Preying on the Vulnerable: More Scams.

Just like my last post, this one is all about scams – they seem to be the big thing at the moment.

Elderly person on the telephoneOn returning from work following the Easter break I’ve found emails concerning several scams in my inbox, some of which are quite disturbing.  The first concerns an elderly lady who nearly fell victim to a telephone scam.  The fraudster rang claiming to be from her bank, stating that someone had tried to withdraw money from her account and that they needed various amounts of cash out of her account to entrap the people responsible.  She was told her to go to the bank and withdraw a sum of money, in a mixture of £50, £20, £10 and £5 notes.  She was told she must not tell anyone or she would be arrested! The poor lady was so confused that she actually went to her bank not realising that banks are closed on Good Friday. When the lady told her son, he took the next phone call (the scammer continually phoned her all afternoon to check if she had withdrawn the money), telling the caller that he had contacted the police who were calling round to the house to take further details, having advised that this was a scam.  This lady was extremely upset and frightened that someone would call at her house, though is now being reassured by the police and of course her family.  If the banks had been open there is a good chance that staff would have alerted the police to such an unusual withdrawal anyway, as with Trading Standards Officers we’ve done a lot of training with the banks.

The next attempted fraud I was informed of is equally disturbing.  A local resident received the following text message: “Hi its Emma. Don’t panic but im at the hospital. I had a fall and broke my leg in 2 places. Can you text me when you get this message? Need a favour x.”  Now, this lady has a daughter called Emma who lives away from home so immediately flew into a panic and so called the number, which she didn’t recognise but assumed was her daughter’s work phone.  There was no reply but shortly afterwards she received the following text, “Signal bad..Can you do me a favour? Can you get me a phone voucher til tomorrow?  The text conversation continued until the lady asked for hospital details – the response was ‘the general’ and I was asked to get a £20 t-mobile voucher and text them the voucher number.  By this time the lady’s husband had made contact with their daughter to find that she was not in hospital and this was probably a cruel scam.  The phone number from which the texts were sent, 07968942499, has been identified on various websites as being used by fraudsters, though by now I would expect they’ve ditched it and are using another number.  If you get such a text please ignore it, though if you’re able reporting it to Action Fraud would be useful.

The third and final scam sent to me over Easter involved the old phishing email.  Recipient has received an email statingVirgin_Scam(Small) that his Virgin Media account billing details are incomplete and that he is about to be disconnected.  A link is included to update his billing details and avoid disconnection.  The link does, of course, take you to the fraudsters’ website, cunningly made to look just like Virgin Media’s using logos, etc. taken from the genuine site.  They will then have your bank details and will be able to empty it at their leisure.  Once again, if you receive such an email, from any of the banks, utilities, etc., just ignore it.  If you’re in any doubt always check the web address at the top of your browser, and as a further precaution do an internet search; it’s highly likely that someone will already have had the same email and will have written about it online!

Three Current Scams.

In this blog I’m talking about scams – a crime type which, unlike many others, seems to be on the way up.

PARCEL PAYMENT FRAUD

Last week I posted on my Facebook page about a new parcel claim scam after a local resident had sent me a postcard she’d received.  The airmail-type postcard is from a company called LSL stating that they are holding a parcel containing £50 worth of jewellery. On the reverse it states that the item is prepaid but that a processing and delivery fee of £10 must be paid. The fee can only be paid by credit or debit card, by calling an 0800 telephone number.  I’ve included pictures of both sides of the card; if you get one just throw it in the bin.

Postal Payment Scam2Postal Payment Scam2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COURIER FRAUD

We have seen this scam re-appear recently.

What is courier fraud?

Phone scammers cold call you claiming to be a bank employee, police officer or other official. They say your account has been hacked and that they need to seize the cards and security details, including PIN numbers, to stop further fraudulent transactions. In some cases, a courier arrives to collect the bank card from your home. These fraudsters often suggest you hang up and call the number on the back of the bank card – but remain on the line to intercept the call.

Protect yourself

  • Your bank or police will NEVER send a courier to your home to collect bank cards
  • Your bank or police will NEVER ask for your PIN number
  • If you receive one of these calls, end it immediately
  • Always be wary of any unsolicited callers – if in doubt, hang-up the phone or close the door and call police

Report it immediately

  • Call police on 101 if you are contacted by someone asking for your PIN number, your bank card or both
  • Already handed your details to a suspected fraudster? Call your bank and cancel your card immediately
  • Call your bank from another telephone – the fraudster may still be on the other line.

PENSION SALE SCAMS

There are so many frauds around and to describe them all this blog would have to be 100 yards long, however one I want to highlight is a possible pension scam.  With the government changing the rules to allow us to sell out pension pots if we want, it is feared that scammers will con people out of their savings.  To find out more, take a look at this article on the BBC website.

To find out more and for advice on how to protect yourself from scams, visit the Action Fraud website.

Gongs and Gangs

My first blog in ages has been prompted by two events in a few days.  Let’s start with the happier one.

On Friday, 20 March, I was privileged to attend the 11th annual Mayor’s Civic Awards (otherwise known as the ‘Doras’) in Walsall’s magnificent Town Hall.  I had nominated one of the finalists, Mr Peter Roberts, a long-time friend, Chair of Streetly Neighbourhood Watch and all-round good guy.

Pete Roberts barbeques in Blackwood Park, summer 2014.Peter is one of those people who goes out of his way to help others without expecting anything in return.  In his neighbourhood watch capacity he not only organises and chairs meetings but also delivers the regular magazine and is always on call to assist a victim of crime.  Peter is also Chair of the Friends of Blackwood Park, where he has helped to restore an old pavilion to use, and where he also organises ‘BBQ in the Park’ events to keep youngsters entertained during the school holidays.  He does so much for the community I’m surprised he finds time for anything else!

Anyway, back to the awards.  The event was opened by WalsallPeter Roberts receives his Civic Award from Bob Warman and a representative of legal firm dwf. Mayor Councillor Pete Smith and introduced by Walsall-born TV presenter Bob Warman.  Following a lovely three-course meal we went into the awards proper.  I don’t know how many nominations had been made however I would guess that the judges would have had difficulty whittling them down to the fifteen ‘local heroes’ (well actually seventeen as two were joint nominations).  For the last few years, Walsall’s Civic Awards have not been made in the traditional categories, instead each of the five sponsors decide on their top three, from which they then choose their winner.  So there are five winners, plus the Mayor makes two awards of his own. I was humbled to be in the company of so many people who do so much for their communities.  Well done to them all.

Link to GLA home pageOn a completely different topic, earlier this week I was privy to a presentation given by a representative of the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority (GLA) who gave us an insight into the seedy world of trafficked people, intimidation, slavery and benefit fraud which goes on all around with few of us being aware.  The GLA, set up in the wake of the Morecambe Bay cockle-pickers tragedy, regulate labour provision in the agricultural, shellfish gathering and food packaging/processing industries.  What I heard was shocking.  People from many parts of the world are trafficked (both into and around this country), sold on, indebted, exploited, forced to work for little or no pay, forced to become sex workers or slaves.  The exploiters are criminal gangs who make vast sums of money, not only from these poor unfortunates’ labour, but also from you and I via the benefits system, making fraudulent housing and child benefit claims among others.  Slave bosses and human traffickers are taking vast sums off the UK taxpayer which they are using to live lavish lifestyles.  The most recent, and thought to be conservative, estimate is that there are around ten to twelve thousand slaves in the UK.  This is a disgrace, however there is something that we can all do about it.  Firstly, to find out more about this largely hidden crime, read the GLA publication ‘Spotting The Signs’.  Then, if or when you do spot a sign, report it to the police or the GLA.  Working in partnership, agencies and the public can make a vast difference to peoples’ lives.

Beware the Twelve Online Frauds of Christmas

This advice from West Midlands Police is so relevant I’m reproducing it in it’s entirety (well why re-invent the wheel).

 

Link to 'Twelve Online Frauds of Christmas' LeafletFollowing last week’s warnings over ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ police have launched a ‘12 online frauds of Christmas’ campaign to protect thousands of people from falling victim to cyber-fraudsters.

 
Working in partnership with the national policing lead for fraud, City of London Police, WMP are hoping that by focusing on some simple ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ of online shopping, they may reduce the number of people that fall victim to criminals at this time of year.

 
So far in 2014 74 per cent of all adults nationwide have bought goods or services online, and this December around 50 per cent of UK citizens are expected to use the internet to buy more than half of their Christmas presents.
 
The good news is the majority of us will still have our presents delivered to our doorstep or into our email account without a hitch.
 
However, the sad reality is there will also be tens of thousands of people across the UK whose Christmas will be damaged, and in some cases destroyed, after finding out they have fallen foul of heartless criminals who specialise in tricking internet users with the promise of great online deals and big cash savings.
 
The campaign focuses on activity that people may not be aware could cause them harm such as the hazards of opening Christmas e-Cards sent via email which may be carrying a virus (malware) that can embed itself and then corrupt your smart phone, tablet or laptop.

 
Throughout the beginning of December the campaign will flag up the threat of twelve online festive frauds, identified by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB). These include auction fraud, holiday fraud, donating to charity, social media and online dating scams.
 
Police will be sharing top safety tips via traditional and social media with more internet safety advice available at: www.getsafeonline.org and www.cyberstreetwise.com
 
Police are also urging anyone who has had the misfortune to fall victim to one of the dozen festive frauds, or any other type of cyber-fraud, to report to Action Fraud − the City of London Police-based national reporting centre – on 0300 123 040 or at: www.actionfraud.police.uk

Protect Your Stuff From The Vehicle Burglars

Vehicle crime is a hot topic here at Walsall Police at the moment, mainly because we’ve seen an increase in vehicle-related crime in many areas of the borough and are focusing a lot of attention on reducing it.  To achieve this we’re concentrating on two approaches: firstly, catch the people who are doing it and secondly, advise vehicle owners on how they can avoid becoming a victim.  Which is where this blog comes in.

Vehicle-related crime can be split into two main categories; theft from and theft of.  Let’s look at theft from vehicles first.  In general this can be split into two areas, the theft of items from within the vehicle, and the theft of parts from the vehicle, mainly number plates.

check-your-fob-has-done-its-jobThe theft of items from within the vehicle is something that can be prevented by simply removing said items!  Rather than leaving things on show or even in the glove compartment, take them with you if you can.  If you can’t, leave them out of sight in the boot.  It isn’t, as they say, rocket science.  Even something with little or no value, a coat or some loose change, will tempt the thief.  £1 may not be much to you, but to a drug addict desperate to buy their next fix, the pound or so in your centre console is a fortune.  The next step you can take is to ensure your vehicle is locked.  You’d be surprised at just how many cars are left unlocked, presenting an easy target to the thieves, which is why West Midlands Police have launched the ‘Check You Fob Has Done It’s Job’ campaign.  Here’s just a few recent examples of thefts from unlocked vehicles in Walsall:

2 October – Pelsall – overnight – sat nav taken from glove box.
26/10 – Bloxwich – tablet computer taken from a car left unattended for a few minutes.
26/10 – Birchills – overnight – sat nav taken.
27 October – Leamore – evening – two tablet computers and a mobile phone taken.  They’d been left under a coat on the back seat.
27 October – Willenhall – overnight – digital camera and passport stolen.

The message of the WMP ‘fob’ campaign is ‘click it, check it’.  In other words don’t assume that your car is properly locked before you walk away, physically check by trying your door handles.  I’m old enough to remember the days before central locking when we had to do that and didn’t consider it a hardship!  Central locking is great but can go wrong for several reasons, perhaps because a door isn’t closed properly, or one of the locks is faulty, so get in the habit of not relying on it.  In relation to the large number of vehicles parked around Walsall every day, the number of vehicle crimes committed is very small – just a handful in fact – but thieves will roam the streets, especially at night, trying vehicle door handles, as captured on CCTV.  If they try 100 and get just one victim, that’s one too many.

Continuing with the ‘theft from’ theme, the theft of number plates is disturbingly common.  Number plates are often used in crime and can be expensive to replace, however there is an easy step you can take: secure your ‘plates with clutch or one-way screws.  These have part of the head missing so they can be screwed in but not out.  In fact we’ve made things really easy for you by teaming up with Halfords Autocentres who will supply and fit the screws for free!  To secure your plates simply download and print out the voucher (below) and make an appointment at Halfords’ Walsall Branch.  If you can’t print out the voucher give me a call and I’ll pop one in the post to you.

free number plate screws

Moving on to the theft of vehicles, whilst it’s true that vehicles have become more difficult to steal with the introduction of more sophisticated electronic security, a disturbing trend recently has been how crooks are managing to bypass such security, as highlighted recently by the BBC.  I won’t go in to detail here as you can read the BBC article, suffice to say that in recent months a number of high-value vehicles have been stolen in Walsall by ‘unknown means’, where the owner is still in possession of all sets of keys and there are no signs of forced entry, e.g. broken glass.  Apparently, whilst motor manufacturers are working on remedies, this trend is spreading to lower-value cars and commercial vehicles.

There is something you can do to stop your pride and joy being taken however.  An obvious solution is to garage the vehicle, especially overnight, if it’s possible.  If this isn’t possible then think about physical security, either fitted to the vehicle (e.g. wheel clamp, steering wheel lock), or in the area where it’s parked, e.g. strong gates or collapsible bollards.  Also think about aftermarket electronic security devices and/or having a tracker fitted.  The West Midlands Police Safer Motors website gives all sorts of vehicle crime prevention advice and you can visit the Secured By Design website for details of police-approved security products.  You can also help by remaining vigilant and reporting any suspicious activity to the police by dialling 101 or to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, which you can do anonymously.  If you’re not already in one, why not think about starting or joining a neighbourhood watch scheme?  It’s easier than you’d think, and an effective way of fighting many types of crime.  Finally on this subject, it is still true that the most common way to steal a car is by obtaining the keys, and thieves will break into homes to obtain them.  Thankfully this type of crime is very rare, but you should still take precautions by placing keys out of sight or away from doors or windows where they could easily be reached.  Don’t take them to bed with you, however, and if threatened (again a rare occurrence), hand them over – cars can be replaced.  Try to remember as much as you can about the thieves, what they wore, how they spoke, etc. to help the police investigation.

Finally, I’d like to close this fairly long (for me!) blog by re-stating that whilst vehicle crime is low, especially when compared to the number of vehicles on the road, it does happen and you should take sensible steps to protect your vehicle and other property.  If you’re in doubt follow some of the links I’ve included above or contact the police on 101 and ask to speak to your local Crime Reduction Officer.

Talking to the Animals?

Last night I had the privilege of organising a horse watch meeting.  Now, you may be conjuring up images of me stood in the middle of a muddy stable yard addressing a group of concerned equines, but you’d be wrong.  I haven’t quite come to that… yet.  The audience was in fact the 100 plus horse owners and other interested parties who crammed into one of our training rooms in response to a post on the Walsall Police Facebook page.  With some help from two representatives of Sandwell Horsewatch, the enthusiastic (and at times turbulent) meeting decided to set up a committee that will take the watch forward and work with the police to reduce equine related crime in Walsall.  There’s a lot that can be done.  Freeze branding and microchipping of animals, property marking equipment, locks and physical security, vehicle identification, the list goes on but should be done affordably.  For instance, security advice from theA horse watch logo UK Horsewatch Alliance includes keeping up to date records of tack and equipment.  This can be done securely and for free by utilising the Immobilise website, with the added advantage that the police will be more easily able to identify items should the worst happen.  There’s work for the police too, but together we should be able to reduce equine crime.

The Walsall Horsewatch steering group will shortly be meeting to begin setting up the group ahead of a general meeting to formally elect a committee.  They are proposing an annual membership of £3, which will go towards providing signs, newsletters and group running expenses.  If you have a horse stabled in the Walsall area and would like to join, please get in touch.

From Equines to Canines.

Fresh from setting up horse watch, I’m now seeking to set up dog watches in Walsall.  Glutton for punishment, me!  Just as with the equine world, this watch is aimed at dog owners, rather than the animals themselves, though of course having all those eager noses to sniff out crime could prove advantageous!  Dog watch isn’t a new concept, in fact we’ve had them in Walsall for many years, utilising dog walkers as the eyes and ears of the community, working with us in a similar way to neighbourhood watch to reduce crime and disorder.  Once again, if you’re a dog owner and would be interested, please get in touch or watch our website or social media for more information.  There will be no obligation to attend meetings or do anything other than keep your eyes open and let us know when you see anything that looks suspicious.

Now on to my next big idea, goldfish watch…

Beware the ‘Fake Courier’ Scam.

card fraudIn the last few weeks the ‘fake courier’ scam has come to the West Midlands, as explained in the West Midlands Police press release.  This scam is enacted largely over the phone, with the victim receiving a call from some one purporting to be a police officer, telling them that their debit or credit card has been compromised in some way.  The story may vary – your account has been hacked or the card has been used by someone they have in custody – but the aim is always the same, to obtain your card and PIN.  They then ask the card holder to phone the bank to cancel the card and say they will send a courier round to collect it.  So you put the phone down and call your bank.  Only the fraudster has not hung up so the call is not terminated and instead of your bank you are speaking to the fraudster or an accomplice.  Sometimes they even play music down the phone to simulate a call centre.  After asking for your PIN – which of course you’ll give as you’re speaking to your bank – they tell you that a courier will be despatched to collect your card, and a new one issued.  Some time later the ‘courier’ collects your card and bingo!  The fraudsters can empty your bank account or go on a spending spree at your expense.  What’s worse, the fraudsters callously target people they know will be vulnerable.

The internet brings instant information to us all, including all sorts of stories about scams and hoaxes, some of which are true, some not, or that only happen in other parts of the world.  Sometimes the scams do happen in our part of the world, to people like us, and so we must take the warnings seriously and protect ourselves.  So spread the word.  Tell your neighbours – particularly those who are elderly or vulnerable – that the police or genuine bank officials would never phone and ask you to divulge PIN numbers over the phone or send couriers round to collect cards – if you receive a call requesting this then hang up and contact police.  Take some simple steps to protect yourself against courier fraud and remember:

• Your bank will never send a courier to your home;
• Your bank or police will never collect your bank card;
• Your bank or police will never ask for your PIN;
• If you receive one of these calls end it immediately.

If you’ve been a victim:

• Report it to Action Fraud − call 0300 123 2040 or visit http://www.actionfraud.police.uk.
• If you have handed over any details to the fraudster, call your bank and cancel your cards immediately.
• If you want to call your bank, then do it from another telephone.

If you know of any other frauds that have been perpetrated against someone you know, please tell us.  Police officers are being issued with guidelines for investigating this kind of fraud.


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