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Knowledge is the best defence in the battle against scammers

By Alan Beresford

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LIKE the rest of the UK, the north-east has seen an increase in frauds and scams, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, as criminals turn their attention online and to ever more sophisticated techniques to trick you into parting with your money, writes crime reduction officer PC Mike Urquhart.

PC Mike Urquhart.
PC Mike Urquhart.

The north-east is a traditionally affluent area and when scams occur in our region, the most common victims are middle-aged people with disposable incomes, looking for investment opportunities.

Frauds work because on the outside they look and feel convincing and the perpetrators act and appear trustworthy. They could have the appearance of legitimate names, branding, paperwork, websites – anything you may expect to see from a genuine company, but they’re fakes. They may also try and convince you they are ‘experts’ or have regulatory supervision, when they do not.

Criminals may also claim to have lots of investors, just like you, who have chosen to take advantage of their great fund, scheme or bond. It may have published above average returns or promise to significantly increase your profits with low or very little risk. They may target you and other people in similar groups or communities.

False advertising can appear on any newsfeed, search engine advertising, comparison sites (fake or genuine) and social or business media platforms. Criminals often use fake endorsements by celebrities or famous businesspeople.

Fake websites can look professional and convincing, using official branding and logos from genuine companies. They are easy to produce and can be securely designed to prevent people finding out who really owns them.

Mobile numbers and landlines can be made to appear as any number the criminal wants them to, including legitimate numbers for companies.

Criminals sometimes avoid video conferencing where conversations can be recorded and people seen.

Professional looking paperwork is available and also sent to you with in depth detail. Access to investment portals could be provided so that you can monitor and manage the increases in your initial investment and, in many cases, an initial return on your investment is paid into your bank account. However, this is only in order to convince you to invest more.

They will often encourage you to invest quickly as the offer may be time limited in some way.

Criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations or even the police. They spend hours researching you for their scams, hoping you’ll let your guard down for just a moment. Stop and think. It could protect you and your money.

Don't let fraudsters get their hands on your hard-earned savings.
Don't let fraudsters get their hands on your hard-earned savings.

Please remember, the best defence is knowledge. Once you know someone is trying to con you, the con will fail.

However, even if we’re suspicious, we’re often bad at saying ‘no’ to people. So, if you’re uncertain, you can always try these alternatives: "I can’t make that decision without authorisation. Let me get back to you"; "I will not make any decisions without speaking to someone first".

Don’t be afraid to simply say no to someone.

If they’re a genuine professional, they won’t mind you taking the extra time to verify their identity or offer of investment. If they become pushy or insistent, then odds are fairly high that it’s some form of scam.

You can get more advice at https://takefive-stopfraud. org.uk/advice/general-advice/investment-scam/

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