Read some helpful advice provided by the Police of Cyber Crime.
Self Assessment customers warned about scammers posing as HMRC
Self Assessment customers should be alert to criminals claiming to be from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
As the department issues thousands of SMS messages and emails as part of its annual Self Assessment tax return push, HMRC is warning customers completing their returns to take care to avoid being caught out by scammers. The annual tax return deadline is on 31 January 2021.
The department knows that fraudsters use calls, emails or texts to contact customers. In the last 12 months, HMRC has responded to more than 846,000 referrals of suspicious HMRC contact from the public and reported over 15,500 malicious web pages to internet service providers to be taken down. Almost 500,000 of the referrals from the public offered bogus tax rebates.
Many scams target customers to inform them of a fake ‘tax rebate’ or ‘tax refund’ they are due. The imposters use language intended to convince them to hand over personal information, including bank details, in order to claim the ‘refund’. Criminals will use this information to access customers’ bank accounts, trick them into paying fictitious tax bills, or sell on their personal information to other criminals.
HMRC’s Interim Director General for Customer Services, Karl Khan, said:
“We know that criminals take advantage of the Self Assessment deadline to panic customers into sharing their personal or financial details and even paying bogus ‘tax due’.
“If someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, offering financial help or asking for money, it might be a scam. Please take a moment to think before parting with any private information or money.”
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said:
“Criminals are experts at impersonating organisations that we
know and trust. We work closely with HMRC to raise awareness of
current scams and encourage people to report any suspicious calls or
messages they receive, even if they haven’t acted on them, to the
relevant channels. This information is crucial in disrupting
criminal activity and is already helping HMRC take down fraudulent
websites being used to facilitate fraud.
“It’s important to remember if you’re contacted out the blue by someone purporting to be from HMRC asking for your personal or financial details, or offering you a tax rebate, grant or refund, this could be a scam. Do not respond, hang up the phone, and take care not to click on any links in unexpected emails or text messages. You should contact HMRC directly using a phone number you’ve used before to check if the communication you have received is genuine.
“If you’ve been the victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and please report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.”
HMRC is also warning the public to be aware of websites that charge for government services – such as call connection sites – that are in fact free or charged at local call rates. Other companies charge people for help getting ‘tax refunds’. One way to safely claim a tax refund for free is to log into your Personal Tax Account.
HMRC has a dedicated Customer Protection team that identifies and closes down scams but asks the public to recognise the signs to avoid becoming a victim. HMRC regularly publishes examples of new scams on GOV.UK to help customers recognise phishing emails and bogus contact by email, text or phone.
Ways to spot a tax scam
It could be a scam if it:
- is unexpected
- offers a refund, tax rebate or grant
- asks for personal information like bank details
- is threatening
- tells you to transfer money.
Self Assessment customers can complete their tax return online and help and support is available on GOV.UK.
To protect against identity fraud customers must verify their identity when accessing HMRC’s online services. They must have two sources of information including:
- credit reference agency data
- tax credits
- UK Passport
Action Fraud is informing the public of how to protect themselves from investment fraud, after reports spiked following the first national lockdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Between September 2019 and September 2020, Action Fraud
received just over 17,000 reports of investment fraud,
amounting to £657.4m in reported losses. This is a 28%
increase when compared to the same period last year.
Furthermore, reports spiked in May, June, July, August and
September 2020 as the nation adjusted to life after
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said:
“The coronavirus outbreak sadly led to many people losing their job or having to manage with a lower income than they were used to. It has also caused a shake up in the economy in general, with interest rates falling, in a similar way to the financial crisis of 2008. All of these factors provide criminals with the opportunity to attract more people with their fraudulent investment schemes.
“Preying on people when they are at their most vulnerable really shows how low these criminals will stoop to make a profit for themselves. That is why we are working hard with our law enforcement colleagues, and partners in the finance industry, to tackle investment fraud and empower the public to spot a scam.”
How to protect yourself from investment fraud
- Be suspicious if you are contacted out the blue about an investment opportunity. This could be via a cold-call, an e-mail or an approach on social media.
- Don’t be rushed into making an investment. No legitimate organisation will pressure you into making a transaction, or committing to something on the spot. Take time to do your research.
- Seek advice from trusted friends, family members or independent professional advice services before making a significant financial decision. Even genuine investment schemes can be high risk.
- Use a financial advisor accredited by the Financial Conduct Authority. Paying for professional advice may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it will help prevent you from being scammed.
- Use the Financial Conduct Authority’s register to check if a company is regulated. If you deal with a firm or individual that isn’t regulated, you may not be able to get your money back if something goes wrong and its more likely to be a scam.
- Just because a company has a glossy website and glowing reviews from ‘high net worth’ investors does not mean it is genuine – fraudsters will go to great lengths to convince you they are not a scam.
- Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you think you’ve been a victim of an investment fraud, report it to Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. For more information about investment fraud, visit www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart.
Action Fraud is warning people selling items online to be on the lookout for criminals sending fake PayPal emails.
- Between January 2020 and September 2020, 21,349 crime reports were made to Action Fraud about fake PayPal emails.
- Victims reported losing a total of £7,891,077.44 during this time.
- Those targeted included people selling jewellery, furniture and electronics via online marketplaces.
- Reports of fake PayPal emails to Action Fraud made up a third of all reports of online shopping and auction fraud during this period.
Criminals have been targeting people selling items online, by sending them emails purporting to be from PayPal. The emails trick victims into believing they have received payment for the items they’re selling on the platform.
Typically, after receiving these emails, victims will then send the item to the criminal. This leaves them at a further disadvantage having not received any payment for the item and also no longer being in possession of it.
What you need to do?
- Sellers beware: If you’re selling items on an online marketplace, be aware of the warning signs that your buyer is a scammer. Scammers may have negative feedback history, or may have recently set up a new account to avoid getting poor feedback. Don’t be persuaded into sending anything until you can verify you’ve received the payment.
- Scam messages: Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to messages that ask for your personal or financial details.
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
A spokesperson for PayPal, said:
“At PayPal we go to great lengths to protect our customers in the UK, but there are still a few simple precautions we should all take to avoid falling victim to scams.
“All communications from PayPal to account holders would be sent to the secure message centre within their PayPal account. You will have a secure message waiting if PayPal does need you to take any action.
“A genuine PayPal email will only ever address you by your full name – anything that starts differently should immediately raise your suspicions. Look out for spelling mistakes, which are a common tell-tale sign of a fraudulent message.”
PayPal offer the following advice:
- Log into PayPal: If you receive a suspicious email, don’t act on the message or click on any links. Instead, open your browser, log into PayPal and check for any new activity. PayPal will also email or notify you in the app if you’ve received any payments.
- Check the basics: Look out for misspellings and grammatical errors, which can be a tell-tale sign of a scam.
- Verify an email’s authenticity: Phishing scams will often mimic the look and feel of PayPal emails, and ask you for sensitive information – something that real PayPal emails will never do.
- How to spot the difference: A PayPal email will address you by your first and last name, or your business name, and we will never ask you for your full password, bank account, or credit card details in a message.
- Avoid following links: If you receive an email you think is suspicious, do not click on any links or download any attachments. You can check where a link is going before you click on it by hovering over it – does it look legitimate?
- Keep tabs on your information: Limit the number of places where you store your payment information online by using a secure digital wallet like PayPal. If you are making a purchase online, consider using a protected payment method such as PayPal, so if your purchase doesn’t arrive or match the product description, PayPal can reimburse you.
- Easiest of all, use common sense: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is! Stay clear of exceptional deals or anything that is significantly reduced in price from what you would expect to pay.
If you think that you’ve received a suspicious email, you can forward it to email@example.com, without changing the subject line. PayPal will let you know whether it is fraudulent.
More information about PayPal’s protection policies can be found on their website: https://www.paypal.com/us/webapps/mpp/paypal-safety-and-security
Watchdog warns charities and the public to protect themselves against fraudsters amid pandemic
The Charity Commission is warning trustees and donors to strengthen their defences as it fears the pandemic has created environments that are enabling charity fraud.
As we enter Charity Fraud Awareness Week (19 – 23 October 2020), charities have reported being victims of fraud or cybercrime 645 times since the start of the pandemic in March, amounting to £3.6 million in total losses to charities. The true scale of fraud against charities is believed to be much higher, as fraud is known to be underreported.
The regulator is concerned that remote working and virtual activities and sign-off processes, combined with charities’ tendencies to place goodwill and trust in individuals, may make them especially vulnerable. It says that charities providing services and supporting local communities could be amongst those at risk after earlier reports of criminals using PPE as a lure in scams.
Analysis of frauds reported to the Commission has found that in some cases fraudsters have preyed on people’s fear and anxieties. In one case, the regulator saw a fraudster using a beneficiary’s story of personal struggle during the pandemic to pressure a charity into making a payment quickly. The regulator also considers that economic hardship may have increased perpetrators’ temptation to commit fraud, particularly in cases of insider fraud. It has seen cases of charity employees diverting funds into their personal bank accounts and even selling charity equipment for personal gain.
Action Fraud Alert : PayPal Scam using Facebook Messenger
Action Fraud have received a surge of reports where victims
have received messages through Facebook Messenger from friends and
family requesting to use their PayPal account to receive funds from
the sale of items on eBay.
Messages are sent by fraudsters purporting to be friends and family stating that they have sold a camera on eBay but that they are unable to process the payment as they either do not have a PayPal account or because their PayPal account is not working. Click here for more information.
New alert from Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau regarding PayPal scam.
We have received a surge of reports where victims have received messages through Facebook Messenger from friends and family requesting to use their PayPal account to receive funds from the sale of items on eBay.
Overall, between 1st June 2020 and 31st July 2020 a total of 95 reports have been made with total losses amounting to £44,035.
Messages are sent by fraudsters purporting to be friends and family stating that they have sold a camera on eBay but that they are unable to process the payment as they either do not have a PayPal account or because their PayPal account is not working.
The request is that the message recipient receives the funds into their own PayPal account, then, after transferring it into their own bank account, they forward it onto an account controlled by the fraudster.
If the victim agrees the payment is transferred into their PayPal account but, after the money is transferred out, the initial transaction is reversed leaving the account in negative balance.
Multiple reports have also been received from victims stating that their Facebook Messenger accounts have been hacked and that these fraudulent messages have been sent to all their contacts on their behalf.
What you need to do
Verify financial requests: Be wary of unusual messages asking for assistance with financial transactions. Even if the message appears to be from someone you know and trust, you should check it’s really them that sent the message by calling them or speaking with them in person.
Unusual financial requests: Never respond to any requests to send money, or have money transferred through your account, by someone you don’t know and trust.
Secure your accounts: You can protect your important online accounts by using a strong separate password and, where available, turn on two- factor authentication (2FA).
If you have made a payment: Inform your bank, or payment service provider, such as PayPal, as soon as possible. They can help you prevent any further losses. You should also monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.X
UK Finance unveils ten Covid-19 and lockdown scams to be aware of.
- UK Finance unveils ten Covid-19 and lockdown scams the public should be on high alert for and how to spot them
- Criminals are preying on a worried public by tapping into their financial concerns due to coronavirus, asking for personal and financial information
- New animation video from Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign warns people to remember criminals are sophisticated at impersonating other organisations
Using the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity, fraudsters are using sophisticated methods to callously exploit people, with many concerned about their financial situation and the state of the economy. To coincide with the launch of its new animation urging people to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, UK Finance today reveals ten Covid-19 and lockdown scams which criminals are using to target people to get them to part with their money.
Some scams manipulate innocent victims, urging people to invest and “take advantage of the financial downturn”. Others impersonate well-known subscription services to get people to part with their cash and personal information. Criminals are even posing as representatives from the NHS Test and Trace service in an effort to trick people into giving away their personal details.
To remind people that criminals are experts at impersonating trusted organisations, UK Finance has launched a new animation video urging people to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign. Consumers are reminded to always take a moment to stop and think before parting with their money or information in case it’s a scam.
The ten scams to be on the lookout for and how to spot them:
Covid-19 financial support scams
- Criminals have sent fake government emails designed to look like they are from government departments offering grants of up to £7,500. The emails contain links which steal personal and financial information from victims
- Fraudsters have also been sending scam emails which offer access to ‘Covid-19 relief funds’ encouraging victims to fill in a form with their personal information.
- Criminals have been targeting people with official-looking emails offering a ‘council tax reduction’. These emails, which use government branding, contain links which lead to a fake government website which is used to access personal and financial information.
- Fraudsters are also preying on benefit recipients, offering to help apply for Universal Credit, while taking some of the payment as an advance for their “services”.
- One of the most shocking scams that has appeared during the pandemic has involved using the NHS Test and Trace service. Criminals are preying on an anxious public by sending phishing emails and links claiming that the recipient has been in contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19. These lead to fake websites that are used to steal personal and financial information or infect devices with malware.
- Victims are also being targeted by fake adverts for Covid-related products such as hand sanitizer and face masks which do not exist.
- Criminals are sending fake emails and texts claiming to be from TV Licensing, telling people they are eligible for six months of free TV licence because of the coronavirus pandemic. Victims are told there has been a problem with their direct debit and are asked to click on a link that takes them to a fake website used to steal personal and financial information.
- Amid a rise in the use of online TV subscription services during the lockdown, customers have been targeted by criminals sending convincing emails asking them to update their payment details by clicking on a link which is then used to steal credit card information.
- Fraudsters are also exploiting those using online dating websites by creating fake profiles on social media sites used to manipulate victims into handing over their money. Often criminals will use the identities of real people to strike up relationships with their targets.
- Criminals are using social media websites to advertise fake investment opportunities, encouraging victims to “take advantage of the financial downturn”. Bitcoin platforms are using emails and adverts on social media platforms to encourage unsuspecting victims to put money into fake investment companies using fake websites.
The banking and finance sector is working with the government and law enforcement to help identify scams and prevent people becoming victims of fraud. The industry is also encouraging everyone to remain vigilant and to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and to Stop, Challenge and Protect when they receive any messages out of the blue:
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 ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.
In order to spot a Covid-19 scam, people should be on high alert if:
- The website address is inconsistent with that of the legitimate organisation
- The phone call, text or emails asks for
financial information such as PIN, passwords
- You receive a call or email out of the blue
with an urgent request for your personal or financial
information, or to make an immediate payment
- You’re offered a heavily discounted or
considerably cheaper product compared to the original price
There are spelling and grammar mistakes, or inconsistencies in the story you’re given
A Warning to Vehicle Owners
Government restrictions have been eased further recently, many of us are now slowly returning to work, seeing family and friends and going out shopping and visiting pubs and restaurants. As such people are beginning to go back to their normal routines.
This is why we wanted to give you a timely reminder not to leave personal belongings or valuables in motor vehicles overnight. We have seen a recent spike in thefts overnight, specifically targeting vans, in the New Milton area.
If your vehicle is parked on a driveway or in-front of a garage, you may want to consider installing a CCTV camera covering the area which your vehicle is parked or installing a motion-detector dash-cam. This way, it may serve as a deterrent to potential thieves as they know that they will be caught on camera.
Most burglaries are committed by opportunists. These are often spur-of-the-moment decisions, made when they see valuables left on view or lapses in security. Personal items such as mobile phones and tablets, handbags and work tools left somewhere obvious can be an attractive target, so please do take them indoors with you every night.
Our officers in the community are continuing to follow-up on all reports of thefts from motor vehicles, so please be reassured that we are doing all we can to protect the community and bring these offenders to justice.
We would urge you to remove all personal belongings from your vehicle each night. While this might seem laborious at the time, it might just save you from becoming a victim of crime.
Action Fraud is warning the public about phishing emails, sent out by criminals, claiming to be from PayPal.
The warning comes after Action Fraud received over 1,000 reports within 24 hours on 20 July 2020 about emails claiming to be from PayPal. The emails state the recipient’s account has been “limited” as a result of a policy violation.
The emails then ask for customers to update their account, or check the security of their account by clicking a link in the email. The links provided in the emails lead to genuine-looking websites that are actually phishing sites designed to steal PayPal login details, as well as personal and financial information.
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said:
“Phishing is a gateway to fraud. These emails are commonly used by criminals to gain access to your personal and banking details, which they then use to steal your identity or your money.
“It is common for criminals to spoof the legitimate phone number or email address of a trusted organisation, to trick us into providing information. If you receive a message out of the blue that seems suspicious, take five minutes to check directly with the organisation or brand contacting you that the communication is genuine. If something feels wrong then always question it.X