Action Fraud is warning people to watch out for emails and cold calls from fraudsters who are asking people to apply for Government grants in return for an advance fee.
Action Fraud has received 85 reports of this type of fraud since January 2017 with a total loss of £255,724 and an average loss of £3,000.
How the fraud is committed
Bogus companies which have websites set up in the company name, claim to be operating on behalf of the UK Government
The fraudsters cold call businesses and individuals offering the grants and if they’re interested, direct them to fill out an online application form with their personal information.
Once the fraudsters have obtained the personal information they will re-contact victims and congratulate them on being accepted onto the grant programme.
Applicants are then asked to provide identification and are instructed to get a pre-paid card to deposit their own contribution to the fake Government grant scheme. Prepaid cards can be used in a similar way to credit cards, except the funds on a prepaid card are loaded on prior to spending.
Fraudsters will contact the victims by phone or email to ask for the details of their pre-paid card and copies of statements in order for them to add the grant funds.
Of course the grant funds are never given by the fraudsters and the money that’s been loaded onto the card by the victim is stolen.
Tackling the fraudsters
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has disrupted one website that was being used to commit this fraud and it is working with Companies House to identify other fake companies and disrupt fraudulent websites in their name.
Protect yourself from advance fee frauds:
Be wary of unsolicited calls about applying for grants. You should never have to pay to receive a Government grant, and they definitely won’t instruct you to obtain a pre-paid card. The Government should have all the information they need if a genuine grant application was submitted, therefore any requests for personal or banking information either over the phone or online should be refused.
If you think your bank or personal details have been compromised or if you believe you have been defrauded contact your bank immediately. Stop all communication with the ‘agency’ but make a note of their details and report it to Action Fraud.
Temporary Detective Chief Inspector, Lara Xenoudakis, of the City of London Police said: ‟Under the guise of the UK Government, fraudsters are taking advantage of peoples’ trust by setting up convincing fake websites.
‟The NFIB is working hard take down these websites and prevent people from falling victim however, we are urging people to be cautious.
‟A legitimate Government grant scheme would never expect to receive an upfront payment in return for the grant, so it is important that anyone who believes they may have been contacted by these fraudsters makes a report to Action Fraud.”