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Welcome to the WCC February Cyber Scam Newsletter, this month we’re raising awareness of an article from Action Fraud warning of Romance Fraud and for family members of online daters to help protect their relatives as in, May 2021 losses were reportedly totalled at £14.6million. As well as this, online shopping fraud reports of bogus e-scooters hits over 350, Apple publishing an Airtag safety guide amid harassment and stalking fears and a warning: don’t fall victim to fraudulent investment opportunities as investment scams can be hard to spot.

PDF version of the Cyber Scam Newsletter are linked. A copy of the newsletter is also available on our website.

 

Swipe left to romance fraud: Family members of online daters to help protect their relatives

Daters who strike up online relationships between Christmas and Valentines Day tend to be the most susceptible to romance fraud, with a spike of 901 reports recorded by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) in March 2021.

Despite a peak of romance fraud reports and losses of £8.7 million reported in March, the financial spike came two months later in May 2021 where losses of a staggering £14.6 million were reported.

Criminals often use a range of stories to get victims to transfer them money without it raising suspicion. The stories are often believable, to a certain extent, and something that the victim would find hard to say no to, especially because of their emotional attachment.

Examples of stories include funding travel to visit the victim, money to pay for emergency medical expenses, lucrative investment opportunities and pretending to be military personnel or working overseas.

How to help protect people you know are online dating

  • Help your friends and family to ensure they have adequate privacy settings on their social media accounts to ensure strangers don’t have access to their personal information.
  • Stay in regular contact with your friends and family who are online dating to help spot any changes in behaviour or things that don’t seem right.
  • Make friends and family aware of the signs of romance fraud so that they are conscious of the tactics criminals use to carry out these scams and reiterate that you should never transfer money to someone that you have never met in person.
  • Encourage people to report to Action Fraud and the police if they have become a victim of romance fraud and not to be embarrassed about doing so.

City of London Police would urge anyone who is speaking to people they do not know or have not known for a long period of time to follow the Take Five To Stop Fraud advice.

Take Five To Stop Fraud advice

  • Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
  • Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • Protect: If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

 

 

Online Shopping Fraud: Bogus E-Scooter Sales

Action Fraud received over 350 reports in 2021 about scam websites selling e-scooters.

Victims have reported buying e-scooters online only for the e-scooter to not be delivered. By this point, they’re unable to contact the company as the website they made the purchase from has been closed down by its owners. Victims have reported losing over £145,000 to this type of online shopping fraud.

Action Fraud has also received reports of individual sellers offering e-scooters via online marketplaces and social media platforms and failing to deliver them once payment has been made.

We would like to remind the public that whilst the sale of e-scooters is legal, private e-scooters cannot be used in public places or on public roads. They should only be used on private land with the landowner’s permission. Those who disregard the law could face fines, seizure of their e-scooter, and points on their driving licence.

What you need to do

  • When it’s time to pay for your items, use a credit card if you have one. Most major credit card providers protect online purchases. You can also use online payment providers such as PayPal.
  • If you’re unsure about the legitimacy of a product listing, arrange to meet the seller in person to inspect the item yourself. We recommend that you meet during the day in a busy, public location like a coffee shop.
  • Be cautious if a seller asks you for details that are not required for your purchase, such as your mother’s maiden name or the name of your primary school.
  • If you have visited a website you think is trying to scam you, report it to the National Cyber Security Centre: Report a suspicious website – NCSC.GOV.UK
  • If you’ve lost money to an online shopping scam, tell your bank and report it as a crime to Action Fraud (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or Police Scotland (for Scotland).

 

 

 

Apple publishes Airtag safety guide amid harassment and stalking fears

Apple has launched a safety guide after stalking and harassment concerns were raised over the company’s Airtag.

The newest product in Apple’s line-up, the accessory is a small sensor that can be attached to items such as keys and wallets or placed into backpacks to help find them when lost. Connecting to the Find My app on a user’s Apple devices, AirTag and the item they are attached to can then be tracked down.

But there have been concerns that they may be used to track people without their knowledge.

Apple’s Personal User Safety Guide gives support for people who are “concerned about or experiencing technology-enabled abuse, stalking or harassment”.

The guide gives instructions on what to do if you have given personal information to someone who you no longer trust, or if you’re concerned someone who had access to your device or accounts made changes without your permission.

AirTags sends out secure Bluetooth signal that can be detected by nearby devices in the Find My network. These devices send the location of your AirTag to iCloud — then you can go to the Find My app and see it on a map.

Amid privacy fears, Apple launched an Android app at the end of last year to help users scan nearby AirTags or similar item trackers that might be ‘travelling’ with them without their knowledge.

The Tracker Detect app allows a user to scan for AirTags or compatible devices if they believed someone is using it to track their location.

 

Warning: Don’t fall victim to fraudulent investment opportunities

Investment scams can be hard to spot. Every year, victims lose thousands of pounds to criminals imitating genuine investment firms by clicking on adverts that lead them to fraudulent websites designed to replicate the page of a real investment firm. These imitation websites are known as “cloned companies”.

We are working with the National Economic Crime Centre to warn the public about the increasing number of bogus investment websites, as new figures reveal:

  • In the first six months of 2021, £36.2m was lost to ‘cloned company’ investment scams.
  • In the first six months of 2021, 1,100 reports were received, equating to an average loss of £47,000 per victim, when investing money in cloned companies.

What is a cloned company? And how do they target your savings?

They are set up by fraudsters using the name, address and ‘Firm Reference Number’ (FRN) of real companies authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The criminals running these scams engage with victims through a number of channels. Often they take out adverts on social media platforms and search engines designed to attract people to click on them by highlighting enticing offers of high returns.  The returns being promised by these criminal gangs are often modest so as not to arouse suspicion, but slightly better than the market rate, therefore appealing to those looking for long term, ‘safe’ investments.

Once a person clicks on the advert they are taken to an exact replica of a website belonging to a legitimate investment firm. The most sophisticated criminals will even clone the website domain name (i.e. the unique address registered to that site). Once victims have registered their interest, they’ll be contacted by the offenders, who often obtain the names of genuine employees at investment firms and create seemingly legitimate company email addresses, but with very subtle changes such as one substituted letter.

There have also been instances of investors inputting their contact details into popular price comparison websites and then being phoned by criminals claiming to be from a well-known, legitimate investment firm. Another tactic used by these criminals to target investors involves sending victims sales materials linking to websites of legitimate firms.

Eventually, given false confidence by the various tactics used by cloned company scammers, victims will end up transferring their savings directly to criminal gangs under the false belief that they are sending them to a legitimate investment firm. Often, victims will not realise that they’ve been scammed until months later, when they fail to receive quarterly returns or investment reports.

How to protect yourself

  1. Reject unsolicited investment offers whether made online, on social media or over the phone. Be cautious when dealing with large sums of money, even if you initiated the first contact.
  2. Always check the FCA Register to confirm the contact details provided to you by the firm. If the website, email and telephone number don’t match, don’t invest. Look out for subtle differences such as letters replaced with numbers (e.g. S and 5, O and 0), additional words or spelling errors. Make sure you’re dealing with an authorised form, but remember these are public registers which fraudsters can also take information from to sound legitimate.
  3. Check the FCA Warning List of firms to avoid.
  4. If you have visited a website, you think is suspicious, report it to the National Cyber Security Centre, using their quick and easy referral tool.
  5. Consider seeking impartial advice before investing.

If you think you’ve fallen victim to an investment fraud, report it to Action Fraud as soon as possible online at http://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Advice for pension investment

Are you a pensioner looking to invest your pension or lump sum early? Please see Action Frauds dedicated pension fraud advice page on how to protect yourself from pension fraud.