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Free Which? Scam Alerts

A reminder that you can sign up for free email warnings about online and other scams from Which?

Details here: which.co.uk/scam-alert-service/

Energy scams – alert from OFGEM

OFGEM, the UK energy regulator, has reported a rise in scam calls purporting to come from them. These are clearly trying to exploit people’s concerns about rising energy costs.

Remember, Ofgem would never sell you energy, ask for personal information or come to your property.

For more details see this webpage:

https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/information-consumers/energy-advice-households/avoid-and-report-energy-scams

WhatsApp scams – watch out for ‘verification code’ and ‘new number’

Fraudsters are posing as family members on WhatsApp in order to manipulate you into transferring money.

You receive an unexpected but genuine text message from WhatsApp containing a verification code. The text is triggered by fraudsters entering your number into WhatsApp in an attempt to log in to your account. Next, one of your ‘contacts’ will message you via the app to try and persuade you to give them the code you’ve just received. This allows them to take over your account, so they can send messages to your other contacts that look as if they came from you. The scammer then starts a chat which leads to a “friend in need” scam asking for money. Your friend or relative, thinking that it’s you, is more likely to fall for the scam and transfer money to the fraudsters.

  • If you get a request for money in a message, whether it’s via WhatsApp, any other messaging platform, email or text, it’s always worth giving the sender a quick phone call to check the details before you go ahead, even if it’s a close relative.
  • Don’t give security codes for any accounts to anyone.

There are also reports of entirely random phone numbers contacting people on WhatsApp, claiming to be a son, daughter or other family member or friend who suddenly has a ‘new number’. Thinking it’s genuine, you add them as a contact and they’ll then try to get money or personal data out of you.  

For more details: which.co.uk/scams/whatsapp-impersonation-family-friends-new-number/

NHS scam emails

The scammers haven’t gone away, and now they’re using COVID travel passes and the ‘omicron’ variant to try and hook you in. Look for the usual signs – poor spelling, unusual use of English and a fairly basic layout.

Today there have been two emails going around, neither of which looks like an official NHS email, though the second one has used a font that resembles the UK.GOV website one. In this post, for safety, both are inserted as jpg files rather than the original email.

The first purports to offer you a COVID travel certificate:

The second tells you about an omicron PCR test:

If you hover over the web address in the second one, it directs you to a ‘targetnews’ website, clearly nothing to do with the NHS!

The NHS’ own Counter Fraud Authority offers useful guidance here:   https://cfa.nhs.uk/fraud-prevention/COVID-19-guidance/COVID-19-vaccine-fraud

Stay safe online!

Wessex Water – fraudulent phone calls

An elderly Blagdon resident recently received a phone call from somebody claiming to be from Wessex Water.  The caller claimed that there was an outstanding bill of £23.85 related to a ‘standing” bank payment set up some years ago. Fortunately, the resident realised it was a scam call.

Wessex Water issued a warning about these calls earlier this year:

https://www.wessexwater.co.uk/corporate/news/latest-news/warning-over-fraudulent-water-bill-calls

 

Dial 159 – a new way to report fraud and scams

A number of UK banks are supporting the pilot launch of a new phone number 159, which is a new way to report fraud and scams.

The banks participating are Barclays; Lloyds (including Halifax and Bank of Scotland); NatWest (including Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank); Santander; and Starling Bank.

Simply dial 159, and you’ll be connected to a system that can redirect you to your bank.

159 will never call you. If you receive a call from 159- do not answer. It’s a scam.

In 2020, financial fraud in the UK totalled £1.2 billion, and many cases of fraud and scams went unreported. 159 is a new and safe way for you to get in contact with your bank if you’re worried about a fraud or a scam, including reporting where you may have lost money to a financial fraud. Where possible, dial 159 from a different device.

Criminals often exploit consumers to persuade them into making payments. If you receive a call from someone who says they are from your bank or another trusted organisation:

Stop. Challenge. Protect. Dial 159.

159 is a collaboration between and telecommunications firms

This NatWest webpage gives more details

https://www.natwest.com/fraud-and-security.html#159 

This article from Which? gives more information:

Phishing email – NHS COVID digital passport

There are at least two versions of a phishing email going around at the moment which seemingly allow you to apply for a digital COVID passport.

Obvious clues are poor English and incorrect spelling:

“We will ask you a few personal information about yourself and show you how to get your copy. The passport will allow you to travel safetly and freely around the world without having to self-isolate.”

A less obvious clue is that the  “Get Digital Passport” button links to a URL which is definitely NOT an NHS one.

If you do click on the button, you’ll be asked for various personal details and a payment.

  • The NHS will never contact you to ask for payment details to obtain the NHS COVID pass. You can view your double vaccination status freely on the NHS app or apply for an NHS COVID pass free of charge online here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/covid-pass/

Scam and WhatsApp privacy update

National Insurance Scam

It’s been a while since the last ‘scam’ post, but the fraudsters are still active!

One current scam is a National Insurance one, which Action Fraud says has been reported to them over 1,000 times, making it the most reported phone scam of this year so far (We had one of these phone calls this morning.) The same scam is now being sent out by email. Both phone and email use the same tactics.

They tell you that your National Insurance number has been used to fraudulently claim benefit, and ask for some personal details. They may tell you this is so you can be issued with a new NI number, or for ‘verification’, and sometimes that you’ll be liable to repay the amount claimed if you don’t give them the details they need.

Hang up the phone or ignore any links in the email and delete it.

 

WhatsApp Privacy

An issue that only affects WhatsApp users is a recent change to their default security settings. It was explained in their updated conditions of use, and I expect most of us just clicked accept without reading the whole document. The new default setting for WhatsApp is that everyone can find you and see your details – this includes businesses as well as individuals. If you wish to restrict who can see you:

  1. Click Settings in WhatsApp
  2. Click Account
  3. Click Privacy This takes you to a list:  Last Seen, Profile Photo etc.
  4. Against each item on the list you’ll see one out of these three settings: Everybody/My Contacts/Nobody
  5. Click the little arrow to the right of the setting and choose which of the three levels of privacy you prefer.

Remember that WhatsApp only recognises mobile numbers in international format e.g +44 7974 1****6, so you may need to change some of the numbers in your contacts to include the appropriate international code.

 

 

Scam alert – phone call from “the police”

An attempted phone scam has just been reported in the village. The caller claimed to be from Bristol CID and to have arrested someone with a large quantity of money on them.

These phone fraudsters are very persuasive, passing the call to their “inspector”, mentioning banks and credit cards and saying you have to act quickly. They then ask your help to catch the suspect’s accomplices – this involves you going to your bank and taking out a large amount of cash, which the “police” will then come and check for forged notes. They may also tell you not to talk to anyone about this or it could undermine their case.

The scammers may ask you to hang up, then call back to verify that they really are the police. When you hang up, they stay on the line then “answer” your new call. Therefore it’s important that you make any call to the police or to your bank to verify their story from a different phone line and use a number for the police or bank which you know is a genuine one.

Fortunately, our neighbour was very suspicious of this call, so hung up and reported it.

Remember:

  • it’s possible to ‘spoof’ phone numbers so it appears that scammers are calling from a genuine police number
  • don’t give details like your credit card number and PIN over the phone to anyone unless you are absolutely certain you know who they are

Fuller details can be found here: https://www.herts.police.uk/Information-and-services/Advice/Crime-prevention/Protect-your-money/Scam-police-and-bank-callers  

Fake Meter Reader ALERT

There are reliable reports of a fake meter reader recently active in Dinder and Westbury-sub-Mendip.

The man is calling on elderly people, persuading them to let him into the house, going into every room pretending not to know where the meter is.

The police have said this is the same man who struck in a house in Coxley two weeks ago with two 92-year-old sisters living together.

White British man, with local Somerset accent.
Average height average build.
White Transit-type van, with red letters on the side.

Please make sure all relatives of any age are informed in the Wells area.