As reported by Belfast Live, the victim was sent numerous messages via WhatsApp from a fraudster pretending to be a FedEx shipping firm. In response to this scam, the police are calling for the public to be more aware of potential criminal activity when contacted by an unknown number. The victim of this £1,000 Amazon voucher scam was an elderly woman from Ards and North Down in Northern Ireland.
Amid the ongoing cost of living crisis, elderly people are particularly vulnerable to soaring energy costs and inflation-hiked prices.
Older people are also more likely to be targeted by scams due to this vulnerability and the likelihood of them having more money to lose.
Despite the rise in the cost of living, people are still buying goods and items from retailers such as Amazon.
However, many of the advertised vouchers for retailers and services are in fact managed by scammers who are looking to steal money from unsuspecting victims.
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Johnston McDowell, the District Commander Superintendent for Ards and North, broke down how this particular scam came about.
He explained: “These vouchers were requested for the release of parcels set to be dispatched for delivery to the woman’s home address.
“After buying Amazon vouchers ranging from £30 to £100 over a period of time, believing the request was legitimate, the woman has since lost a considerable amount of money.
“We cannot stress enough just how important it is to be scam aware and to know how easy it is to fall victim to an SMS or WhatsApp scam, if you don’t spot the warning signs.”
“No matter what type of scam it is and the different methods employed, a common element shared by scammers is that they will go to great lengths to trick people and take advantage of their vulnerability and good faith.”
The Superintendent also shared advice for those who may end up receiving similar messages on WhatsApp in the future.
Superintendent McDowell added: “Our message is simple – never disclose your personal or banking details to anyone over the phone, by text message or online, or disclose any gift voucher codes, no matter how convincing they may seem.
“Do not respond to messages sent from unknown numbers, or click links included in the message sent to you.
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“Only trust instructions given by the company itself – most companies will not contact you via SMS or WhatsApp.
“Please take extra care and help educate family, friends and elderly neighbours about scams.”
Action Fraud, the UK’s scam watchdog, has also noted a rise in the number of reported cases of fake supermarket offers and vouchers during the cost of living crisis.
On its website, the organisation stated: ‘A number of supermarket brands have been spoofed in fake ads on social media with offers of too good to be true deals, competitions or giveaways.
“A number of people have reported seeing fake ads offering free food products that are due to expire.
“The ad encourages people to register via a link in order to win or claim the food. In reality, the offer does not exist and the third party website is designed to steal your personal or financial information.”
Those worried they have been targeted as part of a scam should report their case to Action Fraud.
This can be done by calling the helpline at 0300 123 2040 Monday to Friday between 8am – 8pm.