New year, new tricks: scams to steer clear of

New year, new tricks: scams to steer clear of

January 17, 2014 – 1:19PM

The new year has brought fresh warnings for consumers to be on the lookout for fraudsters who are trying various ways to separate us from our money. Many scams are old tricks – but updated with new twists or technology. Other cons have emerged in response to better detection and policing. Financial Fraud Action UK says fraudsters are targeting consumers directly through “deception” crimes – where they try to dupe people into parting with information – because the security features on payment cards have improved. The frauds listed here have been recorded in the UK – but criminals are ingenious and creative, so don’t think they won’t try them in Australia. Read on – and beware.Vishing

Vishing, also known as the “courier” scam or the “no hang up” scam, is a new type of fraud. A swindler calls a consumer pretending to be either their bank or the police, and says the consumer’s card has been compromised or there is a problem with their account. They then advise the victim to call the bank, but stay on the line and pretend to be a bank representative, persuading the victim to transfer funds, withdraw money or reveal security information.

With the “courier” version, a fraudster picks up the card from your home, sometimes providing a fake replacement, or a genuine courier is hired. Britain’s Financial Ombudsman says this is a growing problem. “Our guidance would be, never hand over your card details to anyone – your bank will never ask for them,” said a spokesman. “If you are contacted by your bank informing you that you have been the victim of fraud, hang up the phone and call the bank yourself, from another line if at all possible.”


Graphene is a man-made material similar to carbon that is being developed for use in products such as electrical circuits, batteries and display screens – but it is unlikely to be used commercially until 2020. Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority has warned that consumers are being targeted by “dubious” companies offering investment opportunities in the material. “We believe that the same firms that have sold other high-risk, dubious products such as carbon credits, rare earth metals and overseas land and crops, are now trying to sell graphene,” the FCA said. “There is a strong possibility of fraud with graphene because it is unregulated and it is difficult to confirm that you have bought the genuine product.”

PBX phone fraud

Private branch exchanges are telephone systems used by businesses to communicate internally and externally. When businesses are closed or have limited staff cover, they are particularly susceptible to fraudsters, who target the systems to make international or premium-rate calls. They can also listen to company phone calls and steal or delete company data. Britain’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has received reports totalling more than £6 million ($11 million) of financial loss. It advises companies to monitor call traffic and restrict destinations that would not normally be dialled, as well as making sure that default settings are changed to secure pin numbers.

Slimming services and gyms

New year, new you? Take care – the Britain’s Citizens Advice consumer service helped with more than double the number of problems with slimming services and a 25 per cent hike in complaints about health clubs and gyms from January to March 2013, compared to the previous nine months. Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice chief executive, said: “Bad businesses and scammers are preying on people’s good intentions for 2014. If you’re signing up to a gym or other new service, it’s really important you thoroughly check the terms and conditions. Equally, you need to make sure you are dealing with reputable traders.”

Auction sites

Auction sites, such as eBay or Gumtree, are usually a safe and reliable way to buy items online. But sometimes criminals use them to offer counterfeit goods or items that do not exist. Police advise that shoppers always use official forms of payment rather than making direct payments to the seller. It is also worth checking the seller’s warranties and returns policy before ordering.

Jobs and training courses

One scam that has emerged in the past few years involves people being targeted with offers of fake jobs and training. Victims sign up for a training course that promises a job on its conclusion, only to find that the company is bogus.

Criminals also offer work as “money transfer agents” or similar, which involves receiving money into your bank account then transferring it to another account, keeping some back as payment. This is money laundering and can lead to a long prison sentence. Research from ICM from February 2013 shows that these offers are received by around 15 per cent of British adults – with fraudsters specifically targeting people on low incomes. A Citizens Advice spokesman said: “A mobile number or PO Box number are easy to close and difficult to trace – either could be a sign that the company doesn’t exist or is not legitimate. Check out the company’s details or look on the internet for more details about them.”


This is an unsolicited email claiming to be from a bank or other official organisation, encouraging consumers to click on a link that takes them to a fake website which looks identical to the one they expect to see. The victim is asked to verify their personal security information – which then passes straight into the hands of a fraudster. Financial Fraud Action UK says users should make sure their computer has a security program and a firewall installed. Remember your bank, building society or the police will never ask you to disclose your PIN.

How to protect yourself from fraudsters

Never give out contact details or financial information to strangers or to businesses that should already know your details.

Never send money to someone you don’t know.

Walk away from job adverts that ask for money in advance.

Shred anything containing your personal or bank details – don’t just bin it.

Check bank and credit card statements regularly and let your bank know immediately if there are any entries you don’t recognise.

Often, you can’t get lost money back, particularly if you have handed over cash. If you have paid by credit card you have more protection, and if you used a debit card you may be able to ask your bank for a chargeback.

Daily Telegraph, London

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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