Lancashire residents are being warned to be on their guard against fraudsters claiming to be able to recover cash spent on Payment Protection Insurance.
A number of reports have been made to Lancashire Constabulary over the past few weeks from people who have been conned out of money by cold callers contacting them by phone or email and claiming to work for financial recovery teams.
In one case, a man on the Fylde coast handed over several thousand pounds after being told he stood to get back PPI overpayments worth around £40,000.
Fraud evaluation and liaison officer Detective Constable Tony McClements says the whole issue of PPI recovery is extremely topical, a situation compounded by a recession where people are struggling to make ends meet.
“Near cast-iron guarantees are given by the fraudsters that they will recover your PPI payments subject to an advance fee payable by you," he notes. "In turn this leads to further payments before the victim realises they have been hoodwinked.”
Many of the fraudsters are actually operating from outside the country– using UK telephone numbers diverted to their true location and professional looking websites to appear legitimate – and this can make it difficult to find offenders and bring them to justice. It is also difficult to close sites down, particularly if they are hosted abroad, and they quickly reappear elsewhere.
DC McClements has some useful advice on how to protect yourself from this sort of 'phishing'-style crime.
“The best way to tackle this is to advise people on how they can avoid becoming a victim in the first place," he suggests. "Our advice is to never do business with a cold caller unless you have checked them out thoroughly.
“By typing the company name or telephone number into search engines you will often find other consumers highlighting potential fraudsters. Other danger signs include requests for payments via money service bureaus. I’d also ask that friends and relatives of those who may be vulnerable are alert to the problems so that they can warn their loved ones to this developing issue.”