Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Electronic Money Voucher "cold call" scam hits Lancashire

Residents who purchase electronic money vouchers are being warned about cold caller fraudsters intent on taking their cash.

Lancashire Constabulary and Trading Standards have received a number of reports of residents receiving unsolicited phone calls, where the caller offers the victim a lump sum of money. On occasion this has been an offer of a loan or informing the victim that they have come into some cash through a competition or inheritance. The caller then asks the victim to go to a shop and purchase an electronic money voucher, such as Ukash or Money Gram (both of which are legitimate schemes) in order to prove they can make loan repayments or to fund various taxes before they can be given their windfall.

Electronic money vouchers are widely by those who do not have, or want to use, bank or credit cards, but who wish to make purchases on-line. The victim is asked for the last 10 numbers on the voucher – this is the information that the fraudster needs to use the electronic money voucher for their own gain.

If the resident does not initially realise they have been scammed, the caller may make more phone calls and ask for more voucher codes – meaning the victim loses even more cash.

The scam has been carried out across the county, with a number of offences taking place in the Wyre and Blackpool area.

"The phone calls tend to originate from abroad, making it difficult to trace the offender," notes PC Carol White from Wyre police. "It is therefore important that we try to prevent these offences from taking place in the first place – one victim has lost over £500 from the scam.

"The offer being given by the cold caller differs from phone call to phone call, but the fact that they ask for the last 10 digits of an electronic money voucher is a recurring feature of this type of crime. In fact most electronic voucher companies advise you not to give out any part of the voucher code over the phone and to only use approved websites to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

"Genuine organisations would never cold call, request an upfront fee or ask for personal or financial details over the phone. Any that do should start alarm bells ringing.”

• Anyone wishing to report becoming a victim of such a scam should contact Trading Standards in the first instance on 08454 04 05 06.

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