Barely a day goes by that we don’t get emails inviting us to buy some form of medication, or invest in a get rich quick scheme or to buy a miracle cure. I have been lucky enough to win foreign lotteries I’d never even entered (although I’m still waiting for the enormous cardboard cheque and a celebrity on my doorstep making the presentation) and am a Prince in a far flung previously before unheard of state where if only I send an initial admin fee of £200, I could inherit a Kingdom.
The most recent scam which has raised its ugly head once again is that claiming to be from a friend who is in distress overseas. They’ve been mugged, or had their bags stolen, or met with a medical emergency. Whatever the reason, the request is for you to send some money to help them out. The recent one asks for around £1200, so my friends may have been very disappointed anyway!
The email goes on to ask you to reply and you will be presented with details of a Western Union transfer account into which you can pay your hard earned cash. Of course, with this type of account, it is easy money and someone can walk into a Western Union office anywhere in the world and make the cash withdrawal that you have kindly just sent, and with no chance of ever getting your money back once the scam is discovered.
To show how brazen these crooks have become, I had one of these e-mails to my work Police email account. I replied to the person to say that they had been hacked. I then got another e-mail saying, ‘No, it really is me. I had to rush off to the Philippines unannounced’, despite clearly interacting with the Police.
One of the clues is that the email is rarely in particularly good English. The spelling may be good, but the grammar and the order of the words in the sentence may be awry. Of course, if your Grandma was born and bred in Hampshire and has never been further than Aldershot in her whole life, it is unlikely that she will start writing e-mails in a foreign accent. It is also unlikely that she’d feel the need to jet off to the Far East without mentioning it either!
At this time of year, there are many students who are embarking on a gap year and taking the opportunity to see some sights. It can be very difficult if you do have loved ones travelling the world and being sure that they are safe. Perhaps arrange a password that they can put into their email if they are asking for a withdrawal from the bank of mum and dad so you know it really is them making the request.
Do be very wary if you’re ever asked for cash, or to buy something, in an unsolicited e-mail. None of us likes to think of our family or friends in distress and in need of help, but perhaps try ringing or texting them before you part with any money.
If you’ve information about any crime, please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111. Your call is free, no one will know you called and you may earn a cash reward. You can also give information anonymously online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org If you are on Twitter, please follow me @hantscrimestopp
PC Simon Wright
Force Crimestoppers Co-ordinator