Internet scammers conned NI public out of almost £800,000 in a single month, PSNI reveals
Almost £800,000 was conned out of the public in Northern Ireland last month, a PSNI chief has revealed.
Six separate incidents have been reported to police, totalling an astonishing loss of £769,000.
Victims include individuals, businesses and a charity, all targeted by scammers over a 22-day period.
The lowest single loss was £20,000 while the highest was £400,000.
Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said yesterday the figures involved will "undoubtedly" have a significant impact on those swindled by fraudsters.
He revealed that internet scammers had used mandate frauds, a scam in which emails are compromised or spoofed to appear as legitimate correspondence.
The PSNI was first alerted to the scam on July 1, when it received a report that the email accounts of what it described as a large organisation had been targeted, resulting in €470,000 (£434,000) being transferred into three bank accounts set up by scammers.
The identity of the organisation - or any of the other victims - has not been disclosed by police.
The next reported scam occurred on July 11 after a healthcare provider unwittingly complied with a fraudulent email request to change its bank account details, resulting in a payment of £140,000 being made into the scammers' account.
Four days later, the PSNI was alerted to the third incident in which a company's email system was hacked, enabling fraudsters to issue customers with emails advising them of new banking details, which duped a number of them into paying around £30,000.
Meanwhile, 24 hours later, a charity was targeted with scammers again intercepting emails, resulting in the organisation transferring €59,000 (£54,000) into a fraudulent account.
Then on July 18, a man who is involved with an online investment company was duped into transferring £20,000 to a fraudulent account that he believed was legitimate.
He had been asked to make the payment to a new bank account number which, although new, still retained the same company title.
The latest incident was reported to police on July 22 when a business revealed it had been conned out of £50,000 in a transaction it believed would be received by one of its suppliers.
However, the supplier's bank details had in fact been altered by scammers after they had successfully hacked into one account belonging to the business, diverting the money into a fraudulent account.
All six scams are being investigated by detectives and the senior police officer urged both companies and members of the public to be vigilant.
"Throughout the month we received numerous calls from people who have been duped out of their hard-earned money," explained Mr Walls. "No matter what type of scam it is, and the methods employed, a common element shared by scammers is their aim is to take money from people and they go to great lengths to trick people."
The chief superintendent continued: "I can't stress enough to businesses and individuals alike never to disclose personal or banking details to anyone over the phone no matter how convincing it seems to you."
He then issued advice on how people can protect themselves from being targets of fraudsters online.
"Before making payments, double check that the accounts to which the payments are being made are the correct accounts. Never disclose account details to any unauthorised person or allow anyone access to them via your computer," he warned.
"If you are concerned by unsolicited calls, emails or letters then please report it to Action Fraud via their website www.actionfraud.police.uk or by phoning 0300 123 2040. You can also call police on the non-emergency number 101."
For further advice and information please visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni