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Criminals are poised to bombard people with ticketing, travel and health insurance scams as lockdown restrictions ease.

With many people looking to book holidays and tickets to concerts or festivals, fraudsters are advertising bogus tickets at low prices as well as for events that have already sold out, UK Finance said.

It warned people to watch out for scam emails, telephone calls, fake websites and posts on social media.

To stay safe, people are reminded to follow the advice of the Take Five To Stop Fraud campaign and pause to think before parting with their money or personal information.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: ‘Criminals have been capitalising on the pandemic to commit fraud, and the easing of lockdown restrictions provides another opportunity for them to target victims.

‘As you start booking holidays and planning social activities, don’t let criminals take you for a ride.

‘Follow the advice of the Take Five To Stop Fraud campaign and always visit websites you’re buying from by typing it in to the web browser – avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails or text messages.

‘Be wary of any requests to pay by bank transfer when buying or booking services online, and instead use a credit card or the secure payment options recommended by reputable websites.’

The conmen foolishly rang Durham Constabulary's Specials Chief Officer Dale Checksfield

The conmen foolishly rang Durham Constabulary's Specials Chief Officer Dale Checksfield

The conmen foolishly rang Durham Constabulary’s Specials Chief Officer Dale Checksfield

Mr Checksfield agreed to meet them to 'compare warrants' but the scammers hung up

Mr Checksfield agreed to meet them to 'compare warrants' but the scammers hung up

Mr Checksfield agreed to meet them to ‘compare warrants’ but the scammers hung up

Chief Officer Dale Checksfield said he had not been fooled by the over-the-phone effort

Chief Officer Dale Checksfield said he had not been fooled by the over-the-phone effort

Chief Officer Dale Checksfield said he had not been fooled by the over-the-phone effort

It came after dopey phone scammers targeting innocent Britons for data and money have got their comeuppance – after blundering into calling a police chief.

The fake figures rang Durham Constabulary’s Specials Chief Officer Dale Checksfield and claimed to be from the National Crime Agency.

Bemused CO Checksfield was told a warrant was out for his arrest before he turned the tables on the callous conmen.

He agreed to meet them to ‘compare warrants’ and the scammers, who are believed to be based in India quickly hung up.

It appears to be the most audacious target so far after a number of members of the public have reported having the same con performed on them.

The scams have prompted the NCA to issue a public warning that it would never ask people for their bank account or National Insurance number and should ring their control centre if they were unsure. 

Chief Officer Dale Checksfield said: ‘Phone call today from the NCA (India branch, according to the number) to advise there is a warrant out for my arrest 

Fake Hermes delivery messages also try to get innocent victims to part with their cash

Fake Hermes delivery messages also try to get innocent victims to part with their cash

Fake Hermes delivery messages also try to get innocent victims to part with their cash

Vulnerable Britons are being targeted with fraudulent text messages offering them access to coronavirus vaccinations

Vulnerable Britons are being targeted with fraudulent text messages offering them access to coronavirus vaccinations

Vulnerable Britons are being targeted with fraudulent text messages offering them access to coronavirus vaccinations

A Royal Mail text scam (one such text, pictured) asking customers to pay for packages before they are delivered has tricked thousands into handing over their bank details

A Royal Mail text scam (one such text, pictured) asking customers to pay for packages before they are delivered has tricked thousands into handing over their bank details

A Royal Mail text scam (one such text, pictured) asking customers to pay for packages before they are delivered has tricked thousands into handing over their bank details

Top tips to stop fraud 

– Criminals will offer ‘travel deals’ to obtain your money and information. Websites may look genuine, but subtle changes in the URL can indicate they are fraudulent. Websites may use images of luxury villas and apartments that do not exist. These are offered for rent, often at discounted prices and require deposits which are never returned.

Where possible, book directly with an established hotel or through a reputable travel company/agent that is a member of a trade body such as Abta or Atol.

– Always use the secure payment options recommended by reputable online travel providers and do not accept requests to pay separately via a bank transfer.

Where possible, use a credit card when booking holidays over £100 and up to £30,000 as you receive protection under Section 75 of the Credit Consumer Act.

– When travelling in the EU, people will be able to access emergency and medical care with a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This card has replaced the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Criminals are asking people for payment details, when the GHIC is free. They are advertising cards on fake websites that emulate the NHS. They claim to either fast-track or manage your application process before charging an up-front fee.

The GHIC can be obtained directly via the NHS website – https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/healthcare-abroad/apply-for-a-free-uk-global-he alth-insurance-card-ghic/

– Criminals may also target people with fake ‘Covid certificates’ and ‘passports’. Often posts include a link to a fraudulent website, used to steal personal and financial information.

– Make sure you book festival and theatre tickets directly through official sellers.

 SOURCE: Take Five To Stop Fraud

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‘For a moment I feared Lynne Owens (director general of the NCA) had finally found me out.

‘Somewhat surprised my offer to compare warrants in person was declined.’

It comes after many members of the public had been scammed by fraudulent calls and text messages claiming that they must pay a fine for breaching lockdown rules.

A spokesperson for the NCA said: ‘We’ve been receiving an increased number of scam call reports. NCA will NOT contact you about your bank account or National Insurance number.

‘If you’re in any doubt about the identity of an NCA officer please verify with our Control Centre on 0370 496 7622.’ 

Ofcom have also warned racketeering messages can purport to come from the UK Government, the NHS, people’s local GP surgeries and even the World Health Organisation (WHO) but were fake.

They aim to trick unsuspecting members of the public into handing over money to cover the costs of non-existent penalty charges.

Other coronavirus-related scams presently being run include emails, calls or texts promising to offer a COVID-19 test, vaccine, treatment or financial support.

In the calls, a recorded message or caller will claim to be contacting you about the coronavirus,’ an Ofcom spokesperson warned.

‘They might offer a test for the virus, a treatment or cure, or might offer to discuss your medical needs. However, these calls are designed to encourage you to either speak to an operator, or press a button on your phone for more information.’

‘If you speak to an operator, you could be at risk of giving them your personal information or your financial details, which could result in identity theft or financial loss,’ they continued.

‘If you press a button on your phone you could be connected to a high-cost premium number, leaving you liable for a significant call cost.’ 

‘If you think one of these calls or texts might be genuine — from your GP, for example — you can call your GP’s surgery separately to check whether they have tried to contact you.’

Ofcom also warned that there are scams in operation which claim to be legitimate messages from the the communications regulator itself.

‘A recorded message or caller will claim that, because of more people working from home due to coronavirus, your broadband needs to be slowed down or switched off,’ Ofcom explained.

‘As with the scam calls outlined above, they will try to encourage you to either speak to an operator, or press a button for more information. If you do this, you could face the same risks,’ they continued.

‘Ofcom will never call you out of the blue like this. If you receive one of these calls claiming to be from us, please hang up.’

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