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Western Union to Repay Scammed Money

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the US Postal Inspection Service have been investigating Western Union who are a wire transfer company.

Western Union is often used by fraudsters as payments through Western Union cannot generally be tracked.

Western Union has admitted to aiding and abetting wire fraud and failure to maintain an effective anti-money-laundering programme and agreed to pay $586 million. That money is now being used by DOJ to give refunds to people who were tricked into using Western Union to pay scammers.

Victims of fraud who paid money to scammers via a Western Union wire transfer between 2004 and 2017 can apply for a refund .

This was thought to only apply to U.S. citizens but the US Department of Justice has recently confirmed that victims of fraud who live anywhere in the world – including the UK – can apply for a refund if they lost money transferred via Western Union between 1 January 2004 and 19 January 2017. There is a limited refund pot and there are thought to be 100,000s of victims, so they may not get all of their lost money back.

Fraudsters use a variety of methods to trick people into wiring them money – romance scams, friend in distress, fake online purchases etc.

The refund scheme covers any form of wire transfer fraud which involved making a payment via Western Union, so if you sent money to someone who wasn’t who they said they were, or you didn’t get what you were promised in return for a transfer you made, you can apply for a refund.

How To Apply For a Refund

You can apply online at www.westernunionremission.com/ or by post – the deadline is 12 February 2018.

To apply online, fill in the Western Union remission claim form. You’ll be asked for contact details, details of the payment you made to a fraudster, whether you’ve previously managed to recover some of your lost money and if so, how much. If you’ve already had some money back, you can only claim for the amount you haven’t recouped.

The form asks for a social security number – for people no in the U.S.A. put that you don’t have one as you are not a U.S. citizen.

If you have receipts or other supporting documentation such as a police report, then upload copies of these to support your claim. You can still apply if you don’t have any documentation.

Make sure you apply through the official site and don’t respond to emails from people claiming they can get your money back – these are almost certainly fraudsters. You do not have to pay anything to get your money back  and you will not be called and asked for your bank account or credit card number as part of the claims process.

The process may take a year or more because of the number of claims that will have to be dealt with. The Department of Justice has already identified 500,000 potential victims in the US and many more are expected to apply from overseas.

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Bitcoin Machines in Shops

We’re all used to ATMs in supermarkets and shops. Some charge for getting your money and some do not.

But recently, Bitcoin ATMS have started to appear in betting shops, general shops and elsewhere.

These don’t give you money – instead, they let you buy Bitcoins.

Bitcoin is a cyber currency that has been in the news a lot recently due to its rising price, thefts of Bitcoins and its use by online criminals.

These new machines are used by people wanting to invest in Bitcoin cyber currency but also there  is anecdotal evidence that they are used by criminals.  Some shopkeepers estimate that 50% – 80% of use is by drug dealers and other criminals wanting to change large amounts of cash into something they can access elsewhere, plus the cash is effectively laundered i.e it appears legitimate.

Once purchased, Bitcoins can be changed back into any currency in many places around the world.

The shopkeepers where the Bitcoin machines are situated sometimes get a  flat fee of £100 – £400 per month and sometimes they can get up to to 30% commission.

This shows that the charges the buyer has to pay to the machines must be very high to allow for such commission to be paid to the shopkeeper.

The machines generally have a limit of about £500 per transaction, but no limit on the number of transactions per person.

For criminals, these machines are ideal repositories for their ill-gotten gains.

The price of Bitcoins rose rapidly throughout much of 2017 but it is very volatile and could easily crash at any time and become almost worthless.

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Fake Website Links

You will come across fake website links in emails, on websites, social media, text messages and more.

In this context, “fake” means a link that doesn’t take you where it says but instead goes to some other website or web page.

Why do people make such fake links?

Mostly there is a deliberate intention to mislead – promise a link to one site but take you to a different site where you don’t want to go.

This may be an attempt to infect your computer with malware or to get you to a page you have little interest in or simply to get you to look at a video or a webpage for which the link poster gets paid per visitor.

How to Identify Fake Links

  1. On a PC hover the cursor over the link and it should show the real destination URL. If this does not match what the link says then you have a fake link and you should not click it.
  2. On a MAC make sure you have the status bar showing first
  3. On Android phones you can press and keep your finger on the link and a box will open offering options but at the top it shows the complete link

Shortened URLS

Some webpages have very long addresses and if you’re sending a link to someone or posting on Twitter for example then some way to shorten these links would be welcome.  There are various services on the Internet that can do just that.  Twitter does this automatically for long links.

These shortened URLs make it difficult to identify the destination of the link. If in doubt – do not click.

Very Long URLs and Email Addresses

Most people create short URLs i.e. links as they want them to be easy to remember and to type e.g. fightback.ninja/the-inflammation-scam/

But some large websites deliberately create long URLs in order to make the purpose of the page easy to understand  from the name e.g. http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/content/animals/kidscorner/classification/kc_classification_appearance.htm

Scammers use long URLs in order to try to hide the true destination of the URL.  E.g. customerservice.lloydsbank.768092676414336492872654576277@78397123719273917cheapscam.com

That is not Lloyds Bank.

Scammers also use the confusion trick with email addresses e.g. customerservice.lloydsbank.768092676414336492872654576277@78397123719273917cheapscam.com

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Stupidest Scam or Spam of the Week

The email is titled “A Message From Your Brain [this is important]”

It starts

Hey, it’s your brain here and I have an important message for you.

I’m dying.

OK, I know I sound like an overly dramatic teenager.

And it’s because I’m being starved of one particular food

Keep denying me this food and eventually I’ll lose my ability to retrieve memories for you, tell your mouth to speak and move your arms and legs.

The message continues in this manner – ridiculous and very stupid.

Clearly this scammer has a flair for the melodramatic but it’s just a scam to get you to watch a video.

The scammer gets paid for each person who clicks to watch so she will write any rubbish to get you to make that click.

Pathetic.

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The Coffee Shop Facebook Like

A very clever way to demonstrate the danger of Facebook Likes was devised by CIFAS (Fraud Prevention Service) and BT.

They used a normal looking coffee shop with a sign in the window saying ’Like Us on Facebook for a Free Coffee and Croissant”.

People saw the sign and did ‘Like’ the coffee shop on their smart phones.. What they didn’t know was that a team of researchers watched their actions and trawled through Facebook and public websites to find them and any personal details they could find about the customer within a maximum of three minutes.

In the coffee shop, their free drink was made and the waitress listening in to the researchers on an earpiece then wrote that personal information on the drink.

The video is at http://home.bt.com/lifestyle/money/money-tips/coffee-shop-customers-shocked-by-like-stunt-in-cifas-data-to-go-video-11364071638280 3/9

The customers reactions are quite funny and range from suspicion to bafflement. Hidden cameras filmed their reactions and the film ends with the line ‘Don’t make it easy for fraudsters. Set your privacy settings’.

This is a great way to show how much of our personal information is online for anyone to find.

In 2015, 23,959 people aged 30 and under were victims of identity fraud. This is up from 15,766 in 2014, and is more than double the 11,000 victims in this age bracket in 2010.

People of all ages can be at risk of identity fraud of course.

Simon Dukes, Cifas Chief Executive, said: “Fraudsters are opportunists. As banks and lenders have become more adept at detecting false identities, fraudsters have focused on stealing and using genuine people’s details instead.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other online platforms are much more than just social media sites – they are now a hunting ground for identity thieves.

“We are urging people to check their privacy settings today and think twice about what they share. Social media is fantastic and the way we live our lives online gives us huge opportunities. Taking a few simple steps will help us to enjoy the benefits while reducing the risks. To a fraudster, the information we put online is a goldmine.”

Set the privacy settings on your social media profiles so only you  and people you trust can view them and be careful what you post as fraudsters can often access it.

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