Warning As £190k Lost To Scams

Members of the public have been swindled out of a combined £190,000 in recent months, the PSNI has revealed.

A series of remote and online scams were carried out in November and December last year resulting in the huge financial loss for six local people.

A total of £125k was lost by five unsuspecting members of the public just days before Christmas, one month after a Co Antrim woman lost £64k when she was targeted by fraudsters.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls warned members of the public to never let their guard down at any time of year when it comes to scams.

He said the victims have been left distressed by their ordeals.

"They've each lost serious amounts of money – ranging from £8,000 to £64,000 - which will have a significant impact," Chief Superintendent Walls commented. "Scammers have one aim – to take people's money – and they don't care if it's Christmas, New Year or summer time. Scammers operate all year round, which is why I can't stress enough just how important it is to be vigilant at all times.

"Please, be aware of a phone call, or a dodgy email, where something just doesn't feel quite right. Stay on your guard, every day, and do not let yourself be scammed. I would also urge people to have a conversation with loved ones about scams, especially if you know someone who is vulnerable."

The first report saw a Belfast woman lose £10k on Wednesday 18 December. The victim's ordeal began when she was targeted by someone claiming to be from a telecoms provider and informed that her account had been hacked.

Purporting to solve the problem, the fraudster requested access to her laptop and downloaded two programmes over the course of five hours on the phone. The lady later found herself £10k out of pocket with further attempts made to transfer more funds.

Another fraud carried out on the same day saw a woman from County Antrim contacted by an individual claiming to represent a global online retailer. The scammer kept the woman on the phone for close to three hours and managed to cajole her into providing her account details, resulting in a £10k theft from her account.
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Unfortunately, a third scam on 18 December resulted in a man from County Tyrone losing £8k in a Facebook scam. In this case, reported just this week, the victim was contacted by someone pertaining to be a close friend via Facebook messenger. The person masquerading as his friend asked for the loan of money, which he agreed to. The victim subsequently discovered his friend's account had been hacked and he had been scammed.

In a fourth report made to police, again on 18 December, a woman from County Antrim lost £61k in an online romance scam. The victim began contact with the scammer via a dating website, and they continued to keep in touch to the point where she transferred him the funds.

A further online scam resulted in the loss of £36k for a man from Co Down. Police were informed on Thursday 19 December that the individual has been contacted by a fraudster via email last October, who promised to invest the funds. The victim took the scammer at his word and allowed contact to his computer, resulting in the disclosure of his bank details.

Moreover, the worst report saw a woman from the Co Antrim area lose a total of £64k. Reported to police in recent days, the woman was in touch with a person she believed represented a major online retailer on 17 November who transferred to another individual claiming to be from a UK wide law enforcement agency. The victim was persuaded to download an app that would keep money in another account safe, which she did, when multiple transactions were unfortunately made resulting in the total loss of £64k.

Chief Superintendent Simon Walls continued: "Scams come in all shapes and sizes, from mandate fraud to old fashioned telephone scams to classic romance scams, and they all have one thing in common. They are orchestrated and executed by people who will go to whatever lengths necessary to take people's money.

"Scammers are callous, unscrupulous individuals who don't care about the impact of their actions, which can be devastating and life changing.

"In each of these scams, the victims genuinely believed what they doing was for real, and the people who they were dealing with were genuine. It's devastating for them to realise that, not only have they been conned, but they have also lost their money.

"Our message is simple. Never disclose your personal or banking details to anyone over the phone or online, no matter how convincing they may seem, and never allow an unauthorised person to have access to such details via your computer."

Anyone with concerns about unsolicited calls, emails or letters can file a report online or by calling Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

Reports can also be made to police on non-emergency line 101 and further advice and information is available via Scamwise NI.


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