Louise Baxter, the Fair Trading Officer at East Sussex County Council, has provided the following very useful guide to some of the frauds currently on the go in our area.
SO - BE WARNED
Sussex Police take fraud seriously and have a dedicated Unit who deal with major frauds or assist our own Divisions and other law enforcement agencies in their investigations.
We are committed to reducing the effects of all types of fraud.
Fraud can be costly to the victim but there are simple steps you can take to prevent you, your company or organisation from being defrauded. We have attempted to list here some of the most recent trends in fraud.
Everyone can play their part in fraud prevention. If you produce any form of community publication, or even a local newspaper, then spare a few column inches to inform your readers of some of these scams. Nothing in this Bulletin is copyright!
NEW OR UPDATED THIS MONTH -
Lottery or Holiday Win
Discovered', 'Willed', or 'Charitable Donation' Money
'Greetings, I am the Head of Accounts of the National Bank of Africa'.
Although the approach may vary from mail, e-mail, or fax the actual method used is quite simple in that the writer has the ability to gain access to a large sum of money, usually in excess of $35 million. The flamboyant stories woven around the discovery of the money can vary. They may purport to be a bank official who has discovered a large sum of money left from an unfulfilled government project. It may be a supposed relative of a deposed or dead President, a murdered farmer, or indeed anyone who purports to be party to the whereabouts of a large amount of money.
It is a startling fact that every foreigner killed in a car crash in these requests dies along with all of their family. If this were not tragic enough it would seem that they have no next of kin and that no one has come forward to claim their millions of dollars. Well at least that is what the fraudsters want you to believe. To demonstrate what lengths these fraudsters will go to give credibility to their story is that many will move with the times and follow current affairs. The war in Iraq, the political situation in Zimbabwe, even such dreadful events as 9/11 and the Paris Concorde crash have all featured as themes.
Whatever the reason the request will be the same in asking for help to move the money into your bank account. In return for their help you will either receive a percentage or your organisation will benefit from a charitable donation of the total amount.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Those who contact the fraudsters find themselves embroiled in a web of intrigue and deceit. There is at some point always an advance fee aspect to the fraud. Just when it seems that the victim may gain $10 million dollars for the mere use of their bank account there will be fees that have to be paid to overcome all sorts of obstacles.
Perhaps the most despicable of all of these frauds are the ones targeted at usually small charities offering them a donation of a sum of money beyond their wildest dreams owing to the donor now being diagnosed with a terminal illness which will have 'defiled' all forms of treatment (the fraudsters description, not mine). This type of approach can build up false hopes and expectations which are always dashed when the charity realises that they themselves have been the only ones to make a donation straight to the fraudsters pockets.
True figures for the success rate of the fraudsters or losses to the victims are unknown but in both instances are thought to be in multi-millions of pounds.
Remember this - There is no money waiting to be moved or donated. There never will be any money. The money does not exist. Unusually, I have reproduced here the text of a current 419 letter that is doing the rounds. Having been through all the death and destruction scenarios I felt it was time to take a peak at how bizarre some of the stories can be.
Subject: Nigerian Astronaut Wants To Come Home
Astronautics Project Manager
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA)
Dear Mr. Sir,
REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE-STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL
I am Dr. XXXXXXXX, the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in space when he made a secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo. There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going since that time. He is in good humor, but wants to come home.
In the 14-years since he has been on the station, he has accumulated flight pay and interest amounting to almost $ 15,000,000 American Dollars. This is held in a trust at the Lagos National Savings and Trust Association. If we can obtain access to this money, we can place a down payment with the Russian Space Authorities for a Soyuz return flight to bring him back to Earth. I am told this will cost $ 3,000,000 American Dollars. In order to access the his trust fund we need your assistance.
Consequently, my colleagues and I are willing to transfer the total amount to your account or subsequent disbursement, since we as civil servants are prohibited by the Code of Conduct Bureau (Civil Service Laws) from opening and/ or operating foreign accounts in our names.
Needless to say, the trust reposed on you at this juncture is enormous. In return, we have agreed to offer you 20 percent of the transferred sum, while 10 percent shall be set aside for incidental expenses (internal and external) between the parties in the course of the transaction. You will be mandated to remit the balance 70 percent to other accounts in due course.
Kindly expedite action as we are behind schedule to enable us include downpayment in this financial quarter.
Please acknowledge the receipt of this message via my direct number xxxxx only.
Yours Sincerely, Dr. XXXXXX
Astronautics Project Manager
In this fraud the approach to the victims can be the same as in the 'discovered' or 'willed' money scheme. The victim is convinced to meet the fraudsters, usually in Holland or Spain, and is shown a sample of bank notes which they are told have been treated with a special chemical in order to smuggle them into Europe. The notes are usually US dollar bills and all will appear blackened by this treatment. The victim is then asked to buy a solution which will wash the notes and return them to their original state. A demonstration is even laid on for the victim in which selected notes are miraculously cleaned.
Needless to say the notes are not genuine, they were never treated with a special chemical and the cleaning is a sleight of hand trick.
Remember this - There is no money waiting to be cleaned. There never will be any money. The money does not exist.
Do you remember that long lost relative who lived in Belgium? You know the one who was born on 1 June 1927 and who shares the same surname as you. Well apparently they have died leaving a substantial amount of money in a bank account and a nice man or woman who works for a firm of Private Investigators and Security Consultants e-mails and wants you to establish beyond reasonable doubt your eligibility to 'assume status of successor in title to the deceased . . . You must appreciate that we are constrained from providing you with more detailed information at this point'. Have a closer look at the e-mail. Where does it actually mention your surname or that of the 'relative' who has passed on? It doesn't does it? If this is all beginning to sound familiar then you are well on your way to becoming a scam spotter.
Remember this - There is no inheritance waiting to be claimed. There never will be any inheritance. The inheritance does not exist and have you noticed that nowhere in the correspondence do they actually mention your surname.
Once extremely popular when I was a young 'un these letters have started to reappear. In the good days the originator had to troop off down to the post office and actually buy some stamps to go with the pack of writing paper and envelopes. Then there was the task of days of handwriting each individual letter putting their own name at the top of the list. You can only imagine what a blessing the photocopier must have been
What is a chain letter then? Generally they are a form of correspondence that requires you to take some sort of action. They may require you to send money or just a letter to the person at the top of the list and re-circulate it with your name added. The question I can hear you asking is do they work? Well mathematically speaking there is a probability that if everyone adhered to the instructions they might. Herein lies the rub though. It only takes a few people to break the chain and those further down the list will only send money and never receive any. The United States Postal Service has outlawed this type of mail within America.
Instead of handwriting and photocopying then what about the use of a mechanical/electronic device that could send messages around the world in an instant . Enter the internet stage left and a different breed of chain letter all together. In all probability you will not be asked for any money. Playing a lot on superstition and fear the letters warn that doom and destruction will befall you if you break the chain. Equally dangerous are those which circulate supposedly having originated from such computer giants as Microsoft instructing you to remove certain files from your operating system which will catch fire and destroy your house if you do not.
If you really need convincing that chain letters are particularly stupid then consider the following light hearted one based on some of the ones currently in circulation.
Doggie Chain Letter
It works! It really, really works!
Are you experiencing too many reserves and second places to inferior animals in the dog show ring?
In the obedience or agility ring does your dog sometimes forget their own name?
Well, this simple chain letter is meant to bring relief and happiness to you.
Unlike most chain letters, it doesn't cost money.
Simply send a copy to six other show dog owners. Then bundle up your dog and send it to the dog owner at the top of the list and add you name to the bottom.
In one week you will receive 16,436 dogs and by the law of averages one of them at least must be a winner.
Have faith in this letter. Do not break the chain. One owner broke the chain and got his own dog back!
Remember this - Someone somewhere started the chain letter you have just received as either a potential money earning scam or as a strange form of amusement. By participating you are only prolonging the life of these pointless and thoughtless time wasters.
High Yield Investment Schemes
'The bonds were issued a guarantees for loans made by individuals and corporations during the Second World War. The whole project is secret and must remain this way. The opportunity you are being given is to secure you and your family's future either as an individual investor or as a member of a group.'
This version of a High Yield Investment is an example of the type of story that can be woven around these schemes. Whatever the theme the basic idea is designed to part you from an enormous amount of money. Equally the fraudsters will deter you from disclosing the deal to anyone else for the reason that you are joining an exclusive group who will benefit from an investment which must rely on secrecy.
The simple rule of investing is the higher the possible profit, the higher the risk. If anyone claims that a high yield investment has no risk do not believe them.
Remember this - One of the easiest ways of spotting a high yield investment scam is that they always offer returns that could never be obtained through legitimate investment procedures not now, not tomorrow, not ever!
Assuming another persons identity is nothing new and is generally thought of as a method used by James Bond and the like. The Portland spy ring of the 1960's is a prime example. Helen and Ethel Kroger were living in Ruislip and claimed to be from Canada, when they were really American, and their name, Kroger, was actually that of a couple from New Zealand who were killed in a car crash. The KGB had arranged their new false identities.
Now not limited to such grand schemes fraudsters have found identity theft an easy method of obtaining financial services, goods and other forms of identification. One enterprising credit card company is now even trying to persuade you to have one of their cards on the basis that they can protect you against identity theft.
It really is too easy to become someone else in this technological age. The use of internet purchasing is ever increasing coupled with the ability to have the goods delivered to an address other than that provided for billing purposes. Mobile telephone suppliers have woken up to this and now almost without exception will not send upgrade telephones to any other address. This may well protect existing customers, in some small way, but it is all too easy to acquire a few public utility bills and use these as proof of residence when purchasing a new telephone from a store and then have the bills directed to some poor unsuspecting member of the public.
To those who don't believe that identity theft is a major problem I can only point out the difficulties you will have in trying to establish that none of these goods or services were actually ordered by you. Even if you are successful in doing this you will still have a caution entered against your name which is there not to safeguard you but has been placed there for the benefit of other financial service providers.
A last word of caution is that this type of problem is not limited to individuals and companies are now being targeted. These attacks range from simply using a legitimate company name to validate the fraudsters scam, the National Lottery being one example, but can also take the form of false invoices and address changes being sent out to other supplying companies. We all need to be vigilant.
So what can you do to protect yourself? Well a good start would be to check out the websites of Equifax and Experian the two leading credit reference agencies. They both have hints and tips to help you prevent yourself from being cloned as well as offering services aimed at countering identity theft
Remember this - be careful with your personal information. Never leave receipt slips in public waste bins. Never discuss your banking details over the telephone if you receive a call supposedly originating from a financial company. If you are in doubt then call them back preferably through a central switchboard. Thoroughly destroy your old banking statements if possible by using a shredder. Above all check your current statements carefully for any transactions that are not yours.
Lottery or Holiday Win
'Congratulations on winning $200 million in the International Criminal & Fraudsters Lottery'.
There are a number of variants on this theme. In one the victim will be told that they as an individual or their company has won a substantial multi-million dollar prize in a lottery which has just been drawn. Unfortunately there has been a mix up in the numbers and the lottery organisers will need proof of identity before the prize money can be released. If it sounds familiar think back to the 'discovered', 'willed' or 'treated' money. Eventually the victim will be paying money to the fraudster's to overcome administration or transfer problems.
Another variation is where you receive some grand looking documents informing you of a huge win in a lottery or prize draw. Most of the literature will include official looking seals and guarantees as to the method of sealing, dispatch and verification. If the documents originate from overseas then they will go on to explain that as a foreign winner you will need to pay a fee in order to have the money transferred to you in accordance with the host nations monetary control systems. In the case of UK based schemes you will be given premium rate telephone numbers to either telephone or text.
The fraudsters have now taken to using the UK National Lottery as a means of validating their scams. They all follow the line that your e-mail address has been chosen at random and that you have won a vast amount of money for absolutely no outlay - unlike the rest of us who have forked out our hard earned money to buy a ticket!
One recent set of e-mails referred to six numbers having won £250,000 in the second category (whatever that may mean). They even kindly provided a link to the genuine National Lottery website so you could check your numbers. Those provided, however, would have won on that occasion £2,873,196 except that there was no winning ticket purchased. The worrying aspect of these new breed of e-mails is that they tend to be aimed mainly at recipients outside of the United Kingdom who would have little or no knowledge of how our National Lottery works. The 'winner' is then asked to submit their claim together with:
4. Marital status
6. Country(Present Location)
8. Telephone and Fax numbers.
Now lets all sit back and think about identity theft . . . . .
Remember this - In the real world you would normally have to buy a ticket to take part in a lottery or prize draw and the prizes are funded by the number of tickets sold. In these schemes there is no large 'prize' waiting to be claimed. There never will be any large 'prize'.
Addresses and Telephone Numbers
'I mean they had a London address and telephone number so I thought they must be genuine.' Well the truth is far from that. Accommodation addresses have been around for many years now and provide a mail collection or forwarding service. These companies are currently un-regulated. Basically the system works by providing a genuine postal address where mail can be sent and sorted for onward posting or collection. These addresses can be identified by the use of terms such as Suite, Office or Room although there are many variants. So I hear you asking what about the telephone number then Holmes? Even simpler my dear Watson. Numerous telecom companies now provide virtual telephone numbers including the good old 0207 London ones. They can also provide you with a virtual mobile number. This works by you, the punter, telephoning the number and the telecom company either automatically transferring it to another one provided by the customer or by it being answered by their own call handling centre. Sussex Police uses a form of this by having a 0845 single contact number. The difference is that when you telephone us you are talking to the Sussex Police in Sussex not a fraudster in some far flung corner of the world.
Remember this - Do not trust every address you write to or telephone number you dial. Be on your guard. Just because the address and telephone number looks good doesn't mean it is genuine.
NCIS Money Laundering Training
Several companies in Sussex have been receiving official looking documents originating in Cheshire.
These purport to be 'Final Notice' letters from the Anti-Money Laundering Support Team headed 'The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, The Money Laundering Regulations 2003'. The letter normally then goes onto to state that 'despite previous correspondence we have still not received your reply for compliance via our anti-money laundering training compliance pack and registration scheme. Failure to comply with the procedures mentioned in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, from 1 September 2004 constitutes a criminal offence'. It then implies that all employees must be trained at a cost of £75 each and that cheques are to be made payable to the 'National Training Scheme'. The letter also includes National Criminal Intelligence Service Disclosure Forms which have obviously been download from the internet.
Remember this - certain businesses do have statutory obligations under these regulations. The important point is that NCIS does not require you to undertake any form of training. These letters do not originate from any Government organisation and are a variant on the Domain and Data Protection scams. Do not part with any money. The matter is being investigated by Cheshire Police and NCIS.
Bank or Credit Card Details
'During a recent transaction your details became confused with others in the system', 'you need to update your credit card details'
You will receive an official looking e-mail purporting to come from one of the large banks or any institution which requires online payment in which you will be asked to provide your full bank/credit card, together with your personal and password details in order to sort out the problem. It goes without saying that once the fraudster has these details the victim's bank account will be drained of funds very quickly. Some of these e-mails have become quite sophisticated in that you may be directed to click on a link which will take you to an impressive looking spoof web page complete with the appropriate company logos.
No reputable bank or other company would ever make such approaches, let alone reveal that a mix up had taken place or that they had to update their systems.
This type of approach can also be made by telephone. The fraudsters can sound quite genuine and be very persuasive. They will normally ask if you have made a purchase recently and the excuse for the question will vary from a suspicious transaction to the possibility of your card having been cloned. They will ask for details of the card including your name, card number and the security numbers on the rear. Once again your account will be the loser.
Remember this - it's your money. Look after it by ensuring that you know precisely who is being given the details of your accounts or cards. If you can't be sure then don't do it.
Internet Sales and 'Cashback Fraud'
In the main sales through Internet versions of classified advertisements or auction sites carry no greater risk than their paper equivalents but would you expect a reply from Africa to the sale of your 1989 Metro? Do not be fooled. There is no buyer who is willing to pay for your vehicle without inspection and then have it shipped half way around the world. If you become embroiled in one of these 'sales' then you will receive a cheque for more than the item is worth with the request that you refund the remainder usually as an telegraphic transfer. The remainder, which is your money, will be the only real part of this process as the original cheque is either stolen, altered or a total forgery. Fraudsters trying this method with Sussex companies and residents have so far been interested in buying items ranging from computer parts to horses, snakes, lizards, motor cycles, diesel engines, Poultry Laying Houses, hotel accommodation, apartment rentals and camper vans.
This particular scam is also now surfacing as a way of obtaining goods from companies who advertise through the internet and not just those who are trying to empty their attics and garden sheds.
Let's have a countdown then on the runners and riders in the Internet Auction Derby:
Learn as much as you can about how the auction site works, and what the obligations are of both buyer and seller.
Find out what actions the auction site can take if a problem occurs with the transaction.
Learn as much as possible about the seller, especially if the only information you have is an e-mail address.
Check the feedback on the seller.
Try to obtain a physical address rather than merely a post office box and a telephone number. Call the seller to see if the number is correct and working. Consider not purchasing from sellers who won't provide you with this type of information.
Determine what method of payment the seller is asking from the buyer and where they are requesting the payment to be sent. Does this method conform with those recommended by the auction site. Consider using a recognized third party payment service.
There should be no reason to divulge any personal details to the seller save those necessary for the transaction.
Consider what if any methods of legal sanctions you may have if the seller is located outside of the UK
For those of you interested in the more gentle summer sport of fixed price buying then here is the batting order in the One Day Knockout Sale Limited Over Competition:
Make sure you are purchasing merchandise from a reputable and legitimate source.
Check out other web sites regarding this person/company.
Don't judge a person/company by their web site. Just because an individual or company has an impressive web site doesn't mean it is legitimate. Web sites can be created in just a few days. After a short period of taking money, a site can vanish without a trace.
Be cautious when responding to special offers (especially through unsolicited e- mail).
Be cautious when dealing with individuals/companies from outside the UK.
Enquire about returns and warranties.
The safest way to purchase items via the Internet is by credit card because you can often dispute the charges if something is wrong.
Don't give out your credit card number online unless it is a secure and reputable site. Look for the padlock icon in your browser window but remember that not even this is a guarantee of a secure site.
Don't trust a site just because it claims to be secure.
Remember this - If you came face to face with a potential buyer who offered to give you a cheque far in excess of the value of the item you were selling would you take it and give them the difference there and then? Western Union, who are one of the world's largest providers of telegraphic transfer facilities have recently issued the following advice, 'Money transfer services are fast, easy and convenient ways to send funds to people you know. They are not designed to be a payment vehicle when doing business with a stranger.' Never ever ever use any form of payment other than that recommended by the auction site.
Data Protection Registration
This type of approach will normally be via the postal services and involves an official looking form and letter which states that 'you do not appear to be registered on our database in respect of the Data Protection Act'. If you, as a company or individual, have a requirement to register under this Act then this statement is quite true. What it means is that you are not on this companies database, not that you have failed to register with the Information Commissioner. These companies are offering a service to register you with a cost in addition to that charged by the Commissioner. This is an interesting legal loophole in that the scheme appears to be totally lawful although misleading. The proposed new fraud bill may capture such activities but in the meantime they are free to operate. The Information Commissioners Office together with the Serious Fraud Office are currently looking at the problem but until any conclusions are reached the letters and forms will continue to arrive in their thousands across the country.
Equally although we appreciate the annoyance element we cannot at the moment accept or investigate any Data Protection Registration schemes despite the fact that they originate from within the United Kingdom unless the return address is situated in Sussex.
Remember this - If you need to register contact the Information Commissioner at www.informationcommisioner.gov.uk
Internet Domain Names
Sussex businesses should be aware of various companies offering Internet Domain name renewal and pre-registration. The scheme is very similar in approach to that of the Data Protection Registration scams except that these fraudsters are highly unlikely to provide any form of service.
Remember this - if your domain name needs renewal you should do this through your existing provider.
These can vary greatly in detail but in general the end result is the same. You will lose money. Unfortunately this is also an area where it is difficult to give specific advice.
The whole world of phone scams is shrouded in genuine money making schemes coupled with urban myth and legends.
Question - 'I have been told that certain calls require you to press 9 for further information and at this point you get connected to a premium rate number which even if you hang up the call continues for another five minutes. My friend got a bill for £260 from BT'
Answer - Technically it is possible on certain exchanges and systems somewhere in the world but normally only if the west wind is blowing and there is a vowel in the month.
The standard scam call usually promises a large cash prize which rarely materialises but costs each unwitting victim about £15 in premium rate phone bills. It can use computer-generated calls to ring target phones just once so that a number is left behind as a missed call. When users ring the number, usually charging above the standard rate, to find out who has been calling them, they are answered by someone saying 'customer care' then the voice goes into the 'congratulations' chat. The caller is then referred to another premium rate number where they can find out more details of their 'fantastic prize'.
A new and disturbing variant on this is the 'Ring this number for an urgent message from your Mum and Dad' text which leads onto a premium rate number.
Remember this - it's your phone. Be sure you only give the number to those who need to contact you. If you receive calls or text messages from companies or individuals offering cash prizes for competitions you have never entered hang up or do not respond to the text. Never answer your home or mobile telephone with either the number or your name. Entering personal contact numbers in the SIM card directory of your mobile phone will normally ensure that callers will be identified by your phones memory system when they ring you. If you have a complaint regarding premium rate services then visit www.icstis.org.uk which is the website of the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Telephone Industry Services.
These are a problem in that there are definite scams, possible scams, downright confusing wording and the genuine article. This type of 'product' is aimed normally at companies and consists of a mail shot which purports to be either an invoice or an offer.
I was recently given one of these by a Nursing Home in Burgess Hill who, for only £395 with a reduction to £388 for prompt reply, could have ensured that their services were known, according to the literature, in Africa, America, Asia, Australia, Europe, Middle East and Oceania. Unless you speak fluent German you may not have picked up on this money saving point as they had forgotten to translate this part of the offer on the documentation.
Furthermore, and this is the invoice spelling not mine, the 'business acticity' would appear on the Internet with links to their own 'webside'. Advice on how you protect your company against this type of approach is difficult to give but standard precautions in your finance office should prevent you from paying monies you do not owe to people who do not provide a service. Suffice to say the originators of this mail shot have already drawn themselves to the attention of a Midlands based Trading Standards office.
Remember this - do you need the services of a directory which is based in Germany, registered in Liechtenstein and posts their mail in the Czech Republic? Does your business really need to be included in a Europe wide CD-ROM which appears to only be distributed to those who pay to advertise in it in the first place? If you still consider participating then think back to the sections on Identity Theft and Internet Sales and in what future form your company cheque may appear.
Spanish Traffic Fines
Sun tanned and thoroughly relaxed you arrive home only to find that that Spanish Police are chasing you for a traffic violation fine. The usual demand is a 108 Euros fine and an extra 24 Euros for the Court Hearing. There is generally a month to pay. The only problem seems to be that some of the people receiving these 'fines' have either never to be Spain or its islands in the last two years, have never driven while they have been there anyway and in one case locally the intended recipient died a few years ago.
Remember this - Someone, somewhere has obtained your details through a Spanish related database. If these were genuine fines then the only way the Spanish Police would be recovering the money is by approaching the Home Office through the usual diplomatic channels. The Spanish Police are already investigating this scam.
'Gissa job, go on, gissa job'. An e-mail proposal arrives in your in-box. How do you fancy earning £300 for 2 hours work each week? This amount may be increased if you are enthusiastic enough. All you have to do is receive some calls, some business correspondence and business transactions on behalf of your prospective employers customers. Sounds too good to be true? Alarms bells ringing already? In order to do this you need to provide your home telephone number, your home address and more importantly your banking details.
Remember this - the payment offer equates to £2.50 a minute and that should be enough to tell you that there is trouble waiting around the corner. The way employment normally works is that you apply to the employer not the other way round. Please bear in mind that if you do become involved in this sort of scam you could be receiving stolen cheques, stolen goods, or even money laundering.
Don't forget our seniors
If you have found all these scams interesting but know that you will never fall for them then please spare a thought for our Senior Citizens. They are increasingly becoming targets particularly in respect of mail and telephone delivered scams. If you know of or care for someone who may be vulnerable then please take the time to warn them of the dangers involved in these scams. We are all aware of the need to remind them of never opening their doors without being certain of who is there but how many criminals actually come packed in an envelope and delivered through our letter box? Even worse are the persuasive plausible sounding 'representatives' who entice them to part with their money over the telephone. Help others by promoting yourself from being a 'scam spotter' to a 'scam beater'.
Our General Fraud Advice
Remember - if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is
Please remember that you have not been targeted personally. Scam letters, e-mails and text messages are sent out in their thousands daily to individuals and companies worldwide. Investigations of one recent e-mail forwarded to us showed that it had been sent to over 1,500 addresses and that each one was being asked in the text to treat the contents with the utmost secrecy.
If you are the recipient of any such approach then the most commonly asked question is 'how did they get my details?' Some of the methods are the same as used by legitimate companies through sources such as Voters Registers or other mailing lists. The difference is that while the legitimate companies have to pay for these lists and abide by codes of conduct in their use the fraudsters simply steal them. In the case of e-mail addresses there are various electronic ways of trawling the internet and gathering this information. One of the most simple internet methods is to trawl web site Guest Books. Think back to the advice about Identity Theft. If you have entered your details on a web site Guest Book then you have in effect broadcast your details world wide. This is one of the reasons for many sites now not carrying utilising these services. If you want to tell the web master how wonderful their site is then e-mail them. You can also obtain e-mail addresses by using your favourite internet search engine. Try entering the terms 'e-mail info@'. My own search produced 7 million results in 0.8 seconds!
Whilst on the subject of e-mail addresses think carefully about how yours can identify you. If you use your full name then you are almost certainly identifying your gender and possibly your address through the Voters Register. If you only use your initial then you have eliminated one identifying factor. One of the best anti-spam pieces of advice is to consider having a series of e-mail addresses for different purposes such as one for friends and family and another, for example, internet purchases. If you have a hobby such as genealogical research then you could consider having a further one just for that purpose. As well as allowing you to categorise your incoming and outgoing e-mail it may enable you to isolate where your details were obtained and change that address accordingly.
No one, however, will ever be 100% safe from receiving some form of unwanted mail.
Whilst the following advice may seem that we are unwilling to investigate many of these frauds the reality is that in most instances we do not have the powers to do so. In particular the fraudsters who work from outside the United Kingdom are, in the main, beyond the jurisdiction of the Sussex Police. Our priority is, therefore, one of prevention.
What should you do if you receive any approach similar to the ones mentioned here?
If you are approached by letter then do what you would with any other junk mail and throw it in the bin.
If you receive an e-mail then under no circumstances should you reply. Do not think that by telling them that you have no interest in their scheme or that you have notified the police will have any effect. Any reply means that the fraudster's will know they have hit a live e-mail address. What you can do to help fight this problem is to forward the offending item to the abuse service of the Internet Service Provider from where the e-mail originated. These addresses usually take the form of for example firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. These service providers are keen to shut down any e-mail address that not only contravenes their service agreements but which is also being used in an attempt to commit fraud. You can also activate the spam blocker within your own e-mail account to prevent further approaches from that e-mail address. Finally delete the e-mail from your system.
The only circumstances where I would ask you to forward either a letter, fax or e-mail to the Sussex Police is if it contains details of a United Kingdom bank account, postal address or telephone number, except as previously mentioned in the case of Data Protection scams. I am also not very keen on receiving details of chain letters.
If you simply want to seek advice or further information then please contact Geoff Foster of our Commercial Investigation Unit on my direct dial number of 01273 859169 or alternatively you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please do not use this telephone number or e-mail address to report fraud crimes. If you have become a victim of one of these schemes in the sense that you have made a financial loss and live in Sussex then you should report this to us via our Crime Reporting and Investigation Bureau on 0845 60 70 999.
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I am frequently asked whether any of this advice is actually working. Well basically the answer is yes. For various legal reasons I can't go into specific details but sticking with our UK address, bank or telephone number policy has meant that we have been able to pass on details to other agencies both in this country and abroad resulting in websites being closed down, e-mail addresses suspended, money laundering routes disrupted and fraudsters being arrested. The moral of the story is that none of this would have happened without your help so . . . . .as Shaw Taylor of Police 5 used to say 'Keep 'em peeled'.
If you have found this bulletin useful or if it has prevented you from becoming a victim of fraud then please let me know by e-mail. Please feel free to pass this bulletin on to your friends or within your organisation or company. The only way we can help you to defeat the fraudster is by ensuring that you know when you are being scammed.
Please always remember the motto:
'if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is'
Fair Trading Officer
East Sussex County Council
Telephone 01323 418224
Fax 01323 418227
To find an Approved Trader, please visit www.eastsussex.gov.uk/buywithconfidence