TRADING Standards have raised the alarm following reports of residents losing money after using copycat websites to apply for or renew their driving licences.
These websites sometimes appear above official Government websites in web searches and typically charge more to apply for or renew official documents such as passports and driving licences.
They may even charge for documents that can be obtained free of charge!
The messages are sent from the hacked accounts of friends, so they look as if they’re coming from someone they know, or from an unknown number claiming to be a friend who has lost their phone or been ‘locked out’ of their account.
Typically the messages have been asking for money for Christmas gifts while others have asked for photographs and other personal or financial information.
Officers ask people to be wary of any WhatsApp message that seems unusual, even if it appears to have been sent by someone people know and avoid divulging personal or financial information or sharing photos and watch out for links in the messages.
Another scam is inviting people to invest in bogus cryptocurrencies.
In some cases people have been tricked into buying cryptocurrencies that don’t actually exist.
For more information on crypto assets and cryptocurrency scams, visit: https://www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart/cryptoasset-investment-scams
Trading Standards are also asking people to be wary of some ‘you’ve won a prize’ scams which have migrated from letters through the door to social media.
Officers also say criminals are ‘buying’ items on social media marketplaces and agreeing to pay by bank transfer.
The seller sends the item off, but payment is not received.
Instead the scammers send bogus emails purporting to come from their bank. These state that payment cannot be made because the seller’s account is not a business account and therefore such a small amount of money (payment for the goods) cannot be paid in.
To get around this, the buyer (the criminals) suggest they pay the seller a larger amount of money (more than the cost of the item) and the seller refunds them the difference.
However, in reality any payment made to the seller will eventually be discovered to be fraudulent and be reversed, but in the meantime the seller has sent some of their own money to the buyer (the scammer). This they may never see again.
As a result the seller could end up not receiving any payment for the item they sold and losing extra money on top and the item itself.
If people intend to travel abroad to visit the UK Government’s official website for advice: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-abroad-from-england-during-coronavirus-covid-19