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Common scamming tools

Scammers often use one or more of the following to help them commit fraud and hide their true identity.

Money transfer agents

Money transfer agents offer a fast, convenient and reliable way to send and receive money worldwide to and from people you know and trust. However, they're often used by scammers to commit many types of fraud, such as:

  • advance fee

  • identity theft

  • investments

  • mass market fraud

Money transfer services are popular with scammers because they don’t have to show ID to collect the money, only senders do. This way, the scammers can hide their identity.

Make sure you know who you’re dealing with before giving them the reference numbers they need to collect the money you deposited. Never let a potential scammer tell you how a money transfer service or cash voucher systems works. Only trust advice given by the money transfer or cash voucher company itself. Read the warnings on money transfer documents. The information is there to protect you.

Don’t use a money transfer agent to pay for anything you buy online, including auction sites. Money transfer agents are not responsible for the safe delivery of goods or services that you paid for using a money transfer. Never share details of a money transfer with someone to prove you’ve got the funds. If you do, it may allow the money transfer to be paid to that person. This is known as a ‘proof of funds’ fraud.

For more information and help or to report on this and many other types of fraud, go to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre.

Virtual offices

A virtual office is an address registered by a person or business instead of their real address. They may never actually visit the address and can have all mail to the virtual address redirected.

You may think you’re dealing with a well-established, professional individual or business because of a prestigious (yet virtual) office address. However, the reality can be very different.

Most businesses using virtual offices are honest and legitimate, but scammers often use a virtual office address instead of their own home or business address to hide their true identity. Often scammers use false ID to get the virtual office.

If you see a website that has an address on it, it could be a virtual office address and the company doesn’t operate from it. Victims of scams have been known to go to these addresses to get money back or claim prizes in person, only to find they’re virtual offices.

Phone numbers

Some phone companies provide national numbers and premium rate numbers, such as 0800 or 0845, to businesses or individuals, who often don’t need to provide ID to get them.

Scammers often use these numbers. They’ll divert them to unregistered pay-as-you-go mobile numbers or to a separate answering service, making them difficult to trace.

Because of this, don’t rely on the appearance of a phone number to tell you what sort it is. For example, 0208 is usually a London number and 07952 a UK mobile number. But scammers buy these numbers to trick you into believing the business is legitimately based somewhere that it really isn’t.

Scammers also use software to have any number they wish to appear on your phone’s caller ID screen. This method, known as ‘spoofing’, means they can appear to be calling from a legitimate number linked to a person or company, when in fact they aren’t.

Always be wary of the identity of a person you don’t know when speaking to them on the phone. If a scammer gives out a phone number, that number can’t always be traced and the user identified. For more information and help or to report this and many other types of fraud, go to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre.

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