Scammers have swindled close to £190,000 out of six Northern Ireland residents in recent months.
Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Superintendent Simon Walls says people shouldn’t let their guard down when it comes to scams, at any time of year.
Speaking after six reports of losses of approximately £190,000, between 18th November 2019 and 16th December 2019, Chief Superintendent Walls said: “This is really distressing for each of the victims. They’ve each lost serious amounts of money – ranging from £8,000 to £64,000 – which will have a significant impact.
“Scammers have one aim – to take people’s money – and they don’t care if it’s Christmas, New Year or summer time. Scammers operate all year round, which is why I can’t stress enough just how important it is to be vigilant at all times.
“Please, be aware of a phone call, or a dodgy email, where something just doesn’t feel quite right. Stay on your guard, every day, and do not let yourself be scammed. I would also urge people to have a conversation with loved ones about scams, especially if you know someone who is vulnerable.”
The first report to police was made on Wednesday, 18th December. A woman from Belfast had been contacted in the morning by someone claiming to be from a telecoms provider who said her account had been hacked and access was needed to her laptop to resolve the problem. As a recently signed up customer, the victim didn’t think this was unusual. After approximately five hours on the phone with the scammer, during which two software programmes were downloaded, the victim found herself £10,000 out of pocket thanks to the fraudster. Attempts had also been made to take money from other accounts but, thankfully, those transactions were stopped before any more money was lost.
In another report made on the same day, a woman from County Antrim reported she had been contacted by a person claiming to represent a global online retailer. The individual kept the woman on the phone for close to three hours. Consequently, the scammer was able to cajole the woman into giving him her account details which led him to take £10,000 from her account.
Unfortunately, we received a third report of alleged fraud on 18th December where money was swindled from a person in County Tyrone. In this case, reported to us yesterday evening, a man was contacted by someone pertaining to be a close friend via Facebook messenger. The person masquerading as his friend asked for the loan of money, which he agreed to – £8,000 in total. The victim subsequently discovered his friend’s account had been hacked and he had been scammed.
In a fourth report made to us, again on 18th December, a woman from County Antrim lost £61,000 in an online romance scam. The victim began contact with the scammer via a dating website, and they continued to keep in touch to the point where she transferred him the funds.
On Thursday, 19th December, a report was made to us that a man from County Down had been duped out of approximately £36,000 in an online scam after he was contacted by an individual via email in late October who said he would invest his money. The victim took the scammer at his word and allowed him contact to his computer, and subsequently his bank details.
The sixth report was made to us on 16th January and involved a woman from the County Antrim area. She had been in touch with a person on 17th November whom she believed represented a major online retailer. She was subsequently transferred her to another person claiming to a UK wide law enforcement agency. She was persuaded to download an app that would keep money in another account safe, which she did. Unfortunately, for the woman, multiple transactions were made resulting in a total loss of £64,000.
Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said: “Scams come in all shapes and sizes, from mandate fraud to old fashioned telephone scams to classic romance scams, and they all have one thing in common. They are orchestrated and executed by people who will go to whatever lengths necessary to take people’s money.
“Scammers are callous, unscrupulous individuals who don’t care about the impact of their actions, which can be devastating and life changing.
“In each of these scams, the victims genuinely believed what they doing was for real, and the people who they were dealing with were genuine. It’s devastating for them to realise that, not only have they been conned, but they have also lost their money.
“Our message is simple.
“Never disclose your personal or banking details to anyone over the phone or online, no matter how convincing they may seem, and never allow an unauthorised person to have access to such details via your computer.
“If you have any concerns about unsolicited calls, emails or letters then please report it to Action Fraud via their website www.actionfraud.police.uk or by phoning 0300 123 2040. You can also call police on the non-emergency number 101.”
For further advice and information visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni or the ScamwiseNI Facebook page @scamwiseni