SCAM ALERT: Number targeted by digital con artists has ‘skyrocketed’


THE number of people targeted by con artists has skyrocketed in recent years as online scammers target people ‘in more ways than ever’.

New figures revealed reports of such scams in the city had increased by 73 per cent in the past four years.

Citizens Advice Oxford said online scammers were targeting people ‘in more ways than ever’ due to the rise in people purchasing goods and doing business online.

The bureau added socially isolated and elderly people were often targeted ‘heavily’ and fell victim to fraud.

Mr Stansfeld told the Oxford Mail he was taking up the ‘major issue’ with senior ministers in the Government and said a ‘great deal’ needed to be spent to ‘bring offenders to justice’.

He said: “There should be a considerable amount of funds directly from the Treasury put into having regional fraud investigation teams that should be held within the serious organised crime units.

“It’s a major issue this one. We need to spend a great deal more as a country.”

The commissioner said people and businesses were being scammed out of £193bn a year nationally, with hundreds of millions stolen in Oxfordshire.

Thames Valley Police recorded 546 cyber-related offences in Oxfordshire in 2016 – a 7.9 per cent increase from 506 the year before.

The district with the highest number of reports was Cherwell with 151, followed by Oxford with 140.

Director of Citizens Advice Oxford, Al Bell, said ‘crime shifting to online’ was a reason for the increase in the number of victims seeking help.

The charity says three ‘key messages’ can help people avoid scams, which are: Know who you are dealing with, talk to someone if you’re unsure, and if it is too good to be true, it probably is.

Ms Bell added: “It’s a lot more internet-based. If you are not sure on something then give us a call and check and we can help you.”

Experts at the charity said the scams affecting people in the county existed in ‘many forms’, but all had a ‘negative impact’ through financial loss, confidence, stress and anxiety.

Nationally, four groups targeted by scammers are split into two groups: young people who are ‘tech savvy’ and can fall for online scams due to complacency, and as socially isolated people who cannot consult with others for advice.

Citizens Advice said people aged 40 to 60 are more likely to be targets of pensions, dating and property scams, with those over 70 more likely to be victim of phone and mail fraudsters.

Scams in Oxfordshire in the past year:

BOGUS sim card leading to lottery scam: A client bought a simcard from an unrecognised dealer and was contacted by a scammer based in Oman claiming they had won the lottery. Stating there was an admin charge, the victim wired £1,400 and never received any winnings.

Fake plane tickets: One victim bought tickets from a fake company which posed as a real airline with a logo on their website.

They lost £2,000 and online found out when they went to check in.

Fake letting advert: A group coming to live in the UK were ask to transfer £1,500 to secure the flat they found on Gumtree.

The money was paid to an account at Western Union in London and the client heard no more.



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