24/05/2019

Warning After £40k Lost In Scams

Police are urging the public to be vigilant after over £40,000 was lost in scams across Northern Ireland this week.

Four separate incidents have seen fraudsters steal money from individuals by claiming to be a legitimate representative from an official organisation.

A woman in Magherafelt had £20,000 taken from her bank account after falling victim to a scam on Monday 20 May. She had been contacted earlier that day by someone claiming to represent her telecoms provider and informed that her computer was infected with a virus. The fraudsters asked her to switch on her computer and were able to remotely access it. They instructed the lady to install software to remove viruses from her machine, while remaining on the landline. The culprits offered to reward her with £150 for being a long term customer and said the money should be in her bank account now and asked her to log in online to her online banking, using the computer. The victim logged onto her internet banking and her screen went blank for approximately one to two minutes. When it came back, it appeared that £15,000 had been lodged instead of £150.  

The scammer explained they had made an error and asked the unsuspecting woman to return the £15,000 or they would get in trouble. In a state of shock, she transferred £20,000 over four payments to a bank account controlled by the scammer. The victim was put under pressure to send the money and was told by the scammers to contact her bank using her mobile to authorise the payments. The scammer remained on the landline throughout the incident which lasted over two hours on the phone. 

Meanwhile in Lisburn, earlier on that same day, online scammers operating behind a fraudulent email managed to remove £12,500 from a company bank account. It is believed the money was transferred to an account in England. The PSNI is working with police in Lancashire to progress the investigation.
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Chief Superintendent Simon Walls detailed two further scams that were successfully carried out this week. He said: "We are also investigating a report from a man in the Dungannon area who had £6,200 removed from his account on Saturday 18th May. It is believed that following a legitimate call for online support, the victim received a subsequent call from someone claiming to be from the same organisation and this individual managed to withdraw the money from the account. 

"The most recent incident happened on Tuesday 21st May when a man from the Larne area contacted local police to let them know he had responded to an advertisement offering investment opportunities. They were promising significant profits in return for a small deposit. He was asked for an initial deposit of £300 to be forwarded which he did. He was later asked for regular requests from the company and paid a further £2,400, the full amount of money he lost totalling £2,700. It was only when he contacted the company that he discovered his money had disappeared."

The total lost to scammers in the past week has surpassed £40,000, which police say has been an awful ordeal for each of the victims, who believed they were communicating with legitimate representatives.

Chief Superintendent Walls added: "Fraudsters will go to any length to scam people out of money and you might think it might never happen to you, but it can. Each scam differs in design, but the ultimate aim remains the same- to steal your money.

"Guarding your personal and banking details is essential. Never disclose them to any unauthorised person or allow anyone access to them via your computer.

"Financial institutions, utility companies, law enforcement, HMRC, internet and telecoms providers will never ask you to transfer money because your account is compromised or call out of the blue and ask for remote access to your computer or to download software."

Anyone who has received a call of this kind or is concerned by letters or emails is urged to report it to Action Fraud via their website or by phoning 0300 123 2040, or can contact the police on non-emergency line 101.

Further advice and information can also be obtained by visiting the Scamwise NI website or via their Facebook page.



(JG/CM)

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