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The online fraudsters targetting those facing redundancy

Following the extension of the Government’s furlough scheme, we are running a series of guest blogs looking into the issues this may cause Dorset residents. Here, Dorset Police cyber protect officer Chris Conroy gives advice on avoiding the online criminals who prey on people facing redundancy.

The next few months are likely to be a stressful and financially precarious time for many people.

If you’ve been made redundant, or if you’re struggling to make ends meet, you might start looking for another income.

Whilst there are legitimate opportunities out there, it’s important to remember fraudsters are not above exploiting people in need and, to be blunt, we fully expect to see an increase in reported scams targeting people affected by the end of furlough.

cyber crime

If I tried to detail every scam out there, we’d be here forever. Instead, I want to focus on two.

Recruitment fraud

Many of us may turn to the internet in the hope of finding work. Recruitment sites make is easier than ever to upload CVs and apply for jobs with just a few clicks. Unfortunately, they can also make it easy for criminals to identify potential victims, particularly when people give away more information than necessary.

In recent months, Action Fraud have received numerous reports of people being approached with job offers. These come in the form of a cold call, from someone claiming to work for a mobile network, offering employment as a mystery shopper.

The recruitment process is simple – head to a store and take out a contract, take the handset and sim card to a drop off location and hand it over to a colleague of the original caller. The contract will be cancelled and the recruitment process is complete.

Things don’t go quite as expected. Neither the caller nor ‘colleague’ is legitimate, and the contract is never cancelled. The phone is used to facilitate further offences before being disposed of. Not only are these crimes committed using a device that comes back to the victim, that victim is liable for the full price of the contract.

The average loss currently sits at around £1,450 – £60 a month which, putting it lightly, is far from ideal when you might already be struggling to pay the bills. So, how can we avoid falling victim?

  • Be careful what you post online – If you’re putting a CV online, think about what needs to be on there. This example relies on people including phone numbers. Most recruitment sites have built-in messaging functions that prospective employers can use to make contact, so that number isn’t required. Some victims have also seen their details used to take out loans, so think twice before including addresses, dates of birth, or national insurance details.
  • Verify everything – It’s unlikely a major company would recruit by cold call. If you receive a call like this and you’re not sure, there are checks you can carry out. Find a trustworthy phone number on the company’s website, or make contact through a verified social media platform.

There are many much simpler scams out there. Most of us are wary of ‘get rich quick’ schemes, but one in particular has gotten a lot of traction recently, targeting victims through social media.

Money muling

Criminals have begun approaching people on platforms like Snapchat or Instagram with a straightforward proposition – lend them your bank account and they’ll reward you.

If you hand over your details, the criminals claim they’ll transfer a significant sum of money into your bank account. In return, they promise you a cut. More often than not, the money comes into the account, and is then withdrawn in full. The criminals successfully launder their money, and the victim is left nothing.

Now, the victim isn’t technically out of pocket – they’re just disappointed. They’ve also committed a crime carrying a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. This, of course, assumes the victim knew what they were doing. If they demonstrably had no knowledge, it’s unlikely to be considered a crime, but their bank could freeze the account while they investigate.

This has previously been a huge problem and in the coming months, there may well be many more people looking for easy ways to bridge the financial gap. So, how can we avoid falling for it?

Too good to be true

No need for bullet points this time. It comes down to the golden rule – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

These scams are just the tip of the iceberg. However, you can find plenty of advice about staying safe online at www.ncsc.gov.uk/cyberaware.

There’s also a wealth of information available at www.actionfraud.police.uk and www.takefive-stopfraud.org.uk.

We don’t know what’s coming in the next few months – no one does. What we can say is there will always be someone out there trying to capitalise on this situation, so please look out for yourself and others.

I’d usually sign off with those resources above, but there is a much more important message to get across here. No matter what happens, there is support available. If you fall victim to a scam, we’re here. If you’ve got money problems, there’s help available. If you’re struggling with your mental health, there is always someone you can speak to. You don’t need to suffer in silence.

Until next time, stay safe out there.

Chris

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