Northern Ireland news

Scammers net £190,000 from unsuspecting members of the public, police reveal

PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls has warned people to be vigilant of scammers.

A VICTIM of an elaborate scam lost £64,000 after being duped into downloading an mobile phone app that gave thieves access to her bank account, the PSNI have said.

It has been revealed that almost £190,000 was scammed from six people in Northern Ireland in the last two months through a number of methods including dating websites and direct email contact.

In one incident a woman from Belfast was contacted by someone claiming to be from a telecoms provider. They claimed her account had been hacked and access was needed to her laptop to resolve the problem.

After approximately five hours on the phone with the scammer, during which two software programmes were downloaded, the victim found herself £10,000 out of pocket.

On the same day, a woman from Co Antrim was contacted by a person claiming to represent an online retailer.

The individual kept the woman on the phone for close to three hours and was able to cajole the victim into giving him her account details resulting in £10,000 being stolen.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls says people shouldn’t let their guard down when it comes to scams.

"Scammers operate all year round, which is why I can’t stress enough just how important it is to be vigilant at all times.

"Please, be aware of a phone call, or a dodgy email, where something just doesn't feel quite right. I would also urge people to have a conversation with loved ones about scams, especially if you know someone who is vulnerable".

In another incident a Co Tyrone man was contacted by someone pertaining to be a close friend via Facebook messenger. The person asked for the loan of £8,000 which he agreed to pay in total.

The victim later discovered his friend's account had been hacked and he had been scammed.

Separately a woman from Co Antrim lost £61,000 in an online romance scam. The victim began contact with the scammer via a dating website, and they continued to keep in touch to the point where she transferred him the funds.

Scammers are also contacting victims by email. One Co Down man was duped out of approximately £36,000 in an online scam after he was contacted by an individual via email in late October who said he would invest his money.

Chief Superintendent Walls said: "Scams come in all shapes and sizes, from mandate fraud to old fashioned telephone scams to classic romance scams, and they all have one thing in common. They are orchestrated and executed by people who will go to whatever lengths necessary to take people’s money.

“Scammers are callous, unscrupulous individuals who don’t care about the impact of their actions, which can be devastating and life changing.

"It’s devastating for them to realise that, not only have they been conned, but they have also lost their money."

The largest sum was scammed from a Co Antrim woman in January. She had been in touch with a person she believed represented a major online retailer.

She was persuaded to download an app that would keep money in another account safe, which she did multiple transactions were made resulting in a total loss of £64,000.

"Our message is simple," said Mr Walls.

“Never disclose your personal or banking details to anyone over the phone or online, no matter how convincing they may seem, and never allow an unauthorised person to have access to such details via your computer".

For further advice and information visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni or the ScamwiseNI Facebook page @scamwiseni.

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