Police warn of telephone and online scams increase in Dorset

07 June 2016
Dorset Police is alerting local residents about the latest phone and online scams, after seeing a large increase in the number of reports compared to previous years.

The two most common companies criminals are pretending to be from are currently Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Talk Talk.

Over the last couple of years, fraudsters have pretended to be police officers and bank workers when they’ve called their victims, but the latest phone scam involves criminals pretending to be from HMRC.

Fraudsters are cold calling members of the public to tell them that they owe HMRC a sum of money or that HMRC owe them a refund.

Criminals then obtain bank details and personal information from their unsuspecting victims and commit fraudulent activity on their bank accounts.

Some individuals have received an answerphone message and are advised to call 01202 281260 and 01202 834780, but these numbers are not connected with the real HMRC.

Dorset Police received 71 reports linked to HMRC scams between 1 and 31 May 2016, compared to one report in the same period in 2015 and three reports throughout May in 2014.

The vast majority of people who have been contacted have not suffered any financial loss.

Detective Sergeant Andrew Kennard of the Economic Crime Unit, said: “Fraudsters will scam anyone - regardless of someone's age, background or where they live.

“Criminals contact their victims by telephone, mail, over the internet, social media, email and on people’s doorsteps. They are always thinking of new ways to steal money from people, particularly the elderly.

“Remember - never give out bank details or bank cards in person, email, in the mail or over the phone - no matter where people say they are from and don’t let anyone into your property if you don't know them.”

Dorset Police has also received an increase in the number of reports for online scams – most recently about criminals pretending to be from telecoms company Talk Talk.

These types of scams aren’t just happening in Dorset: Action Fraud is reporting that these kinds of phone scams happen across the UK, and similar methods have been used to trick people in the United States of America.

Detective Sergeant Tim Farrell from Dorset Police’s Cybercrime Unit, said: “Talk Talk appears to have had its name used increasingly in scam calls to members of the public, not only in Dorset, but nationwide in recent weeks.

“Dorset Police is experiencing a spike in the number of reports for this particular type of criminality. We have received 86 reports of Talk Talk scams since 01 January 2016, with just over a third of those [28] being committed in May. 

“It is possible that criminals may have acquired access to many people’s personal data, possibly from the internet.

“Having access to private information allows the offender(s) to manipulate the victim by appearing to know some of their basic details - convincing them that they are genuinely from the company they claim to represent.

“This can then lead to the victim allowing themselves to be directed to a webpage or link that allows the criminal to watch their online activity remotely and often leads to the gathering of bank details and in due course loss of money from the accounts.

“We’d like people to continue reporting it so that we can build an intelligence picture and catch those responsible for causing misery to thousands of people."

The Microsoft brand name is also used in a similar way in this type of scam call.

A 70-year-old man from Wimborne was recently targeted by fraudsters who pretended to be from Talk Talk. He lost approximately £6,000. Police are still investigating this crime.

Sergeant Farrell continued: “If anyone calls you unexpectedly and asks you to do something on your computer, please hang up and contact the company yourself to verify the call.

“Dorset is a safe place to live overall, but the offenders who commit cyber-crime know no boundaries. They may be sat in another county, country or continent, but they commit crimes in our communities.

“Cyber-crime often affects the most vulnerable in our society, so please consider your neighbours, friends or elderly relatives who may be at risk and advise them accordingly.

“Many of the telecom providers offer services that prevent unrecognised numbers getting through and just this simple step can often be enough to deter these heartless individuals.”

To prevent unwanted calls, mail and emails, register for free with the following services:
• Mail Preference Service – call 08457 034 599
• Telephone Preference Service – call 08450 700 707
• Fax Preference Service – call 08450 700 702
• Email preferences – visit www.dmachoice.org

If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, of any description, contact Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or visit their website, www.actionfraud.police.uk.

If a crime is in a progress, call the police on the emergency number, 999.

For online safety and security advice, please visit https://www.getsafeonline.org/.

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