Online Fraud & Scams
All Internet users should be on their guard against online scams. Most people have access to the Internet either at home, at work, at a friend's, in school or in an internet cafe. It can be fun and educational, but are you also putting yourself at risk?
We don't want to be alarmist - there's a wealth of knowledge on the internet, it's exciting, fun and it puts people in touch with the rest of the world. However, there's always a risk that you could come across somebody whose intentions are not so honourable.
Here are some examples of which you should be aware.
Spam & Scam email
Police warn public about phone scam
Police are warning the public to be on their guard after a scam was reported in the area.
Fraudsters, pretending to be police officers, are targeting people over the phone and trying to con them out of their life savings.
Officers are currently investigating two incidents that happened in the Sunderland area but are advising people throughout the region to be on their guard.
The con involves a member of the public receiving a call from a person pretending to be a police officer. This fake officer tells the victim that their bank account is at risk of being hacked and they face having their money stolen.
They are told to contact their bank and withdraw all of the money from their account as soon as possible and that a police officer would come to their house, collect it and take statements.
The fake officer then tells the victim to hang up and ring the local police to confirm that the story is genuine.
The victim ends the call, thinking they have hung up on the 'officer' but the offender does not hang up and keeps the line open and the call going.
The victim then dials their local police and thinks they are speaking to the force, when in fact, because the previous call is still open, they are still talking with the fraudster, who is pretending to be a local police officer and falsely confirms that their bank account is at risk and the 'officer' is genuine.
They then arrange a date and time for an 'officer' to come and pick the cash up and take a statement.
Police are urging people to be on their guard and to take steps to avoid becoming a victim:
- Be aware that fraudsters often use techniques to hold your phone line open, so that when you try to dial out to verify the caller, they intercept and re-answer the call, claiming to be the bank or law enforcement.
-To ensure that your phone has not been compromised, we recommend using a different phone line to verify the caller. Where a second phone line is not available, try calling a family or friend on the line first, as the fraudster will find it difficult to impersonate a voice that is known to you.
- Never disclose your PIN or online / telephone banking log-in information or card reader codes to anyone, even if the caller claims to be from the bank or police. Remember, banks NEVER call and ask you to disclose these security details.
- If you receive a call requesting your PIN, card details or online / telephone banking log-in information, end the call immediately.
- If you receive a suspicious or unexpected call, always verify the caller by taking their phone number and getting it checked independently.
- Ensure elderly relatives and neighbours are aware of the fraud and crime prevention advice.
Report any suspicious phone calls to police straight away on 101 ext 69191.
The webcam scam
Across the country there have been a number of incidents where people are persuaded to add a new friend to their account on Facebook (or on other social media). This 'friend' then persuades them to perform sex acts on their web cam.
They are then told, or shown, that the webcam incident has been recorded and demands for cash are then made under threat that the recordings will be shared with their other online friends.
Although this scam has been taking place across the country there have been three incidents in the Northumbria Police area over recent months up to November 2012.
Detective Superintendent Steve Howes explained:
"While there has been only a small number of these type of incidents, they can be highly distressing for those involved. The victims are being asked for significant amounts of money or threatened with having personal images of themselves posted online.
"It's thought the scammers may be operating from Morocco or Ghana and are using a variety of chat rooms to "befriend" people.
"These incidents should act as a reminder to people that it's often not possible to tell who you are communicating with online and computer users should only reveal personal details if they are 100% sure who they are talking to."
You should always be cautious when adding someone as an online friend - especially if it is someone you don't know in real life, or whose identity you cannot verify.
Remain sceptical and consider very carefully any unusual requests made of you by people online.
Remember - anything you do on a webcam can be recorded, even without your permission.
(Recordings can be uploaded to sites such as YouTube and shared in places like Facebook.)
Reporting online fraud
If you’ve been a victim of fraud, you can report it to Northumbria Police by dialling 101 or via our non-emergency reporting form.
Alternatively, if you prefer you can report issues directly to Action Fraud online using the secure online fraud reporting tool. You’ll be given a crime reference number and your case will be referred on to the police force that investigates fraud.
You can find out more about Action Fraud here