Scams that have recently come to our notice include:
A phone caller, often claiming to be from Microsoft, says they have been alerted that your computer has a virus, and/or is running slowly. They hope to persuade you to give them remote access to your computer to 'fix the problem'. In reality they are hoping to steal your personal data, perhaps even your online banking details.
Emails state that a hotel has made a transaction in error against the recipient's account. A 'claim form' is attached which the recipient is asked to open and complete with personal bank account details. Different hotel names and different payment amounts are used in the emails.
The email is not genuine and is a clear example of phishing, using a deception to gather information which will assist criminals to defraud the consumer's account or to place orders for goods using the consumer's details.
Do not respond to these emails.
Gloucestershire residents have contacted Trading Standards to report a council tax refund scam. Local residents have received a phone call telling them they are entitled to a refund of their council tax and a payment of £7000 can be paid into their account. The caller requests confirmation of the consumer’s name and address and then asks for bank account details to transfer the money. The caller than asks for £100 fee to process the refund.
Trading Standards have confirmed that the caller is not calling on behalf of the Council and advise that consumers should not give out bank details to unverified callers. Anyone who has given out their bank details to a caller like this should contact their bank immediately.
Anyone who thinks they might be eligible for a refund should contact their local council directly on a verified phone number. If you are entitled to a refund on your council tax you should never be asked to pay a fee to receive a refund.
A new variation of the standard 'phishing' scam is currently doing the rounds. An email purporting to be from HM Revenue and Customs informs recipients that they are eligible for a substantial tax refund. All they have to do is send all their personal details on an attached form. Our usual advice applies: Never respond to emails of this kind.
Every year it seems in the approach to Christmas an email is circulated warning about a 'new' scam. It usually says that a card is posted through your door from a parcel delivery service to say that they were unable to deliver a parcel and that you need to call them. If you call the number and you start to hear a recorded message you will already have been billed £15 for the phone call.
This is not a new scam. The chain email refers to a service that was shut down in December 2005. The company that was operating the service was fined £10,000. The service is no longer running and has not been running since December 2005.
The email refers to a £15 charge for simply being connected to a recorded message. This is not true - a £15 connection charge does not exist. The service in question actually cost £1.50 per minute and lasted six minutes, making a total cost of £9 if callers stayed on the line for the full six minutes.
Please do not contact us about this service as it was stopped in 2005. If you receive a copy of the email warning you about the alleged scam, please do not forward it to others.
Looking for a childminder
We have been informed of a new scam aimed at childminders. In emails we have been told about the name of the sender is different but the text is virtually identical.
The email starts with the text: My name is Harry Rosario and I am Italian American. At present I am looking for a minder for my 3year old son who would be moving to the UK with me. I would like to know if you can offer your services. I would like to know 1. your location 2. fees. I would be happy to ask my client to post a certified UK cheque to you in advance for deposit and booking of your services.
One person who responded received a photo of a young child. We would expect the next step would be for an overpaying cheque to be received with a request to forward the difference to a third party.
UK Advance Fee Fraud
Traditionally associated with Nigeria, the advance fee fraud has been doing the rounds for a number of years. Now a number of Gloucestershire residents have reported receiving an email from an 'external auditor of a well known bank here in the United Kingdom' offering to share the secret account of a multi millionaire who has died in a plane crash leaving no next of kin.
National Lottery Winning Notification
An email originating in Canada tells you you've won thousands on the national lottery online. You are asked to fill in your details and send them to their UK claim agent.
Sounds a bit phishy to us. This is the first time we've seen the UK lottery used in this kind of scam. Never respond to these emails, any response is likely to be followed by a request for more information and an 'administration fee' to release your 'winnings'.
Another direct mailing, this time from Switzerland. 'Maître Norbu and his student Sonam' prey on the vulnerable by promising to cure their difficulties with their 'red alert rescue plan'. In return for their amazing free gifts all you have to do is send a 'modest contribution' of £25 towards costs.
Don't reply to these mailings - destroy them without responding.
Stop junk mail by registering with the Mailing Preference Service.
See Bogus Psychics
Paper Roll Logistics
The actions of a Canadian-based company called Paper Roll Logistics have recently been brought to our attention. The company allegedly cold call traders asking only for a name or confirmation of the company address. The trader then receives a box of till or credit card machine rolls with an invoice for £200 or more (10 times the normal cost), followed by numerous demands for payment
Demanding payment for goods known to be unsolicited is an offence under the provisions of the unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971. The Office of Fair Trading is currently investigating the matter.
European Health Insurance Card
We have received complaints concerning an internet company charging £15.00 for these cards. In fact they are available free of charge from the Department of Health.
See advice for travellers at the Department of Health website.
Spanish Lottery Primitiva
We have received complaints from people receiving personally addressed letters, bearing a Malaga or Madrid postmark, claiming they have won the Spanish lottery. In order to claim their ‘prize’ recipients are asked to complete a claim form requiring detailed personal information and agreeing to pay 10% of the 'winnings' to an agent.
Several Gloucestershire residents have reported receiving a letter posted in Austria from 'Samantha' who claims to be a medium, an astrologer of international standing, and an expert in dreams' interpretation!
In the letter Samantha predicts a dire outcome for you unless you tear the enclosed Jack of Spades playing card into four pieces and post it back to her with a 'modest donation' of £10.
This is a common direct mail scam. Don't reply to these mailings - destroy them without responding. If you send money you are likely to be bombarded with further scams, because your name will be added to a 'sucker' list.
Stop junk mail by registering with the Mailing Preference Service.
See Bogus Psychics
Unwanted Clothing Collection
Householders receive a leaflet or a bag through the door asking for donations of clothing and linen. The leaflet usually state that any items will be carefully sorted and sent to the Third World. The small print explains that the company is a commercial organisation and not a charity.
Collections of this kind deprive genuine charities of significant sources of revenue and our advice to people who want to ensure their donations will go to worthy causes is to make contact with a local charity shop; or use collection bags distributed by genuine charities. Genuine charity collection bags should make clear reference to the charity registration number. You can check with the Charities Commission helpline on 0870 333 0123, or via the Charities Commission website, to ensure the charity is properly registered.
Women Empowering Women
This is a pyramid scheme run ‘by women for women only, no men allowed’ which attracts investors with talk of a 'gifting circle', 'universal understanding of our birthright' and 'fields of abundance'. In reality it encourages new recruits into handing over £3,000 to one of their friends who is already a member in return for a heart-shaped token. All women who do so are told they can expect a £24,000 return.
Those at the very top of the pyramid do indeed make money, but only out of someone else's loss. Eventually there are not enough people to take part and those just beyond the top levels all end up losing their money.
This practice is not actually illegal under current UK law so we can only advise people to stay away from the scheme.
See Pyramid Schemes
Chase Online Banking
Unsolicited emails tell recipients that other computers have logged onto their user profile accounts, and tried to log on using various different passwords. To avoid having their accounts suspended recipients are told they must change their passwords by clicking on a link provided.
This has all the hallmarks of a 'phishing' fraud and anyone receiving this email is advised to delete it.
Bella the Magician
An unsolicited letter tells you that Bella has performed a 'luck-and-fortune ritual' on your behalf which will ensure you receive large sums of money. All you have to do is send a donation of £17. Our advice is DON'T - it sounds like an advance fee scam.
See Bogus Psychics
European Bureau of Prize Draw Registry
An impressive looking letter tells you that you've 'lucked out' and won over £2 million in a prize draw. Just send an initial £20 'procedural fee' to secure your payout. Again our advice is don't send any money - it sounds like an advance fee scam.
Bogus Invoice for Directory Entry
Businesses in Gloucestershire have received a notice which looks like a demand for payment for an unsolicited directory entry. The notice asks for £423 and confirms the name of the business and a classification under which the directory entry will appear. The small print at the bottom of the page states “this is not a bill”.
Businesses receiving this notice are concerned that it looks like a bill requiring payment with a prominent request to “please remit this amount”. Our advice is to check all small print carefully, and warn your accounts staff to be on the look out for unsolicited invoices, particularly if you have temporary staff on duty.