Scam Warning After Almost £90k Lost In One Week

Police have urged the public to be on their guard following scams which saw people in Northern Ireland conned out of almost £90,000 in one week.

Chief Superintendent Simon Walls issued the warning after victims in counties L'Derry, Antrim and Fermanagh were targeted in online and telephone scams in the last seven days.

In one instance, reported on Monday 18 February, an elderly man from Fermanagh was swindled out of £20,000 after spending five hours on the phone with a man claiming to be from the 'Fraud Squad' department of his bank.

The fraudster managed to get some personal details from the man, including his name and date of birth, which gave him remote access to his computer and money. £20,000 was later taken from the account.

Superintendent Walls continued: "Later that afternoon, we received a report that a man in his 40's from County Antrim was conned out of almost £65,000. The money was lost after the victim's wife was contacted by a woman claiming to represent her telecoms provider about broadband speed issues, in a phone call that lasted around three hours. She was then passed on to another fraudster claiming to be from the same company, who persuaded her to give them access to her computer. She was convinced to perform a series of actions on the computer, including logging on to both her and her husband's online banking. This gave the scammers access to both accounts and resulted in the loss of close to £65,000 from the husband's bank account."
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In a separate case, an elderly man in L'Derry was swindled out of close to £4,000 over a period of almost five years. The victim was initially contacted in 2014 by someone claiming to be from a London-based law firm, and told that if he sent money to a woman in London, via electronic money transfer, he would receive a lump sum of £20,000 after a period of time. The man sent a number of payments over the five-year period, until he eventually reported it to the PSNI.

"These are absolutely despicable crimes," Superintendent Walls commented, and branded those responsible as "callous faceless criminals who don't care about their victims".

He continued: "Fraudsters never think about the devastating impact their scams have on their victims, but unfortunately it shows they will stop at nothing to get what they want. These reports illustrate how scammers are quick to take advantage of people's vulnerability and good faith. Unfortunately, there is no end to the methods fraudsters will use to dupe people into giving them money.

"Scammers who target people don't prey on a specific gender, sexuality, race or age. They target everyone; just don't let it be you. Don't let yourself become a statistic.

"I want to take this opportunity to appeal to members of the public to always err on the side of caution with any text, call, email or letter asking for payment or personal details in order to release money, refund fees, pay lottery wins or supply a holiday, giveaway or service. Tricksters know all the scams and will often communicate with victims in a convincing manner."

The public are advised to always check the authenticity of an organisation contacting them if they are suspicious about a call, ideally using another telephone. Personal banking details should be guarded and never disclosed to any unauthorised individual, either directly or via remote access to a computer.

Anyone with suspicions about the intentions of a call or unsolicited emails or letters is urged to report it to Action Fraud via their website here or by calling 0300 123 2040. Potential scams can also be reported to the police via non-emergency line 101.


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