Police launch online fraud campaign in run up to Christmas

Through December, West Mercia Police and the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner, are highlighting the types of fraud that are most likely to put the public at risk in the run up to Christmas.

Fraudsters are impersonating internet providers to gain access to computers
Fraudsters are impersonating internet providers to gain access to computers

The ’12 Days of Fraud’ will cover a range of topics from romance fraud to shopping fraud and will underline the key ways to keep safe.

Detective Chief Inspector Tony Garner, from West Mercia Police’s Cyber Crime Unit, said: “These organised crime gangs who are targeting our communities with fraud need to know that we are wise to them and are actively investigating them.

“By alerting the public to the dangers and risks of not challenging some of these types of fraud we can collectively push back on those who are looking to exploit those who are vulnerable to such scams.

“For example, Romance Fraud, while to many of us seeming to be an obvious and fairly transparent crime, is bitterly painful for those who fall foul of it.

“In September, we recorded twelve victims in West Mercia who were conned by people who tricked the victims into thinking they in a relationship. Suspects invest significant amounts of time into socially engineering their victims – knowing that as they gain the victim’s trust, their chances of extracting considerable funds from them simultaneously increase.

“Fraudsters do not initially ask the victims for money; instead, they spend time communicating with them online and building trust. By the time they ask for large sums of money, the reasons for requiring financial assistance have greater plausibility. This is known as the ‘grooming period’.

“Typically, the longer the period between the date of first contact and the date of the first financial transfer, the higher the amount of money handed over.

“Our investigations have shown that a high proportion of victims are lonely, widowed or recently bereaved, have suffered from a recent break up and/or suffering from depression.

“The financial losses are high and victims can often be in denial, making self-reporting low and repeat victimisation likely.

Online Shopping Fraud saw more than 90 people fall foul of scams in September. While it is hard to spot sometimes, there are some simple steps police said to protect ourselves:

Choosing where you shop - carry out some research first, and ask a friend or family member for advice before completing the purchase.

Keep your devices up to date and install the latest software and app updates which contain security updates.

Secure your email account and take care with links in emails and texts.

Turn on two-factor authentication and use a password manager.

Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion, said: “Cyber crime costs the UK economy £190billion each year but the impact on communities is more than financial – it can have a long lasting emotional impact. I am committed to ensuring the police have the resources to tackle the growing threat of cyber crime, and that the support is there for victims. Awareness and education is key, and I encourage the public to follow the advice to keep themselves safe this Christmas and beyond.”

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