Nationwide Fraud Update Spring 2014
Check that the company selling you advertising space and the publication exist. Small businesses have been targeted by cold callers posing as government and other reputable agencies, such as Police forces and Crimestoppers, to sell advertising space in magazines. Victims are subjected to aggressive selling techniques and often do not get the chance to see a sample of the magazine or complete internal research into the publications before being talked into a verbal agreement. The advertisements do not appear in the publications, and in some instances the publications themselves do not exist.
To avoid advertising fraud:
Research the magazine and company before signing up to buy advertising space.
Ensure you receive a contract in writing rather than a verbal agreement over the telephone from the company.
Request a sample magazine, and check you are satisfied with the quality and content before buying advertising space. Report any advertising advance fee fraud to Action Fraud as soon as possible.
Job Application Fraud
Be cautious if you are asked to pay up-front fees for pre-employment checks Job applicants are being asked to pay an advance fee – typically around £50 – via a Ukash code for security checks, such as Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) prior to a false offer of employment.
The types of roles being offered are predominantly in the service sector and especially jobs in security, cleaning and hotels.
Jobseekers are advised to conduct their own checks on the company and to be extra cautious if they are asked to pay up-front fees for pre-employment checks, especially if the fees are requested via e-money sources.
Utility Bill Fraud
Cold callers from overseas are fraudulently offering discounted energy bills to UK consumers. Callers state they are from a company that offers discounts on utility bills, including road tax, and use the name of a reputable, energy comparison website thus adding a veil of legitimacy to the scam.
Suspects call from Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) numbers offering 20% discount on utility bills, road tax and insurance. Early indications are that the callers are located in India.
Victims agree for the caller to pay their tax or bill to guarantee a discount. The victim is required to pay their bill upfront by transferring money to the suspect’s bank account. Once the suspect receives the victim’s money, the suspect pays the energy company bill or road tax and waits for the funds to clear. The victim therefore becomes satisfied that their bill or tax has been paid.
A few days after the bill or tax has been paid, the suspect declares to the utility company that the card used for the utility payment was not their own and the payment is then reimbursed to the suspect’s account. Alternatively, the payment has been made on a compromised card and gets rejected at source. The victim is unaware the bill remains outstanding, until the energy company, council or DVLA contacts the victim reporting there are unresolved bills, in addition to late payment fees incurred.
Before making any payments to someone over the phone:
Request the contact details of the caller, i.e. the telephone number and address of the company they are calling from, and check the details on the internet for reviews.
Never provide your bank details to the initial caller, always call the person back to ensure the telephone number and company are genuine.
Be cautious when dealing with sellers from abroad or private individuals on the phone, especially if they request payment by e-money such as UKash vouchers.
Businesses are advised to check their authentication processes with telecommunication providers to ensure they are not vulnerable, and place consumer alerts on their websites advising the public to be vigilant of phone calls.
Royal Mail Shares
Based on recent observations, it is clear that organised crime groups take advantage of announcements of proposed company floatation or the privatisation of public companies through share offering as an IPO (Initial Public Offering) or via the stock market.
With this in mind, initial intelligence has suggested that Royal Mail shares will be fraudulently sold to investors. It is anticipated that, due to the heightened media coverage of Royal Mail shares, they could become a commodity sold to victims by boiler rooms over the coming months.
Investment Fraud – Graphene
As reported in the winter update, an emerging trend within investment fraud is the sale of nanotechnology, which can be defined as an area of scientific development and engineering at a very small scale. Graphene is a key component in nanotechnology. Instances of boiler rooms selling investments in graphene are increasing.
Protect yourself against share sale fraud.
If you’re considering any type of investment, always remember: if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. High returns can only be achieved with high risk.
If you’re suspicious about a scheme’s authenticity, you should investigate the company’s status and contact details.
The Financial Conduct Authority regulates stockbrokers based in the UK. You can check a stockbroker’s authenticity by visiting the FCA website www.fca.org.uk.
Steve Head, City of London Police Commander and the National Coordinator for Economic Crime (at time of writing)
For latest advice on fraud, visit www.actionfraud.police.uk