Scam alert! Beware of telephone fraudsters impersonating the police to try to sell ads for a fake magazine, ironically about crime prevention.
June is Scams Awareness Month in the UK. Frankly, the cybercrime issue is way out of hand yet many of us overlook the confidence tricksters who aren’t necessarily looking to hack your computer or break into your bank account through sophisticated means.
Some of the most successful fraud hinges on exploiting the frailties of the human condition by appealing to greed and aversion.
Many small businesses want to grow, expand and reach new customers making them more likely to fall for an attractive advertising proposition claiming to do just that.
Fraudster Impersonating the Police
On Wednesday 14th February 2018 at 11:41 am, I received a phone call from 07718 274712 in which a man claiming to be from the “local crime prevention unit” asked me to join a trusted trader scheme.
He said his team wanted to highlight and publicise the work of good, reputable companies in the area.
He told me – in an authoritative and indignant tone – of his frustration with rogue traders in the area.
He claimed to represent a magazine highlighting crime, scams and fraud, which would be printed up and circulated locally. I cannot remember whereabouts this magazine would supposedly be distributed but it was pitched under the pretext of generating local business for me as a self-employed person.
Because, according to him, I was such a reputable trader, I was being given the opportunity to buy advertising in this magazine to market my web design services.
The flattery was laid on thick but I challenged him on several points for which he seemed to have an answer every time. I knew it was all cobblers.
Some of the things he said that I can remember:
- “Don’t worry, you haven’t done anything wrong” – he wanted to put me at ease since he said he was from the police
- “We want to get these idiots off the street” – referring to rogue traders
- “You would be the only web design company advertising” – a supposed exclusive deal
- “We’re working with trading standards” – a flat out lie
- “Cannot guarantee loads of work and phone calls or enquiries” – appealing to my cynicism to try and win me over
- “You’ll be allowed to use our crest” – oh, lucky me! A crest
- “We use Experian to vet businesses and perform background checks – but not for credit checks” – bullshit
- “£150 a year for the advert” – you’d never see the money again
- “The money’s not the important part” – what?
- “Do you want to partner with us?” – no
The proposal was identical to a charity magazine scam that I fell victim to in June 2017. Yes, at the time of that particular scam, my eye was off the ball and my mind dulled by worries in my personal life.
I paid £149 for an advert in a magazine promoting a children’s cancer charity called Kids for Life, and once I realised what had happened I doubled down in my scepticism towards cold callers.
A sample of the charity magazine was sent to me but was one of literally a handful of copies to satisfy the concerns of those that had paid for an ad.
Action Fraud describes this type of scam as publication fraud.
Going back to my fake police phone call, I listened to everything that was said, and encouraged him to talk. I feigned interest but couldn’t resist affecting a tone of sarcasm and disgust when asked if I wanted to take out an ad in their make-belief publication.
The caller quickly hung up when he realised the game was up. Idiot!
There are many similar reports to mine in the media. Once you’ve read a few of them you’ll become familiar with the type of shtick and sales patter these people use.
Recorded Phone Call
Someone else was targeted by a similar “police initiative” scam but possibly a different crew. They recorded the phone call.
Normally I would record any calls but only if they’re routed to my landline through Skype. I use a handy plugin to capture both sides of a phone call in these circumstances.
In the recording below, the rogue caller starts the conversation with the exact same “don’t worry, you haven’t done anything wrong” line.