Scams Bulletin – January 2019

The purpose of this scams bulletin is to enable Hampshire residents to be aware, and therefore guard against the type of scams currently being reported to Hampshire County Council Trading Standards Service.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) scam

The Trading Standards Service is warning Hampshire residents about receiving an unsolicited telephone call, voicemail, text message or email from someone claiming to be from HMRC. It has been reported that the perpetrator may use threats asking for unpaid taxes or an outstanding debt to be settled. On some occasions the fraudster will use technology so that an official HMRC number will show on the caller display, tricking the resident into thinking this may be a genuine call. Invariably the scammer will ask for payment by bank card or cash transfer. It has also been reported that they may ask for payment in iTune gift cards which can easily be redeemed and sold on.

Case study

Mrs D received an unsolicited telephone call from someone who said they worked for the Inland Revenue. They told her she owed money and if this fine was not paid immediately it would increase and she would be arrested. Mrs D was very frightened, but she was also aware the Inland Revenue had been superseded by HMRC which made her doubt if this was genuine. When she asked for further information the caller became very threatening and said unless she paid the fine she would go to prison. Although shaken by the call, Mrs D recognised this was probably a scam and hung up.

Remember, genuine organisations such as HMRC and banks will never make contact out of the blue asking for personal information or use threatening language. If in doubt, do not respond to any emails, text messages or voicemails and hang up if the caller is on the phone.

TV Licence scam

Hampshire residents are warned to look out for emails or text messages that appear to be from TV Licensing. Scammers will use fake websites and email addresses, tricking unsuspecting victims to part with their money. 

Case study 1

Mrs B received an email asking her to renew her TV Licence. When she clicked on the link it took her to a fake website asking for personal and bank details. Mrs B was suspicious and checked with the official TV Licensing body. They confirmed that her TV licence was in place and paid for and that this was scam. 

Case study 2

Mr F received a text message advising him there was a problem with his Direct Debit and if his account is not brought up to date he risked a fine. There was a link in the message which took him to a payment page. Mr F visited his bank to ask about the payment and they advised him this was a scam.

If you receive an unsolicited telephone call or text message, even if it appears to be from a genuine organisation NEVER;

  • Reply
  • Click on links
  • Supply personal or bank details

If in doubt, delete it. A genuine organisation will always find a different way to contact you.

Courier Fraud

The Trading Standards Service has continued to receive reports that Hampshire residents are falling victim to ‘courier’ fraud. 

This fraud starts with an unsolicited telephone call from someone pretending to be from the bank, fraud investigation unit, Police or a similar enforcement or official body. The caller may ask for card details then send a taxi to pick up the bank card. They may also ask the victim to draw out cash which they will then come to collect. 

Banking protocol provides that counter staff must be on the lookout for this type of fraud and question a customer over any unusual transactions. However, a worrying development being reported to Trading Standards is that the fraudster will try to keep one step ahead of the banks by asking the victim to lie as to why they need the money.

Case study 1

Mrs G who is an older lady living alone received a telephone call from someone who claimed to be a Police Officer. He told her that they were investigating a fraud at her bank where her account had been compromised. He said that £5,000 had been withdrawn from her account then promptly paid back in. He said that the Police suspected corruption at her bank and that fake bank notes had been paid into her account. They told her to phone the fraud department at her bank to discuss this and that she could find the number on the back of her debit card. Unbeknown to Mrs G, the fraudster had kept the telephone line open. Therefore, when she phoned the number on the back of her card she was connected back to the fraudster. They told her to withdraw £5,000 in cash and a courier would collect it from her home address. The fraudster told her not to tell the counter staff why she needed the money as it would compromise the Police investigation. By chance, Mrs G’s carer visited that afternoon. When Mrs G told her about the call the carer recognised this as a scam and called the police. Luckily, no money was lost.

Fraud offer the following advice on courier fraud;

Spot the signs

  • Someone claiming to be from your bank or local Police force calls you to tell you about fraudulent activity but is asking you for personal information or even your PIN to verify who you are.
  • They offer you the opportunity to call back so you can be sure they’re genuine, but when you try to return the call there’s no dial tone.
  • They try to offer you peace of mind by having somebody pick up the card for you to save you the trouble of having to go to your bank or local Police station.

Protect yourself

  • Your bank or the Police will never call you to ask you to verify your personal details or PIN by phone or offer to pick up your card by courier. Hang up if you get a call like this.
  • If you need to call your bank back to check, bear in mind fraudsters may stay on the line after you hang up. Use a different line to call your bank.
Your debit or credit card is yours – don’t let a stranger take it off you. You should only ever have to hand it over at your bank. If it’s cancelled, you should destroy it yourself.

 

If you are worried about a potential scam contact the Citizens Advice Helpline: