Watchdog warns charities and the public to protect themselves against fraudsters amid pandemic
The Charity Commission is warning trustees and donors to strengthen their defences as it fears the pandemic has created environments that are enabling charity fraud.
As we enter Charity Fraud Awareness Week (19 – 23 October 2020), charities have reported being victims of fraud or cybercrime 645 times since the start of the pandemic in March, amounting to £3.6 million in total losses to charities. The true scale of fraud against charities is believed to be much higher, as fraud is known to be underreported.
The regulator is concerned that remote working and virtual activities and sign-off processes, combined with charities’ tendencies to place goodwill and trust in individuals, may make them especially vulnerable. It says that charities providing services and supporting local communities could be amongst those at risk after earlier reports of criminals using PPE as a lure in scams.
Analysis of frauds reported to the Commission has found that in some cases fraudsters have preyed on people’s fear and anxieties. In one case, the regulator saw a fraudster using a beneficiary’s story of personal struggle during the pandemic to pressure a charity into making a payment quickly. The regulator also considers that economic hardship may have increased perpetrators’ temptation to commit fraud, particularly in cases of insider fraud. It has seen cases of charity employees diverting funds into their personal bank accounts and even selling charity equipment for personal gain.
Action Fraud Alert : PayPal Scam using Facebook Messenger
Action Fraud have received a surge of reports where victims
have received messages through Facebook Messenger from friends and
family requesting to use their PayPal account to receive funds from
the sale of items on eBay.
Messages are sent by fraudsters purporting to be friends and family stating that they have sold a camera on eBay but that they are unable to process the payment as they either do not have a PayPal account or because their PayPal account is not working. Click here for more information.
New alert from Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau regarding PayPal scam.
We have received a surge of reports where victims have received messages through Facebook Messenger from friends and family requesting to use their PayPal account to receive funds from the sale of items on eBay.
Overall, between 1st June 2020 and 31st July 2020 a total of 95 reports have been made with total losses amounting to £44,035.
Messages are sent by fraudsters purporting to be friends and family stating that they have sold a camera on eBay but that they are unable to process the payment as they either do not have a PayPal account or because their PayPal account is not working.
The request is that the message recipient receives the funds into their own PayPal account, then, after transferring it into their own bank account, they forward it onto an account controlled by the fraudster.
If the victim agrees the payment is transferred into their PayPal account but, after the money is transferred out, the initial transaction is reversed leaving the account in negative balance.
Multiple reports have also been received from victims stating that their Facebook Messenger accounts have been hacked and that these fraudulent messages have been sent to all their contacts on their behalf.
What you need to do
Verify financial requests: Be wary of unusual messages asking for assistance with financial transactions. Even if the message appears to be from someone you know and trust, you should check it’s really them that sent the message by calling them or speaking with them in person.
Unusual financial requests: Never respond to any requests to send money, or have money transferred through your account, by someone you don’t know and trust.
Secure your accounts: You can protect your important online accounts by using a strong separate password and, where available, turn on two- factor authentication (2FA).
If you have made a payment: Inform your bank, or payment service provider, such as PayPal, as soon as possible. They can help you prevent any further losses. You should also monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
UK Finance unveils ten Covid-19 and lockdown scams to be aware of.
- UK Finance unveils ten Covid-19 and lockdown scams the public should be on high alert for and how to spot them
- Criminals are preying on a worried public by tapping into their financial concerns due to coronavirus, asking for personal and financial information
- New animation video from Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign warns people to remember criminals are sophisticated at impersonating other organisations
Using the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity, fraudsters are using sophisticated methods to callously exploit people, with many concerned about their financial situation and the state of the economy. To coincide with the launch of its new animation urging people to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, UK Finance today reveals ten Covid-19 and lockdown scams which criminals are using to target people to get them to part with their money.
Some scams manipulate innocent victims, urging people to invest and “take advantage of the financial downturn”. Others impersonate well-known subscription services to get people to part with their cash and personal information. Criminals are even posing as representatives from the NHS Test and Trace service in an effort to trick people into giving away their personal details.
To remind people that criminals are experts at impersonating trusted organisations, UK Finance has launched a new animation video urging people to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign. Consumers are reminded to always take a moment to stop and think before parting with their money or information in case it’s a scam.
The ten scams to be on the lookout for and how to spot them:
Covid-19 financial support scams
- Criminals have sent fake government emails designed to look like they are from government departments offering grants of up to £7,500. The emails contain links which steal personal and financial information from victims
- Fraudsters have also been sending scam emails which offer access to ‘Covid-19 relief funds’ encouraging victims to fill in a form with their personal information.
- Criminals have been targeting people with official-looking emails offering a ‘council tax reduction’. These emails, which use government branding, contain links which lead to a fake government website which is used to access personal and financial information.
- Fraudsters are also preying on benefit recipients, offering to help apply for Universal Credit, while taking some of the payment as an advance for their “services”.
- One of the most shocking scams that has appeared during the pandemic has involved using the NHS Test and Trace service. Criminals are preying on an anxious public by sending phishing emails and links claiming that the recipient has been in contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19. These lead to fake websites that are used to steal personal and financial information or infect devices with malware.
- Victims are also being targeted by fake adverts for Covid-related products such as hand sanitizer and face masks which do not exist.
- Criminals are sending fake emails and texts claiming to be from TV Licensing, telling people they are eligible for six months of free TV licence because of the coronavirus pandemic. Victims are told there has been a problem with their direct debit and are asked to click on a link that takes them to a fake website used to steal personal and financial information.
- Amid a rise in the use of online TV subscription services during the lockdown, customers have been targeted by criminals sending convincing emails asking them to update their payment details by clicking on a link which is then used to steal credit card information.
- Fraudsters are also exploiting those using online dating websites by creating fake profiles on social media sites used to manipulate victims into handing over their money. Often criminals will use the identities of real people to strike up relationships with their targets.
- Criminals are using social media websites to advertise fake investment opportunities, encouraging victims to “take advantage of the financial downturn”. Bitcoin platforms are using emails and adverts on social media platforms to encourage unsuspecting victims to put money into fake investment companies using fake websites.
The banking and finance sector is working with the government and law enforcement to help identify scams and prevent people becoming victims of fraud. The industry is also encouraging everyone to remain vigilant and to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and to Stop, Challenge and Protect when they receive any messages out of the blue:
Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.
In order to spot a Covid-19 scam, people should be on high alert if:
- The website address is inconsistent with that of the legitimate organisation
- The phone call, text or emails asks for
financial information such as PIN, passwords
- You receive a call or email out of the blue
with an urgent request for your personal or financial
information, or to make an immediate payment
- You’re offered a heavily discounted or
considerably cheaper product compared to the original price
There are spelling and grammar mistakes, or inconsistencies in the story you’re given
A Warning to Vehicle Owners
Government restrictions have been eased further recently, many of us are now slowly returning to work, seeing family and friends and going out shopping and visiting pubs and restaurants. As such people are beginning to go back to their normal routines.
This is why we wanted to give you a timely reminder not to leave personal belongings or valuables in motor vehicles overnight. We have seen a recent spike in thefts overnight, specifically targeting vans, in the New Milton area.
If your vehicle is parked on a driveway or in-front of a garage, you may want to consider installing a CCTV camera covering the area which your vehicle is parked or installing a motion-detector dash-cam. This way, it may serve as a deterrent to potential thieves as they know that they will be caught on camera.
Most burglaries are committed by opportunists. These are often spur-of-the-moment decisions, made when they see valuables left on view or lapses in security. Personal items such as mobile phones and tablets, handbags and work tools left somewhere obvious can be an attractive target, so please do take them indoors with you every night.
Our officers in the community are continuing to follow-up on all reports of thefts from motor vehicles, so please be reassured that we are doing all we can to protect the community and bring these offenders to justice.
We would urge you to remove all personal belongings from your vehicle each night. While this might seem laborious at the time, it might just save you from becoming a victim of crime.
Action Fraud is warning the public about phishing emails, sent out by criminals, claiming to be from PayPal.
The warning comes after Action Fraud received over 1,000 reports within 24 hours on 20 July 2020 about emails claiming to be from PayPal. The emails state the recipient’s account has been “limited” as a result of a policy violation.
The emails then ask for customers to update their account, or check the security of their account by clicking a link in the email. The links provided in the emails lead to genuine-looking websites that are actually phishing sites designed to steal PayPal login details, as well as personal and financial information.
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said:
“Phishing is a gateway to fraud. These emails are commonly used by criminals to gain access to your personal and banking details, which they then use to steal your identity or your money.
“It is common for criminals to spoof the legitimate phone number or email address of a trusted organisation, to trick us into providing information. If you receive a message out of the blue that seems suspicious, take five minutes to check directly with the organisation or brand contacting you that the communication is genuine. If something feels wrong then always question it.