In our previous newsletter, we concentrated very much on cyber-crime issues of which there are very many. With this newsletter, we are concentrating on cons & scams that come into our lives by telephone, the post, and across the doorstep. In recent weeks, it has been reported that Action Fraud received 466,000 reports of cons & scams last year and, in the same period, they were made aware of over 5,000 bank transfer frauds. These are large figures, but they only represent a small part of the problem. About one year ago, the Office for National Statistics reported that scams & fraud had exceeded the total of all other reported crime. However, they added that only 5% of it gets reported. So, the true figure must be truly vast and, of course, it can be an international crime making it even more complicated to resolve.
Nottingham Knockers: These are groups of young males going door to door selling cleaning materials and small domestic items from a bag over the shoulder. They usually have sob stories, such as the goods are made by a charity, where they live it is difficult to get a proper job, or they have been in prison and they are doing this work as a probation course. Don’t believe any of this. Some of them may be honest, but they do need Pedlar’s Certificates signed by senior police officers to sell goods door to door. They may show ID badges, but these aren’t Pedlar’s Certificates – they won’t get them! We know that they may be checking properties to see if any of them look like soft touches for future burglaries. They are also noting whether they feel the householders look vulnerable. This information is then sold to organised crime groups. Feel absolutely comfortable to report their presence to the police on 101, even if nothing has gone wrong.
Property maintenance: Many callers at the door offer to do such work as roof repairs, drive resurfacing, gutter repairs / cleaning, tree lopping etc. Of course, some of them can be genuine. If so, they will give written quotations and offer brochures. Our concern is with those who do not do these things. They want paying in cash and they do not give written quotations on headed paper. They may do work that doesn’t need doing and they often do work of an inferior quality. With no documents being provided, they cannot be traced afterwards. They often say that they are just in the area for now or that they have some materials left over from another job nearby. Do not trust any of this and feel absolutely comfortable to report their presence to the police on 101 even if nothing has gone wrong.
Charity collections: We have frequent news of charity collections at the door which are suspicious. Anyone collecting for charity must carry ID and they must carry a letter of authority from the charity to make these collections on their behalf. In fact, genuine charity collections like this have become increasingly rare. More normally, you are invited to make donations by a direct debit arrangement or small envelopes are delivered by a local agent who collects them a few days later. So, anyone coming to your door without ID and without a letter of authority should be reported to the police on 101.
BOGUS PHONE CALLS Examples of the types of bogus calls reported to us include:
- Relating to damages as a result of car accidents.
- PPI claims.
- Loans overpaid.
- Calls purporting to be from Microsoft (and even from Word!) to warn you of computer issues. A further one was reported to us being from the Technical Department of the World Wide Web!
- Bogus bank or police phone calls, usually to get you to transfer funds to a ‘safer’ account or to get you to withdraw substantial sums as cash because of alleged wrong-doings by staff at your bank and the need to verify if the cash is counterfeit or not.
- Courier scams: These are just like the bogus phone calls, but they say that a courier will call to collect the cash or your bank cards which they allege have been misused. Calls purporting to be from the Telephone Preference Service to encourage you to use their enhanced service because of continuing nuisance calls, but fees are payable. In order to do this, they will seek your bank account details or your bank card details for the requested payment and then raid your bank account or your card account.
- Prize money scams: These usually relate to a prize draw for a competition of some time ago (long enough ago for you to have forgotten) with alleged substantial winnings and they require an advance payment from you in order to process your alleged winnings.
- Calls asking you to pay outstanding Income Tax or to clear outstanding debts, such as your allegedly unpaid phone bill.
- Calls telling you that you are entitled to a refund on some specified subject, but it is simply a bogus way of getting your bank account details into which that non-existent refund can be paid.
- Investment scams: There are so many of these where really attractive sounding investments are offered, but the investments themselves don’t exist. Check with the ‘ScamSmart’ from the Financial Conduct Authority first to verify the existence of the offered investment.
- Ticketing scams exist for sports events, travel, and entertainment. So, do check that what you have been offered is genuine. The fact that it has a website doesn’t mean that it is genuine. Check!
- Pension scheme scams: With lump sum repayments of state pension money now being possible for those aged 55, the scammers are targeting this money and offering what seem to be very lucrative investments for this money.
- The ‘Think Jessica’ story: This relates to the compulsive buying of goods which have a possible prize relating to the purchase. They can be perfectly legitimate, but the compulsion to buy can be truly considerable. Jessica did exactly this and even set about selling her house to buy more goods in order to increase her chances of winning the elusive prize.
- Inheritance scams: These usually relate to large sums of money being available from the overseas estate of an alleged relative, but advance fees are payable in order to finalise the bureaucracy and local taxes etc. A particular case on TV like this told the story of a retired business man who paid a total of £440,000 in order to receive a legacy from the estate of someone he didn’t know. After reaching this point, the agents who were ‘helping’ him vanished!
- Nigerian scam letters: These usually relate to large sums of ‘government’ money that needs to be transferred abroad before the end of their financial year with a large proportion to be retained by the recipient, but it is just a means of obtaining the victim’s bank account details with very unfortunate consequences.
Our final advice is:
- If something like any of these stories should come to you out of the blue, be very suspicious and seek advice.
- If it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is!
- You don’t get owt for nowt!
- Visit our website which, among many other things, includes lots of links to other sites that are either wholly, or partly, relating to the many types of cons & scams. It can be found at : https://neighbourhoodwatchwycombe.org