Watch out for fake police scams
Scammers are claiming to be a police officer investigating fraud in this phone scam.
The caller advises that your money could be at risk and offers a solution of moving the funds into an account where it will be safe.
But they’re not really a police officer or fraud investigator – they’re just going to steal your money.
WA Police Major Fraud Squad will NEVER call you to ask you to transfer money from your bank into a “safe keeping” account during a fraud investigation.
“Sergeant William Connor from WA Fraud” is one bogus identity used by phone scammers. Consumer Protection has confirmed with WA Police that this is NOT someone who works for them, in either the Major Fraud Squad or wider State police service.
This police / fraud investigator scam is also targeting people in the UK, where a gang has been jailed, reports the BBC.
Scammers often pretend to be from the police, tax office or affiliated with the government in some way. By posing as a person in a position of authority they aim to gain our trust and are safe in the knowledge law abiding citizens will generally comply with their demands.
However, just because someone at the end of the phone claims to be a fraud investigator, tax office debt collector or lawyer does not mean they truly are.
The last thing the scammers want you to do is STOP and THINK but it is exactly what we want you to do. Take the person’s name and number and advise them you will call back to give yourself some time to assess the phone call.
You cannot then rely on the contact details the caller (potential scammer) gives you.
Instead you need to find the organisation’s phone number independently, for example in a phone book, by phoning directory assistance or on their known website.
When you next pick up the phone you need to ensure you hear the dial tone and the previous call is no longer active or alternatively use another phone to the one you were just called on.
Commonly scammers simply stay on the line and if they know you are trying to call your bank, they will pretend to be the bank, to try to obtain your secure financial information, such as your account number and BSB.
WA ScamNet has reported on scams like this before. In March 2015 an increase in the number of scammers posing as WA police officers was reported.
The scammers were phoning people’s homes, pretending to be police officers and telling a variety of lies to try to trick the householders into parting with their money.
The scammers masqueraded as police claiming they have recovered stolen property or money belonging to the people they are phoning which cannot be returned unless the householder’s identity is proved and fees and taxes are paid.
In February 2017, the scammer is purporting to be DC Rogers with the identification number of EGK 406 from Balmain Police station in NSW. The caller states the consumer has been caught up in a scam and to contact their bank asap. The message asks the consumer to call their banks but only via their landline, not via email or via mobile. The real Balmain police station has received many calls from WA consumers asking for verification of the officer and the call.
Whenever you receive an out-of-the-blue phone call and the caller says they are from the police or any other government agency, official organisation or reputable company, don’t trust they are who they say they are.
If a cold caller requests personal or financial details, or payment of any kind, bring the conversation to an end by getting a name and number and advising you’ll be checking with the organisation and never hand over secure information or commit to anything.
Next follow these steps to check whether the call was authentic:
- Independently source the number for the police, government department or company which supposedly called you, using contact details from the phone book, directory assistance, their official website or your last written correspondence from them. DON’T use contact details provided by the caller because if it’s a scam you are simply calling the scammers chosen number so they can answer how they choose e.g. “Hello Banking Fraud Department” etc.
- Check you can hear a dial tone / so the previous call is no longer active before you make your next call. If you can, use an alternative phone to the one you were called on.
- Call the organisation directly to ask if the call was genuine.
Phone scam prevention tips:
- NEVER confirm or provide personal details, credit card numbers or bank account information over the phone unless you initiated the call and can verify the purpose for which you are providing the information.
- DO NOT pay up-front fees to receive money in return (ask for it be deducted from what you are owed instead) and know Australian government agencies and official organisations do not accept payment by wire transfer, electronic vouchers, Bitcoin or gift cards.
- SAY NO and hang up if a cold caller wants remote access to your computer or device, even if they claim to be from a reputable IT or telecommunications company like Microsoft or Telstra. Scammers often claim to be technical support officers who can help with things like a virus or upgrading software. As a result we have seen bank accounts raided.
Remember, you can still receive scam calls even if you have a private number or have your number listed on the Do Not Call register. Scammers can obtain your number from black-market sources or may reach you through automated, random number generation systems.
Think about changing your voicemail message recording so it doesn't include your name, or repeat your phone number, within it. Snippets of personal information like that can be valuable to a scammer who called you without knowing who they were approaching.