today I received a letter from a so-called private investigator in China to say someone with my surname had died and he was the lawyer representing the case. The deceased man apparently had millions of pounds in his investment portfolio and as there are no other interested parties, the funds could be split equally between the author of the letter and myself. Funnily enough I have taken this no further.
PARCEL DELIVERY SCAM
I arrived home from work today to find a card behind my door telling me a parcel had been left under my patio table. I had not ordered anything from this catalogue company and rang it up asking why these items of jewellery had been sent. I was put through to the fraud department and the member of staff asked if I was a company director to which I replied that I was. Apparently the latest scam is for con artists to use your name and address (which they can find on a company website) and then change the address for delivery once the account has been accepted. Thankfully I acted straight away and a fraud marker was put on my file and I was advised to check my credit record.
DISASTER NEWS SCAM
Last week an email arrived in my inbox from a friend and immediately alarm bells began ringing. For a start the language was strange and it went on to say she was on holiday in London and had been mugged and had everything stolen apart from passports. It then went on to ask for help settling the hotel bill and getting a flight. There were lots of things in it that didn’t match up so I contacted my friend and she confirmed it was a scam.
THE HALIFAX SCAM
Halifax, or at least I thought it was the bank, contacted me to say it had detected irregular activity in my Halifax online banking login. As I was the primary contact the email asked me to verify my account as a hold had been placed on my debit card so I couldn’t access my cash. There was an attachment with the email, which I had to download to verify the account. Alarm bells rang and so instead I checked my online banking in a new window and found no problems.
THE AMAZON SCAM
I received an official looking email from a company pretending to be Amazon to say the order I had placed had been cancelled. The email included a new order number and a link to what I thought was Amazon. I clicked on this and it directed me to the website of a Canadian pharmaceutical company selling drugs.
THE COMPETITION SCAM
I’ve been emailed as apparently my email address was the star pick from an automated ballot system which means I’m entitled to receive the grand reward of 2.5 million dollars. The suspect email said the prize was from a reward program for the ‘patronage of internet services’ and the promotional draw is conducted in the Netherlands. In order to claim this prize the email says I must send personal details out immediately.
THE DEATH CERTIFICATE SCAM
Apparently my death certificate has been handed into a branch of HSBC in Canada by a man who claimed to be my representative and also to have power of attorney of my finances. There is also a fund of 12.5 million dollars in my name, which I need to claim in the next 48 hours while at the same time confirming I am still alive. This is very clearly a scam.
THE YAHOO SCAM
A scam email arrived in my account supposedly from Yahoo. It said I needed to update my personal details after a series of illegal attempts on my email account from different IP addresses. It went on to say it was for my own safety and if I wanted to keep my account open I would need to fill in details such as, email address, password, date of birth and country of residence.
THE NPOWER SCAM
Quite unexpectedly we received a phone call one evening at 8 o'clock and my wife answered. She said npower, our electricity provider, was on the phone and wanted a meter reading there and then. We had just started to watch a favourite TV programme so I said I would send one online the next day. The caller was persistent but settled eventually and said they would call again – which didn't happen. I phoned npower the next day and was told everything was fully up to date and no reading was required. It's difficult to imagine what would have followed had we complied and gone to the meter and provided a reading. Doubtless the company would have tried to obtain some sensitive personal information on some pretext or other.
THE ILLNESS SCAM
This message arrive in my inbox from a friend in my address book. The subject of the email was 'Dearest Beloved'. The message said: 'As you read this, I don't want you to feel sorry for me because I believe everyone will die someday. I have been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, view attached mail for full details.' My friend is not ill and the email had an attachment which I did not open.
THE SKY SCAM
I was checking through our bank statement online and discovered a transaction marked 'Sky Subscription' which is strange as we have not been with Sky for over six years.
We rang Sky to ask why and it told us all of its payments are labelled 'Sky Digital'. We rang the bank and stopped the debit card this transaction had been used on. The scam appears to work by taking random amounts from your bank account. We have spoken to others and found this is a growing problem with one friend being debited as much as £200. The message here is – always check your bank statements.
Changes in your email
From: "PayPal" paypal[at]e.paypal.co.uk
Dear PayPal Customer,
You have added tonybulldog[at]live.co.uk as a new email address for your Paypal account.
If you did not authorize this change, check with family members and others who may have access to your account first.
If you still feel that an unauthorized person has changed your email, click on restore account PayPal and follow the next steps.
- Do not click or open any link from the email.
- Do not follow any instructions.
- Do not reply to the email.
- Just delete the email.
I sold a mobile phone on eBay and a bidder offered me double the price I had hoped for. I accepted this and he sent the authorisation code for the payment but no money arrived in my account.
I contacted PayPal who told me this was a scam as the authorisation code was an old one. The bidder looked genuine and had good feedback and I contacted him again. He sent another code but still no money arrived so in the end I sold it to someone else.
Account verification request
PayPal Scam Email Address: service[at]paypal.co.uk
I received this email from the PayPal Scam. Please be aware
We need your help resolving an issue with your account. To give us time to work
together on this,
we've temporarily limited what you can do with your account until the issue is
we understand it may be frustrating not to have full access to your PayPal
account. We want
to work with you to get your account back to normal as quickly as possible.
What's the problem ?
It's been a little while since you used your account. For reasons
relating to the safe use of the PayPal service
we need some more information about your account.
Reference Number: PP-001-278-254-803
It's usually quite straight forward to take care of these things. Most of the time,
we just need some more information about your account or latest transactions.
1. Download the attached document and open it in a browser window secure.
2. Confirm that you are the account holder and follow the instructions.
Copyright 2012 PayPal. All rights reserved
PayPal Email ID PP1589
- Do not download the attachment document.
- Do not click or open any link from the email.
- Do not follow any instructions.
- Do not reply to the email.
- Just delete the email.
I tried to buy a Chihuahua puppy on the free advert side Oodle for £150 plus delivery from Dundee to Edinburgh. I emailed the seller and asked a lot of questions about the puppy and delivery and he assured me that everything would be straightforward.
SAD NEWS SCAM
I was sent the details of the delivery agency and I paid the seller through MoneyGram. Next my husband spoke on the phone with the agency and suddenly it wanted another £600 to cover insurance and to deliver my puppy by plane. We didn’t want to do this so but the seller would not listen and he even said if we pulled out of the deal the dog would be put in quarantine and we would be in trouble with the police.
This was not the first advert I applied to and it seemed genuine. Looking back I shouldn’t have wired the £150 but I was so desperate for this puppy I went ahead with it.
An old friend who now lives in America emailed me last month asking to borrow £2,000 as he was on holiday in Wales and had been mugged. The email was very convincing and said his cash, cards and mobile phones had been stolen but he still had his passport and flight tickets.
COMPUTER HEALTH CHECK SCAM
It said he had gone to the American embassy and police but had not had much luck and needed to settle hotel bills before getting a flight back to America the next day. I would have sent the money to him but the use of the headline ‘Sad News’ suggested a death in the family, which this was not, and made me feel uneasy.
I hadn't contacted him for years, but I found the number and rang his home in North Carolina. It turns out his emails had been hacked and similar messages had been sent out to everyone in his address book.
I was contacted by a man who told me my computer was not running at the right speed and offered me a free security health check. The caller asked me to switch on my pc and log onto a website. At this point the computer would be accessed remotely and cleared of any bugs.
When I asked the name of the company I was told it was part of Microsoft and the caller said this would be totally free. As a PC engineer I didn’t go any further as alarm bells began ringing and I believed the company’s intention was to get passwords and data off my PC.
My poor elderly mother was sent a letter from a company called Vitamail telling her she was in debit of her account by £5. She did not have an account with this company and the letter looked very convincing.
BBC CHEQUE SCAM
"However, I noticed the letter had her name but no initials, the company asked her to send cash, it was not signed and also threatened to send someone round to her house if she didn’t send her bank details.
"I searched for the company on the internet and found there were many people who had received the same letter who had never heard of this company let alone had an account with them. This company trades under many names and many addresses but is based in France.
I received an email telling me I had won a £1,000,000 lottery prize from the BBC. I contacted a few names on their email messages and questioned the matter to see if it was for real. No one got back to me and after reading the email again I noticed they used a delivery services which asked for a £250 fee to release the cheque.
I placed an advert through Autotrader on my partner's behalf and naively I put my personal email address on the advert. Within 24 hours I had emails from two different people expressing interest. Both said they would buy the car without viewing it, pay via PayPal and send an agent to collect vehicle.
THE AVIS SCAM
My partner expressed immediate concern and a quick search on the internet confirmed a well-known scam whereby someone accepts an offer and their car is collected but the money is withdrawn from PayPal before the transaction is complete.
A company in Seattle rang me around six times trying to persuade me that I had 10 times as many shares in Avis Europe than I actually have. It also said it had a buyer for these shares at 10 times their value. In order to move forward I would have to sign a confidentiality agreement and send it some money. This is clearly proof that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
Recently I received a message from PayPal about a transaction but I have never had an account with the company. When I queried it I was informed it was a type of phishing scam. Paypal says it will always address you by name when emailing you so if you ever get an email from Paypal addressing you as 'Dear Member' it is a scam.
MILLIONAIRE FUND SCAM
Today I received an email from someone supposedly representing Arab millionaires who have had their funds frozen after the 9/11 attack. The email says these millionaires have been investigated by the FBI and found to be clean but now the funds, for some reason, can't be returned to their rightful owners. It then says these funds are available to be claimed by first sending over card details. This is clearly a scam.
WEIGHT TRAINING SCAM
Having decided to up my weight training I searched the internet for items to help me out. I found a suitable website and then sent off several emails regarding price and asking how long an order would take. A man contacted me and was very efficient so I had no reason to suspect anything. He requested I deposit the payment of £50 into his bank account and sent me the sort code and account number. I was informed my order would take around a week to arrive but after this period had passed I emailed him to ask about my order. I had no further replies from him after this and have lost out on this money.
The HMRC SCAM
A member of staff has just alerted me to the fact that they have recently received a scam email which purports to be from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and appears to be advising them that they are due a tax refund. It offers a link for them to follow where it is likely that they would be asked to confirm their bank details. This is a scam.
MINISTRY OF JUSTICE SCAM
I received a phone call from a lady claming to be from the Ministry of Justice last week. She had a strange accent and although she gave me a number to call back on, this was different to the number she had called me on. I bank with Santander and the lady calling enquired about a payment to my bank account. I've now received another call from the same company and have tried reporting them to Consumer Watch and the Ombudsman but as no fraud as yet been committed neither will help me.
The EHIC SCAM
With the holiday season upon us, people need to watch out for scam websites charging a £10 renewal fee for the EHIC card. Renewal through the NHS website is free, so beware of the top picks on a google search for 'EHIC renewal'.
I was contacted by a company called 'Camphire Now' [supposedly a recruitment firm] and a lady by the name of Julia Marks sent me an e-mail asking me to enter a code and fill out an application pending an interview in London in a few days.
BLACKMAIL FRAUDSTERS TARGET WEBCAM DATERS
"When I got to the IQ Test section of the website I discovered in order to carry on I would be charged £4.50 per month thereafter. I have e-mailed Julia twice now asking for information on the company as I cannot find it anywhere on the website. The links on the website provide no information at all. It's a scam. I have reported it to the OFT and trust you will warn others.
Men using social networking and online dating sites are being targeted by fraudsters posing as attractive young women.
Victims are typically lured into taking off their clothes in front of their webcam allowing the fraudster to record a video.
A threat is then made to publish the video with false allegations of paedophilia unless money is paid.
French police say they are being told of incidents every day, with most probably going unreported.
One victim, a 28-year-old man, is willing to speak about his experience but wishes to remain anonymous.
"She sent me a message and I was happy because normally the girls don't take the first step," he says.
"She said she was French, living in Lyon, but was on holiday in Ivory Coast. We then chatted for a bit on MSN and I could see a video of her. She was a very beautiful French-looking girl, very pretty."
"She was dressed to begin with and asked whether I would be interested in going further. I asked what that meant and she said she wanted to see my body... everything.
"She put on another video and started to undress. I was completely taken in. I had no idea this was a video. I thought it was real.
But her real intentions soon became clear.
"After five minutes she sent me a message saying: 'Have a look at this video I've taken of you. I am going to put it on YouTube unless you send me some money.'
"I looked at the video - you could see my face... you could see everything."
On the same page, the victim saw many other similar videos of people entrapped in this way.
The blackmailer wanted 500 euros ($600) wired to Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast, or else the video would remain online.
It was captioned with the victim's name and the false allegation that he was performing a sexual act in front of a young girl.
French police have received a spate of reports of blackmail attempts fitting a similar description.
"At the moment we are persuaded that there are several blackmail attempts committed every day," says Vincent Lemoine, a specialist in cybercrime in the Gendarmerie's criminal investigations unit.
"Unfortunately, not everyone who finds themselves victims of this crime is coming forward to the police because these blackmail attempts are so intimate."
The French reputation management company, Reputation Squad, has received an alarming number of calls from lonely hearts after they were persuaded to reveal too much of themselves online.
"Most of the time the people that call us are really panicked and they don't know what to do and are very afraid it is going to ruin their entire life," says Alberic Guigou.
"So they come to us in despair and they always make up stories. They never say: 'I met someone on the internet and I went naked'.
"But 95% of the time it is actually webcam blackmail."
If initial attempts to extort payment fail, the men behind the beguiling internet mask finally reveal themselves, this time posing as agents from the Ivorian police.
"The blackmailers also post the video up on a false website purporting to be that of Interpol, the local police or the French police," says Vincent Lemoine.
"At the same time, they email false documents, which indicate to the person that they have committed acts of paedo-pornography and to bring an end to the affair they have to pay a fine."
I spoke to one woman whose ex-husband paid out around 3,500 euros ($4,250) to blackmailers in June this year.
His blackmailers were relentless and he could see no end to his ordeal. A week after the first demand, he killed himself.
Journalist for the Le Monde newspaper Laure Belot has spoken to people who never thought they would be a victim of this kind of scam.
"We can say what an idiot for undressing in front of a webcam but our society is a society of solitude where people are alone in their rooms with a computer during the night.
"For a person who is already alone, you can imagine that this is enormously destructive. If you have people around you who can help, that is great, but often these are people who are alone and it can be very dramatic. If you are very young, this can be devastating."
Alberic Guigou says: "People get the feeling that when something is out there on the internet it is going to stay there forever.
"Fortunately it is not always the case. And there are many, many cases in which you can intervene and get things removed from the internet, especially when it is pornography such as the webcam blackmail."
YouTube does not host sexually explicit content and should such a video be posted on their site it can be flagged as inappropriate and taken down.
French police advise victims not to meet the blackmailer's demands - the 28 year-old victim we spoke to refused to pay - his blackmailers lost interest and went away. Another victim who paid up, ended up being asked for more.
They also advise victims of webcam blackmail to report it to them or to at least signal it on their website. Police have been investigating, but there is only so much they can do - current mechanisms for international co-operation between police are limited.
This sort of crime is only possible because of the unique connectability, anonymity and intimacy-at-a-distance which the internet affords.
Until the differences that separate international law enforcers are bridged as easily, we will continue with victims in one country, perpetrators in another - and with little that can be done about it.
If you think you've been scammed get in touch by contacting
us and let us know exactly what has happened.
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