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Category >Online Securities

Fake online reviews

National Trading Standards (NTS) are warning the public that criminals are using fake online reviews to sell poor quality goods and services.
It has become a common practice for a lot of people to seek reviews prior to making a purchase, but how do we know whether the reviews we read are genuine?
The following guidance is from NTS:
• Timing and spacing – check for multiple similar reviews that have been uploaded within a few minutes or hours.
• Check the reviewer’s activity – if an account has been activated recently or has only reviewed a narrow range of products/services, it could indicate suspicious activity.
• Vague language – legitimate reviews will often be personal and specific to the individual’s experience. A fake is more likely to be vague, using generic words and phrases such as ‘amazing’, ‘awesome’ and ‘buy this product’.
• Check contact details – if a reviewer is happy to be contacted with questions, and is responsive, it’s a good sign they’re legitimate.
• Use a browser plug-in – they use artificial intelligence to analyse reviews, identify suspicious activity and suggest better alternatives. Examples are Fakespot and ReviewMeta.
• Look beyond the star rating – whilst a star rating of 4.5 or 5 can be a good quality indicator, be sure to look at the reviews too.
For further information and advice visit Online shoppers buy 80 million ‘disappointing’ items based on rave reviews – National Trading Standards

Amazon Brushing Scam

The Norfolk Trading Standards is urging consumers to be wary of the Amazon ‘brushing’ scam, in which consumers receive products from Amazon that they did not order. Scammers use this method to make the transaction appear legitimate and avoid breaking Amazon’s rules and conditions for rating their own products. The scammers set up numerous fake accounts to buy their own products and then give themselves glowing reviews because the more reviews a product has, the more likely people are to buy the goods.

Victims are not charged for the items which suggests it is more profitable for the scammers to give away their products at the start as they will soon turn a profit thanks to their own (fake) reviews.  

But being involved in a brushing scam is not a good thing, despite the free goods that turn up at your door. It means that someone has gained access to your name, address and potentially other personal information. Depending on how they accessed your information they could hold a lot more of your personal information than you realise. 

People who receive packages they did not order should contact Amazon and change their online account passwords. Remember you can check whether your e-mail or telephone number have been subject to a data breach by visiting www.haveibeenpwned.com 

If a breach is revealed you should change your password for the account that has been breached. More advice about what to do and your consumer rights can be found in this article from Which? 

For advice about scams contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.

Phishing email saying that your National Insurance number has been disabled

This email says that “GOV. UK has disabled a number of National Insurance Number due to numerous fraudulent activity reports in the era of BREXIT.” 
The fraudsters have tried to name every UK government department they can think of here (from “hmrc.co. uk” to “Jobcentre GOV. UK Plus”), and have even included the GOV.UK logo for good measure.

They then go on to say “a large number of National Insurance Numbers has been a target of identity theft in this period” and “you are now required to reactivate your NIN” (by clicking on the link (in bright red just in case you miss it)). Pretending they are acting in your interests is a common tactic of scammers.

Besides the grammar being incorrect in this email, to my knowledge it isn’t usual to shorten National Insurance number to NIN. Also, emails from government organisations tend to end in .gov.uk, definitely not hamanasu.jp, as here.
Remember, you will never be required to “reactivate” your National Insurance number. You can forward phishing emails to report@phishing.gov.uk.

Royal Mail scam text messages

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Against Scams Partnership, are warning us all of a scam text message purporting to be from Royal Mail.

Royal Mail scam text messages

National campaign #SecureYourAccounts

A national campaign has been launched by Action Fraud and Cyber Aware, to encourage us all to secure our online accounts with a strong, unique password and to enable two-factor authentication. Some people continue to use the same password for more than one online account, yet in the physical world, they would not use the same key for their car and their house locks. Online accounts, especially email and social media, contain a lot of valuable information that could lead to identity theft or a financial loss in some form.

Over this week, I shall be sending out graphics like the one below; feel free to post on social media or forward this email to friends and family.

national campaign on online fraud

Clone firm investment scam

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a warning to the public as reports of ‘clone firm’ investment scams increased by 29%1 in April 2020 compared to March, when the UK went into its first lockdown. Action Fraud data reveals consumers reported losses of more than £78 million1 between January-December 2020. Throughout 2020, consumers reported average losses of £45,2421 each on average when investing with fraudsters imitating genuine investment firms. The data has been released as part of the FCA’s ScamSmart campaign, alongside advice to help investors avoid fake firms and protect their hard-earned cash.

The ongoing financial impact of Covid-19 may also make people more susceptible to these types of clone scams. 42%2 of investors say they are currently worried about their finances because of the pandemic. Over three quarters (77%)2 have or plan to invest within the next six months to improve their financial situation. 

However, the FCA highlights that even the most experienced investor could be at risk. Three quarters (75%)3 of investors said they felt confident they could spot a scam. However, 77%3 admitted they did not know or were unsure what a ‘clone investment firm’ was. 

Clone firms are fake firms set up by scammers using the name, address and ‘Firm Reference Number’ (FRN) of actual companies authorised by the FCA. Once set up, these fraudsters will then send sales materials linking to legitimate firms’ websites to dupe potential investors into thinking they are the real firm when they are not. 

The FCA is advising anyone considering an investment opportunity to check the Warning List of firms, which is updated daily, and not to deal with a firm not authorised by the FCA. The specific details, such as a telephone number and website address, can be verified on the FCA Register (register.fca.org.uk). The FCA also warns consumers to use the FCA Register’s phone number to contact an FCA authorised firm to be sure they are dealing with the genuine firm.

Even though two in five (38%)3 investors said they would check the company’s Firm Reference Number (FRN), checking this alone isn’t enough. Scammers will often copy FRN numbers and encourage victims to check the FCA Register to prove their legitimacy. 

Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight, FCA, said

“Clone investment scams can look real and sophisticated, but anyone can spot them by following our advice.” 

“Fraudsters use literature and websites that mirror those of legitimate firms, as well as encouraging investors to check the Firm Reference Number (FRN) on the FCA Register to sound as convincing as possible. Last year we issued alerts concerning over 1,100 firms, including clones, which has more than doubled since 2019, and we are working with the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) and National Cyber Security Centre to take down clone sites when they are discovered.”

“If you’re considering an investment, visit the FCA Register to make sure the firm you’re dealing with is authorised. Check our Warning List of firms you should avoid, use the contact details on our FCA Register, not the details the firm gives you, and check for subtle differences to avoid ‘clone firm’ scams. And if you’re still unsure, call our consumer helpline for further information. When it comes to clones, I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to double-check every detail.” 

Cambridgeshire Police is a partner of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Against Scams Partnership (CAPASP); for more information and resources, visit www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/against-scams

Courier Fraud – £10K Watch

What you are about to read has just been brought to the cybercrime department’s attention.

The victim of the crime receives a telephone call on their home phone. A male voice stated their name and was a fraud investigator for the Halifax. Later, the victim was called by someone referring to themselves as a Police Sergeant from the Scotland Yard Fraud Team to advise her that her bank card had been cloned and there had been a breach of security somewhere within a Cambridgeshire Halifax branch.

The victim was deceived into transferring money from their savings account to their current account and then purchasing a physical asset to protect her cash until the investigation concluded. They could then sell the asset and replace the funds into their account.

All the calls made to the victim were from a withheld number. The victim later made a payment of over £10k to purchase a single item, a watch.

On the same day of purchase, a caller at the door delivered the watch. A couple of hours later, another caller at the door collected the watch. The victim of this crime lost over £10K because they genuinely believed they were helping the police!

This is a textbook courier fraud that starts with a telephone call from the criminal pretending to be from the police or the bank or both. I appreciate that you may have heard me say this many times before. The police or the bank will never contact you to transfer money out of your accounts.

For more information about their work or if you would like to be a supporter, then visit https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/community-protection/against-scams-partnership.

Windows 10 OS update

On the 13th October 2020, Microsoft released a significant update to all users of Windows 10 OS. (CVE-2020-1047) (If you use Windows OS on a work computer, then updates may be managed by your ICT)

The update fixes 87 vulnerabilities with one having a Microsoft severity score of 9.8 out of 10 and has been described as dangerous. This bug can allow a criminal to take over any Windows operating system that has not been patched.

The second issue of note relates to Outlook in which the bug can be exploited by tricking the user into opening a specially crafted file with an affected version of the Microsoft Outlook software.

You may already have updates set to Automatic, but please check just in case the updates have not been applied.

To do this, click on the magnifying glass on the taskbar bottom left of your screen, then in the search bar start typing ‘windows update’, and you will then see Windows Update Settings appear, click on this and follow the instructions.

Male claiming to be from MI5 and Cambridgeshire Police

A slightly unusual attempted scam telephone call to tell you about, this time the caller claimed to be from the UK’s Security Service MI5.
Interestingly, the intended victim later checked the telephone number displayed on their caller ID with the MI5 website, and the number matched.

The male caller then claimed he was in fact a Police Officer in Peterborough but was working with the MI5 agency. 

The conversation is not clear from this point but it appears that the caller tried to get the recipient to go to their bank and withdraw some money and made reference to a National Insurance number, the caller then said that if they could not get to the bank then an alternative payment would be gift vouchers. 

I have checked the MI5 website and there are only two contact numbers listed, 999 for an emergency and 0800 789 321 which is for the Anti-Terrorist Hotline. The following is a screenshot from the MI5 website, and suggests MI5 are well aware that their organisation is being used in similar scams:

Please note: If you receive a call from M15, it will not come from any the numbers listed below. Please treat any calls received from these numbers with caution. and do not divulge any personal information or banking details.

So, please remember, do not trust the number displayed on your caller ID because it can be spoofed/made to look genuine. Treat the number displayed with caution until such time you can be confident the caller is genuine, and that is not easy if you don’t recognise the voice because if you can’t, they could be anyone.

Any request for gift vouchers as a payment method suggests the call is a scam.

Any non-urgent questions or concerns relating to fraud and cyber crime please contact me.

Kind regards,

Mr Nigel Sutton 8517
Cyber Protect Officer
Serious & Organised Crime (Intelligence and Specialist Crime Department)
Ext: 01480 422773
Cambridgeshire Constabulary
Hinchingbrooke Park,
Huntingdon, PE29 6NP

Working together to deliver an inclusive and professional policing service with: Fairness, Integrity, Diligence and Impartiality.

Compromised Facebook Accounts

Compromised Facebook accounts used to lure victims into PayPal scam

Attached here is an important scam alert from the City of London Police, National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.

Should the content of the document raise any questions or issues, then please contact Mr Nigel Sutton 8517, Cyber Protect Officer.

Please consider forwarding to family and friends and any appropriate community group.