We may know to avoid emails from Nigerian Princes and long-lost cousins clamouring to bequeath us an unexpected inheritance but how do we cope in an age of increasing sophistication when it comes to scams, online and otherwise? Niamh Davenport from Fraudsmart spoke with Richard Curran on the Today programme to discuss some of the newer scams listeners should keep an eye out for. Jenn McGuirk, an Irish actor living in Los Angeles who recently fell victim to one of these scams, joined them on the phone.
Jenn moved to California a year ago and soon after getting an American phone number, started receiving phone calls and texts promising great deals on credit cards, referencing doctor appointments she had never made and generally being a mild nuisance.
“I was kind of aware, you know, things are a little bit different over here with the amount of random scams that happen.”
One of these texts, a message about an open casting call for models and actors, caught Jenn’s attention. She responded and was soon communicating by email about a shoot. Everything seemed legitimate, Jenn told Richard. They didn’t ask for her bank details or Social Security Number, just the expected information like a headshot and CV and costume measurements.
“Time ticked on”, Jenn said and closer to the shoot the man she had been in contact with by phone and email told her that on top of her payment for the role, she would be sent a little extra money in her cheque that she needed to forward to a designer on set. This seemed unusual to Jenn.
“I thought maybe $300 extra…I received a cheque that morning and an urgent email saying, ‘You have to get this money into your account so that the funds are available for use for the people on the ground’. And that cheque was for $4,820. And I went, ‘Uh-oh. What is this?'”
It transpired that Jenn very narrowly avoided having her savings spirited away.
“They wanted me to put that cheque into my account, to give it 24 hours and then forward that money onto that imaginary fashion designer. And that’s when they would have my bank details and clear whatever was left of my account.”
This is an example of quite an elaborate scam. Niamh Davenport from Fraudsmart told Richard that nowadays, scammers are putting a lot more time and effort into their scams than their predecessors would have, in order to build trust. An example of that time and effort is a scam affecting a lot of Irish businesses at the moment, the “invoice scam”. A business will receive an email from one of their product suppliers, informing them of a change in bank details for future payments.
“You see the email come in. You update your banking system or wherever you keep your records for payments. What happens is, the next invoice comes in, legitimate invoice and you go and pay the invoice. It’s not until you get a reminder from your supplier or something like that that you realise what’s happened and you’ve actually paid into the fraudster’s account.”
Niamh explained that the scammers in this scenario infiltrate the supplier’s genuine email address, find out who their clients are and observe the tone of the emails they usually send in order to mimic the supplier accurately. As well as the old stalwarts of ensuring your anti-virus software is up-to-date and having backups in place to protect your data, Niamh told Richard that the main takeaway is to “stop and think” when confronted with an issue like this.
“You really have to be on your guard with this.”
Other current scams that may affect listeners include missed calls on your phone from foreign numbers. Niamh’s advice on this one is straight to the point.
“Do not call a number back unless you know who is calling you. There’s callback and you’ll get the charges for it.“
Niamh stressed that while the execution of these scams has gotten more sophisticated, the methods of carrying them out has not. These scams are still being carried out over phone and email. She advised that if you get an email from a contractor or your employer asking you to do something out of the ordinary, pick up the phone and get them to confirm the details.
“They might think you’re being too cautious. But I think, in these cases, you can never be too cautious.”
Listen to the full discussion on Today with Sean O’Rourke here.
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