Belfast Telegraph

Cyber criminals posing as bank and telecom officials steal £45k from Northern Ireland women

By James Gant

A PSNI officer has urged the public to be vigilant after reports emerged of two women being scammed out of nearly £50,000.

Scammers claiming to be from BT convinced a woman that her account was being hacked from Amsterdam.

The con, which was reported on Monday, saw the woman download programmes which gave hackers remote access to her bank account - and they stole £5k.

This came after another woman was emailed about a tax rebate by a scammer posing as a HMRC worker on October 9.

She had been expecting a rebate for around the same amount as the email suggested, so she gave the scammer her details.

But she re-read the email the next day and realised it was a con, due to the number of spelling mistakes.

After contacting her bank, they flagged her account for suspicious activity.

Over a month later - on November 12 - she was called by a man claiming to be from her bank, who had noticed fraudulent activity.

He offered to close the account and open a new one if she transferred across the daily limit of £9,000.

Alarmingly, the message was sent from the same phone number as the victim's bank, so she transferred £40,000 into the new accounts over a number of days.

The money has not been recovered.

Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said: "Unfortunately, these are just two examples of online scams where two people have been taken advantage of and lost a significant amount of their money.

"Scammers know all the tricks and can copy phone numbers to make it appear texts are sent legitimately when they aren't, which is what happened in this case."

He said that banks will never ask to transfer money over the phone, so that should alert people that something is not right. "We are reassured that people are able to spot these scams and they are picking up the phone to report them to us," he added.

Around 21 people are targeted by fraudsters through social media every minute, according to a survey by Get Safe Online.

And Action Fraud, the UK's reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, found 2,685 fake TV licensing emails were sent in October and September.

Report incidents to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or call 101 for police.

Visit www.actionfraud.police.uk or www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni for more information.

How to avoid falling victim to scammers

Top five prevention methods from Action Fraud:

• Do not give any personal information to people before verifying their credentials.

• Ensure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall.

• Frauds often start with a phishing email. Banks will not send you an email asking you to click on a link and confirm your bank details like this.

• Sign up to Verified by Visa or MasterCard Secure Code whenever you are given the option while shopping online.

• Regularly get a copy of your credit file and check it for entries you don't recognise.

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