Officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland have foiled an attempt by a scammer to swindle a County Down woman out of almost £107,000.
The fraudster struck when the woman, aged in her seventies, was searching online for investment opportunities. She found a website purportedly of a company she had heard of before and knew to be reputable.
The woman gave details to this company online but, unbeknown to her, she was actually giving her details to a fraudulent company set up by the fraudster to make it look as if it was the genuine company. She subsequently received correspondence from a male from this rogue company and, believing this to be a legitimate investment opportunity she electronically transferred close to £107,000 to an account.
It was only when she queried the fraudster asking about the conditions of the investment that her suspicions were aroused. She called the legitimate website office and asked to speak with the man whom she had been liaising with and it was then she was told by the legitimate company that they did not have any such person who worked for them. The woman realised she had sent the money to a bogus company. She immediately reported the fraud to police on Tuesday 29th October.
Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said: "An officer attended the victim’s house and, getting further details immediately, contacted colleagues in our Economic Crime Unit who, as trained financial investigators, were able to contact the relevant financial institution and instruct them to stop the transfer of funds. Had the funds been transferred, there is the possibility the money may not have been recouped.
"This is a massive relief for this woman who had wanted to use her hard earned savings for her future but, thankfully, it appears we have thwarted an attempt by a scammer to get away with what is a huge amount of money.
"I want to thank the woman for having the courage to tell us about what happened to her, as often people who are targeted in scams are embarrassed to come forward, however, this is an example of why it is so important to tell police and to tell us quickly.
"Unfortunately, this shows there are still unscrupulous individuals who often look legitimate, and operate increasingly sophisticated scams, who get up every day and set out to con people out of their money.
"I want to take this opportunity to appeal to people to be vigilant. Fraudsters know all the tricks and you can never be too cautious.”
Chief Superintendent Walls added: "Scammers have no regard whatsoever for the impact of their actions, which can be devastating.
“Our message is simple. 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.
“If you have any concerns about unsolicited calls, emails or letters, then please report it to Action Fraud via their website www.actionfraud.police.uk or by phoning 0300 123 2040. You can also call police on the non-emergency number 101.”
For further advice and information visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni or the ScamwiseNI Facebook page @scamwiseni