A retired police officer has been left “devastated and embarrassed” after losing £3,000 to scammers posing as Royal Mail.
The man, who wanted to be known only as Alan, said he thought the con-artists were “legitimate and credible” when he spoke to them on the phone.
He had fallen prey to a scam text message that claimed a parcel was awaiting delivery by Royal Mail.
Royal Mail has confirmed it would never send such a text message.
Victims receive a text purporting to be from the company which reads: “Your Royal Mail parcel is awaiting delivery. Please confirm the settlement of 1.99 (GBP) on the following link”.
The message then links to a website mocked up to look like an official site.
The page requests personal and payment details, which fraudsters use to steal the victim’s identity or target them with further scams.
‘Helpless and angry’
In Alan’s case, the scammers used his details to call him back, pretending to be his bank alerting him to the deception, and then got him to transfer money to a new account they claimed to have set up for him.
Alan, from Carlisle, told BBC Radio Cumbria the crooks appeared “so credible” because they were able to provide details about his account, including that he had pending payments.
He even went online while speaking to them to search their phone numbers which “came back as legitimate”.
After realising he had been scammed, Alan, who worked for the police for more than 25 years, said: “I was devastated and embarrassed.
“I used to give people advice for over 25 years on scams and I was caught out.
“I thought ‘how can I tell my wife and family? They will laugh at me at me and say how stupid are you’.”
He said he felt “helpless and angry”, adding: “It’s one for everybody to be aware of.
“I wouldn’t class myself as vulnerable, I have a previous life of explaining to people what to do and I got caught.
“If you have any doubt whatsoever just put the phone down, don’t explain yourself.”
An attempt was made to use a health minister’s credit card details to buy a designer coat worth almost £1,000, a court has heard. Nadine Dorries said she was “grateful to the police for arresting these criminals”
The attempted transaction, in October 2019, came after a fraudulent copy of a card belonging to MP for Mid Bedfordshire, Nadine Dorries, was made.
A phone number and email address used led to Cory Chin, 24, of Walthamstow, east London, being tracked down.
At Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Chin was handed a 12-month community order.
The trainee engineer had pleaded guilty to attempting to use the Conservative MP’s card details to buy a Canada Goose coat worth £958.
The sentence requires Chin, of Palmerston Road, to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work and he was ordered to pay £175 costs.
‘Grateful to police’
Chin was described in court as a “well-educated and hard-working young man”.
The court heard he had not been involved in obtaining the card details, but “takes full responsibility for his behaviour” in trying to use them.
He had “no idea” who Ms Dorries was and did not specifically target her as an MP, the court was told.
Sentencing him, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said it was acknowledged “no actual financial loss was suffered by the complainant” and that Chin had shown “genuine remorse” and accepted the “distress and inconvenience” his actions had caused.
A second man is due to be sentenced at a later date.
Ms Dorries said: “This kind of sophisticated technology enabled theft can affect anyone and I am so grateful to the police for arresting these criminals.”
Det Con Warren Joseph, from the City of London Police, said: “Through the good work of the banks and the online retail industry to prevent suspicious transactions, the victim in this case is not out of pocket.
“Despite this, Ms Dorries, correctly, still made a report to Action Fraud, which meant we were able to track down those responsible for the offence and bring them before the courts.”
LONDON (Reuters) – Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey has been lobbying the British government to introduce a legal requirement for internet giants such as Google to take down financial fraud websites, according to a report in the Sunday Times.
The report said Bailey had been lobbying Home Secretary Priti Patel, the interior minister, about the issue, asking for the measure to be added to an Online Harms Bill expected to be put before parliament this year.
A Bank of England spokeswoman said the central bank did not comment on private meetings and therefore would not say whether Bailey had spoken to Patel about the issue or not.
She said the governor had been on the record several times saying the Online Harms Bill should be extended to cover financial services.
However, the spokeswoman said the topic fell under the remit of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) rather than the Bank of England, and it was for the FCA to make policy in this area. Bailey was head of the FCA before he took the helm at the bank.
As things stand, the Online Harms Bill would force Internet giants to tackle problems such as online child grooming and terrorism, but not financial fraud which has boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Critics accuse Google of benefiting from fraud because companies or individuals seeking to advertise dubious get-rich-quick schemes or other scams can pay the web giant for prominent slots in search results, the Sunday Times reported.
Google says it takes down scam websites when notified, and has in the past blamed poor guidance from regulators for difficulties in implementing rules about fraud.
According to a media report from January 2020, flagged up by the Bank of England spokeswoman, Bailey, then still at the FCA, had said in private emails that companies using Google were able to get around rules supposed to prevent mis-selling.
Scam attempts by fraudsters masquerading as the UK’s tax authority surged as potential victims completed tax returns while staying at home.
Con-artists attempted to take advantage of the self-assessment filing deadline at the end of January to flood people with fake texts, emails and calls.
They posed as HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officials and attempted to steal personal financial details.
Phone scam reports to HMRC tripled compared with December, it said.
There were a total of 33,053 reports in January, in addition to 46,210 phishing emails, and 26,643 suspicious text messages during the same month.
The number of bogus text message reports was twice the next highest level seen during any month of the last year.
Types of scams
Most of these scam messages offered bogus tax rebates, fake support or grants, or threatened legal action over unpaid tax.
A new scam involved criminals calling people saying that their national insurance number had been used fraudulently. This was a lie.
An HMRC spokesman said: “If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help, are due a tax refund or owe tax, or asks for bank or other personal details, it might be a scam.
“If you can’t verify the identity of the caller, HMRC recommends that you do not speak to them.”
Romance fraud – scamming someone out of money by pretending to want a relationship – has been on the rise during lockdown.
More than 2.3 million people across Britain used dating apps during the initial coronavirus lockdown according to the Online Dating Association
According to UK Finance, there was a 20% increase in bank transfer fraud linked to romance scams in 2020 compared to 2019.
And £68m was lost to such scams in 2020, said the UK’s Action Fraud – another increase on the previous year.
Organisations warned people to be vigilant ahead of Valentine’s Day.
The advice includes:
online daters should not send any money, allow the other person to access their bank account, transfer money or take out a loan on the other person’s behalf
hand over copies of personal documents such as their passport or driving licence
invest money on the other person’s advice
receive or send parcels on the other person’s behalf
fraudsters may also use fake profile photos. Performing a reverse image search on a search engine can help to show whether a photo has been copied from elsewhere
contact your bank immediately if you think you have fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud
In both 2019 and 2020, the amount of money lost to romance fraud outstripped that stolen by online shopping fraud, according to Action Fraud, which is the main reporting body in the UK.
In 2020, online shopping and auction fraud accounted for £63m compared to £68m for dating scams.
The Covid-19 pandemic has added to the problem.
“The national lockdowns, and other restrictions on our social lives, implemented because of the coronavirus outbreak, have meant more people have been seeking companionship online and this has undoubtedly affected the number of reports we have seen,” said Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud.
“Romance scams can leave customers out of love and out of pocket,” added Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at trade association UK Finance.
Victims of romance scams lose money via money transfers, and sending fraudsters gift cards and vouchers or presents such as phones and laptops. Some even provide access to their bank account or bank card.
Fraudsters can be very convincing, using emotive language and stories to manipulate people, for instance saying they need money for medical bills.
And increasingly, victims are at risk of prosecution as well as having their bank account emptied – as it is revealed that some scammers are now asking them to unwittingly launder money for criminal gangs.
ABC News reported on an Australian woman who thought she was falling in love with a US army officer but ended up laundering A$150,000 (£83,000) for such a gang.
According to data from Lloyds Bank, people aged 55 to 64 are particularly at risk.
Like Anna (not her real name) who is in her 50s and a widow: she became prey to her scammer – who called himself Tim – after meeting him on a dating website, initially using its chat facility before switching to WhatsApp.
After a few weeks, Tim told Anna he was travelling to Romania to work on a transport project, and asked her to send money. First he asked for small amounts, and then larger ones, eventually defrauding her of £320,000.
Romance fraud often starts on online dating websites but quickly switches to social media or old-fashioned texting, so there is no evidence of the scam.
Sometimes the scammer is more subtle than just asking for money, seeking instead to garner personal information, which can later be used to commit identity fraud.
Many victims do not report romance scams because they are embarrassed or ashamed. But for those who do, there is some recourse. In 2019 banks agreed to a voluntary code which said that if someone “has taken reasonable care and has any element of vulnerability” they are more likely to receive a refund.
In Anna’s case for example, she was able to recover half of what she lost.
The U.S. securities regulator is reviewing social media posts for signs of potential fraud in frenzied trading of GameStop Corp’s and other companies’ shares, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.
The Securities and Exchange Commission’s examination of online posts is being done in tandem with a review of trading data to assess whether such posts were part of a manipulative effort to drive up share prices, the report said. A Reddit-driven rally has inflated stock prices for a number of previously downtrodden companies. (bloom.bg/3jgts2R)
A spokesperson for the SEC did not respond immediately to request for comment.
Earlier in the week, the SEC’s acting chair Allison Herren Lee said the agency is working “around the clock” to root out any potential market manipulation in the market volatility. Lee said in an interview with National Public Radio earlier this week that the current situation may be a “little bit more challenging” than the SEC’s typical work.
Users in the Reddit forum WallStreetBets have been encouraging buying of GameStop, AMC and other stocks, causing short-term surges in shares. Shares of GameStop rallied nearly 400% and have since tumbled about 80% from last week’s highs.
U.S. securities law bars the dissemination of any false or misleading information aimed at manipulating investors into buying or selling securities, and regulators have been expected to explore whether Reddit was used to do so.
Fresh from toppling the head of Germany’s top financial regulator last week, lawmakers are turning their fire on finance minister Olaf Scholz and his deputy Joerg Kukies.
As their inquiry into the collapse of Wirecard gathers pace, it has put Germany’s biggest fraud centre stage in national elections in which Scholz wants to stand for chancellor.
“The focus of the parliamentary inquiry will more and more shift to the role of Scholz and his ministry,” Florian Toncar, a lawmaker involved in the investigation said.
The inquiry into the implosion of a payments company which was once worth $28 billion and hailed as a German success story has embarrassed the country’s governing centrist coalition.
Scholz and Kukies, who deny responsibility for failings which led to Wirecard’s collapse, have responded with reforms to the structure and leadership of financial watchdog BaFin. They are due to announce further changes on Tuesday.
But lawmakers are growing impatient, with some such as Danyal Bayaz saying Scholz has been slow to respond.
“The tough questions about political responsibilities only start now,” Fabio De Masi, one of the lawmakers driving a parliamentary inquiry into the affair, told Reuters.
Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD) have been in a coalition government with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) for years and he hopes to succeed her as chancellor in elections later this year following her decision to retire.
But the SPD is struggling with voters, polling a distant third behind the CDU and the Greens, while criticism of Scholz is also emanating from within Merkel’s party.
“Consequences for the finance ministry are now overdue,” CDU parliamentarian Hans Michelbach said.
Kukies’ role has also come under close scrutiny and lawmakers have highlighted multiple discussions he held with regulators, Wirecard executives, bankers and others.
The Finance Ministry said these were part of his job.
Lawmakers say they also want to examine a 100 million euro ($121 million) loan to Wirecard by a subsidiary of state bank KfW in September 2018, some two years before its collapse.
One person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters that the money was unsecured and that 90% of the loan by KfW’s IPEX bank had been written off.
The finance ministry said that the bank’s supervisory board, on which Kukies sat, was not involved and learned of the loan only in the middle of last year.
The lawmakers are also calling for details of communications between Kukies and the CEO of Goldman Sachs in Germany, his former employer, De Masi said.
Goldman Sachs declined to comment, referring to Wolfgang Fink’s statement that he had no contact with officials on Wirecard.
The Finance Ministry also said there had been no contact.
German lawmakers are not the only ones to see the root cause of BaFin’s problems in the finance ministry, a weakness also flagged by European regulators last year.
Hans-Peter Burghof, a professor at the University of Hohenheim, said the ministry had years ago hired many of the agency’s top staff. “They lost this spirit of independence.”
Banks “too often” blame customers for falling victim to criminals carrying out fraud, according to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Figures showed a 36% rise in complaints about how banks dealt with fraud and scams this year compared to 2019.
Debbie Enever from the ombudsman told BBC Radio 4’s Money Box “work still needs to be done” on a voluntary code most banks signed up to last year.
UK Finance, representing banks, said stopping fraud was a primary focus.
It added that while the voluntary code was “not working as intended”, the banking industry wanted further action to be taken “to drive more consistent outcomes for consumers”.
This Contingent Reimbursement Model Code – or CRM – means that banks should refund victims, if they are not at fault, when they have been tricked by criminals into transferring money out of their own banks accounts.
Between April to September 2020, figures from the Financial Ombudsman Service showed there were 6,603 complaints about banks from victims of fraud, up from 4,840 between April and September in 2019.
Fraudsters pretend to be from the police, the government or the banks themselves and use intense psychological pressure often against elderly and vulnerable victims.
Last year, £456m was stolen from more than 100,000 victims using this method, destroying victims’ financial futures and devastating them and their families.
But whilst the Financial Ombudsman Service only upholds around a third of general complaints made about banks, when it comes to complaints about this type of fraud it backs consumers in three quarters of cases.
“Under the code that came in last year, the presumption was supposed to be that consumers would get their money back unless they were at fault in someway,” Ms Enever said.
“We’re just not seeing that the banks are following through on that at the moment.
“We are always keen to let people know that they can come and complain to us [about banks and building societies] and the email addresses and phone numbers are on our website.”
Leslie runs a small company in London and had £13,200 stolen from him by criminals who hacked his email account in June 2019.
He should have been covered by this code but after investigating for five months his bank, Lloyds, told him it wouldn’t refund the money.
Leslie complained to the ombudsman which, in June 2020, backed his complaint but six months on Lloyds still hadn’t refunded the money.
Money Box started investigating Leslie’s case and within two hours of Lloyds being contacted by our reporter, Leslie was emailed to say he would be getting his money back.
“I’m obviously delighted to hear the money is returning… but this system is clearly broken and there needs to be a change,” he said.
“When a bank promotes they have entered a code [to refund victims] they are asking customers to trust them to follow that code.
“My own experience suggests Lloyds at least are not deserving that trust.”
Lloyds told us keeping its customers’ money safe is its priority and it had a great deal of sympathy for Leslie.
It said it had already agreed to refund Leslie’s money before Money Box got involved, adding that the timing was just a coincidence.
What is the Financial Ombudsman Service?
The Financial Ombudsman Service settles disputes between consumers and businesses that provide financial services.
It is the final word in complaints and banks and building societies must abide by its decision.
The agency has a two-stage process: an “initial view” handed down by an investigator and a “final decision” which is enforceable by law.
In 2019/20 it upheld an average of 32% of complaints in general about banks.
That figure nearly doubled to 58% in relation to complaints about frauds and scams.
In cases of push payment fraud that number was even higher at 75%.
Katy Worobec of UK Finance, which represents the main banks, said: “Fraud is a crime which has a devastating emotional impact on victims and its proceeds fund serious criminal activities which damage our society.”
She told Money Box the primary focus was stopping fraud in the first place and helping customers stay safe.
In relation to the CRM code, Ms Worobec said it was not working as intended, admitted a lack of consistency from banks and was working on making it more effective.
Nungua Dzaasetse, Nii Botwe Laryea II, has rubbished the allegation of him engaging in criminal activities.
The respected traditional ruler in a statement said the allegation in the media is meant to tarnish his integrity and hard-earned reputation.
He was reacting to some media reports of him engaging in an alleged land fraud
His statement read: ”We write to inform, clear the air and set the facts straight to the general public about allegations circulating within the media space about an alleged shady and fraudulent land sale belonging to a Ghanaian family living in the United States of America (USA) in which Nii Botwe Laryea II and the NP- for Effia Constituency cum Deputy Energy Minister, Honourable Joseph Cudjoe were mentioned.
This is an attempt to dent the hard-earned reputation of Nii Botwe Laryea II who has been falsely reported to have sold the land again to one, Evans Takyi Menson,” the statement added.
The statement further indicated that the said video in circulation from an unknown foreign media sources through social media that indicates that the said MP ”connived with the chief to steal and vandalize a property belonging to a Ghanaian living in the USA,’is false and should be treated with the contempt it deserves.
It added that the Land Fraud Unit of the Police Department has arrested four men (who are alleged to have been working for the MP) in an attempt to develop the land near Tema.
Clarifying claims against him, the chief recounted that one gentleman called T.T who happens to be a land agent paid for 8 plots of land from his family.
”Finding it difficult to get the land from the family, I offered him a land I have demarcated for development. T.T instead of the 8 plots took 23 plots. I, Nii Botwe Laryea II solicited the services of a surveyor who ascertained the actual number of plots on the land taken by R.R. It was realized that 23 plots were demarcated. An attempt to get the difference of 15 plots of land back from T.T was seemingly challenging.
He later produced six plots out of the 15 which I rejected until he produced the 15 he had kept.”
The statement said the matter is currently un der investigation by the police, adding, ”I have never ever involved myself in any fraudulent land or any other criminal deals. Please be informed my lawyers are in the process of filing law suits against Mr. Evans Takyi Mensah’s claims for damages”.