The victim contacted EMM after the British police declined to investigate because the Hong Kong police would not cooperate, she added. The law firm identified and prosecuted the perpetrator, a Russian and British national, who was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.
Another client managed to win back more than £12m which he believed was being invested for him in business ventures. During proceedings the scammer claimed that all of the money had been spent and could not be recovered yet further investigation revealed he had millions of pounds hidden via family members and staff and was spending huge sums on luxury holidays, restaurants and hotels.
Criminals have capitalised on confusion during lockdown to find new ways to trick people into handing over their money. More than 2,100 cases of Covid-19 scams have been logged by Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre, since February, with losses totalling around £5m.
“Fraudsters are increasingly targeting high net worth individuals via online dating sites or by posing as fake charities,” Mrs Edmonds said. “Rich divorcees are being tricked into handing money over to people they believe they’ve started a relationship with during lockdown.”
If a client’s case goes to private prosecution they can recover the costs either from the defendant, if they are convicted, or from the state. “The rationale for this is that the private prosecutor is fulfilling what should be a state function and therefore should be compensated for the costs incurred in bringing the prosecution,” Mrs Edmonds added.
Ashley Hart, head of fraud at bank TSB, said it was easy for well-off, well-educated people to assume they would never fall victim to a scam. However official research shows it is wealthy, middle-aged people who are the most likely to do so. Around 8pc of adults earning £50,000 or more have been the victim of fraud, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Mr Hart said: “Fraudulent attacks take many forms – and the more complex social engineering scams are used to target those on higher incomes, with sophisticated tactics that can be stretched over months.”
TSB refunds all scam victims whereas most banks will only give customers their money back if they consider the person took all necessary precautions before transferring it. On average only 41pc of victims are reimbursed.
A City of London Police spokesman said the levels of fraud being reported had not increased under Covid-19 but that the pandemic was being used as a way to exploit people’s concerns. “Reports made to Action Fraud are triaged and those sent to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau are assessed. Cases with viable lines of enquiry are sent on to the appropriate police force,” she added.
A spokesman for Standard Chartered Bank said: “Tackling fraud and financial crime requires working in partnership and we have to continually communicate to our customers about the dangers of fraudsters. We strongly encourage anyone to contact their bank to confirm the person they are dealing with is genuine, particularly when it involves a large sum of money.”
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