Cheshire Police are urging Cheshire residents to be vigilant after an elderly couple were scammed out of a large quantity of money.
The pensioners from Northwich began receiving letters from the ‘International Postcode Lottery’ on Friday 1 March claiming that they had won a vast sum of cash. The letters stated that they needed to call a specified number to claim the money.
When they called up they were told that they needed to pay a proportion of the tax for the money to be transferred to the UK. They paid the money requested via cheques, though they were also given the option of paying it via transferring company MoneyGram.
When they never heard anything back regarding their lottery win they grew suspicious and contacted the Citizens Advice for advice. Action Fraud and Cheshire Constabulary were subsequently informed of the matter.
They have confirmed that the couple have not won an international lottery and are victims of an increasingly common scam that is being investigated nationally by City of London Police.
Police Constable Jim Day, Financial, Abuse, Safeguarding and Prevention Officer at Cheshire Constabulary’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “Sadly scams like this are very common, and although in this instance the victims live in Northwich people throughout the county and the country are being targeted every day.
“From April 2018 to September 2018 there were 3,732 fraud offences reported in Cheshire, with the total amount of money lost by the victims being £8.3 million.
“Over the past two months we have had more than 800 Auction Fraud referrals regarding scams. As well as the scam carried out by people purporting to be from the ‘International Postcode Lottery’, other increasingly common scams include dating and romance fraud, which targets people looking for love or companionship and begins via social media and chat rooms. Dating and romance scammers lower your defences by building an online relationship with you before asking for financial help.”
“I have dealt with numerous cases whereby dating and romance fraud victims have lost many thousands of pounds. HM Revenue and Customs scams are also increasingly common, with people paying money having received fake HMRC phone calls – including automated phone calls – letters or emails saying that a warrant is out for their arrest for unpaid tax and requesting immediate payment via bank transfer or iTunes and gift card vouchers.”
“Over-the-phone fraudsters can be very convincing and use a range of tactics to try to convince victims to part with their money. For example, they may claim to be working for the police and ask you to call 101 or 999 to verify their identity. When you try to do so you will end up talking to an accomplice as they will not put the phone down when you do, ensuring that the line is kept open.”
“Scammers may also pretend to be calling you from your bank, internet or phone provider or HMRC. All these scams are orchestrated by serious organised crime groups. I urge the people of Cheshire to be vigilant and to follow our advice on how to avoid falling victim to such scams.”
Cheshire Constabulary’s scam prevention advice includes:
Lottery and HMRC scams
- If you receive emails or letters saying that you have won a large amount of money on an overseas or online lottery you have not entered, ignore them.
- If you receive an HMRC phone call – including an automated phone call – letter or email saying that a warrant is out for your arrest for unpaid tax, contact HMRC via an official channel at a later date.
- If you have responded to such emails/letters/phone calls, break off all contact with the fraudsters immediately.
- If you have given the fraudsters your bank account details, alert your bank immediately.
- Be aware that once you have given your bank account details to a fraudster you are likely to be a target for other frauds – fraudsters often share details about people they have successfully targeted or approached, with different identities used to commit further frauds.
- People who have already fallen victim to fraudsters are particularly vulnerable to recovery fraud, which is when fraudsters contact people who have already lost money through fraud and claim to be law enforcement officers or lawyers. They advise the victim that they can help them recover their lost money, but request a fee. This again is a scam.
- The police will never ask you to become part of an undercover investigation or for you to withdraw money and hand it to them for safe-keeping.
- Be wary of any calls, texts or emails purporting to be from the police, HMRC, your bank, internet or phone provider or anyone else asking for your personal or financial details, or for you to transfer money (for whatever reason).
- If you receive a suspicious call asking you to call back to verify that the caller is genuine, make sure that you verify that it is the correct number for the organisation they claim to be calling from. You should then only call back (on the organisation’s advertised number) either at a different time or by using a different phone.
- If you are approached, or feel something is suspicious, hang up the phone and do not reply and then report it to police on 101, Action Fraud and your bank on their advertised number.
Dating and romance scams
- Be vigilant when developing an online relationship – get to know the person, not the profile, and ask plenty of questions.
- Analyse their profile and check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or repeatedly used phrases and the term ‘dating scam’ into your search engine.
- Talk to your friends and family about your dating choices – be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them.
- Evade scammers by never sending money to, or sharing your bank details with, someone you have met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you have been communicating with them.
PC Day added: “If you have elderly relatives or neighbours please ensure that they are aware of such scams and that you do everything you can to safeguard them and their savings.”
Anyone who believes that they have been a victim of a scam should contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Cheshire Constabulary can be contacted on 101.