Andy Foster is the Fraud PROTECT Officer working in the Financial Crimes Investigation Unit of South Yorkshire Police.
His dual role is to support vulnerable victims of fraud and to work with other support groups.
He also does road shows and other events to bring fraudulent scams to public notice.
‘Operation Signature’ is the S.Y. police’s campaign to help support victims of fraud.
He began by showing a slide of facts about fraud, but there were so many I could not note them all!
- Men lose 3 times more money than women.
- Loneliness makes (particularly elderly) people vulnerable to fraud.
- Only 5% of defrauded people make a report.
- In some cases defrauded people have considered, attempted or committed suicide.
- 79% of household waste contains items that could contribute to identity theft.
- Fraud costs people in the U.K. billions of pounds annually.
- Once anyone is caught by a scammer they go on a ‘sucker list’ which is sold to other scammers who will inundate the ‘sucker’ with more frauds.
Action Fraud is a body that accepts reports about scams from victims.
However, they have about 700,000 calls per year and simply register each call.
They do not investigate crimes but send details to the National Fraud Intelligence Centre.
The NFIC decide if there are enough details to take further action, but on over 80% of reports no action is taken. This is because criminals are abroad and use phones or emails and there is not enough verifiable detail.
One of the methods fraudsters use to hide stolen money (so that the banks do not become suspicious of money going in and out of their accounts) is to approach students and ask if they can put £5000 into the student’s account for a few days. They give the student £100. The money is soon moved on to another account.
On dating sites the scammer gets the victim to believe they are in love and uses this to extort money.
Social media is used to set up a false profile and the scammer grooms the vulnerable victim over months or years to scam them.
An elderly man that Andy met was phoned and persuaded to invest in shares by paying into an account. Then he was told that the bank wanted fees that were late. He said he would not pay because he had not received a dividend. The scammer sent him a £75 ‘dividend’ because he had still £182,000 that he had to invest, but told him that the bank would have to take legal action if he did not pay the fees.
When Andy went to see him about a possibly fraudulent roof repair the man’s stairs were stacked high with unopened mail sent by scammers. Andy removed 17 bin bags full of mail from the house then installed a call blocker phone to keep him safe. That same day a letter arrived telling the man he
had won £147,000 but to claim it he must send £35 into an enclosed pre-addressed envelope to Austria!
Authorised Push Payment Fraud.
This is when you have authorised payment from your bank.
A 30 year-old man sent £17,000 to his new ‘girl friend’, who lives in Kenya, to help children with polio.
In 2018 there were 84,624 APP frauds and 78,215 cases of personal account fraud.
Miracle Health Cure Scams.
Calls to elderly people to sell health cures.
Other types of fraud were distraction burglaries where someone at the door says they are from the Water Board and need to access the property. They get in and steal, and ‘case’ the house so that they can come back later.
Andy gave us advice.
B.T., Sky and TalkTalk have a free call-blocking service that they will install for you if you contact them.
An alternative is to let all calls go to your answer machine after telling friends and relatives to always leave a message for you to call back. You can then pick up to take the call. Nearly all scammers will hang up when the answer machine cuts in.
Another alternative is to get a phone that you can program to block calls.
Probably the most effective method is called ‘trueCall Secure’ which connects to your existing phone. It costs about 120 pounds.
A very informative talk, which has alerted all of us to be careful, and to hang up the phone if we are not sure of the caller’s honesty.