Northumberland County Council’s Public Protection Service and Northumbria Police are warning residents about a Payment Protection Insurance telephone scam which is known to be occurring in the county.
Last week an Ashington resident recently received an unsolicited call from an unknown caller, claiming to be from the Office of Fair Trading telling them that he was owed a refund of £5000 due to a Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) overpayment relating to a bank loan he had taken out.
The caller claimed that they would send a courier round to the residents’ house in a couple of hours to deliver the refund cheque. The resident was instructed to go to a local shop and purchase Ukash vouchers, worth £250 and that he would receive a call back about 2 hours later.
The resident duly bought the vouchers and then received a call back asking for the reference numbers on the vouchers to be read to them over the phone. When the resident was reluctant to do so, the caller became insistent and verbally aggressive. They claimed that they must be told the reference numbers on the money vouchers to verify the authenticity, otherwise they would not send out the courier.
Once these criminals have the 19 digit Ukash voucher reference number they can cash the voucher or spend it anywhere in the world and no PPI refund would materialise.
This is the first reported scam of this type in Northumberland, but there have been other instances of it in other parts of the country.
Northumberland County Councillor Anita Romer, executive member for public health and protection said:
“In times of economic down turn and particularly at this time of year, residents may be tempted by the promise of some extra cash for Christmas. Unfortunately this is the angle these fraudsters will use to trick people out of their hard earned money. No legitimate organisation will ask you to pay a fee to receive money.”
Jimmy Power, Business and Consumer Protection Manager at Northumberland County Council added: “These fraudsters seem to have some relevant personal information and details of the local area, which may lull unsuspecting residents into a false sense of security. Caution should always be taken when receiving unsolicited calls. Do not give these criminals any personal details or money in advance of a promised refund. If Northumberland residents are in any doubt about a caller’s true identity or motives, they should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service. They will make sure the matter comes to us for investigation.”
Smart Voucher Limited, who operate the Ukash voucher scheme provide the following safety tips for consumers on their website:-
•Treat your Ukash voucher codes just like cash
•Only use Ukash at genuine partner websites, if you're not sure check our list on our website
•Never reveal the voucher code or reveal any part of it to anyone else (telephone, email, or letter)
•Never give Ukash to people asking for payment up front
Anyone who has received one of these calls and wishes to report this matter can do so by ringing Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 04 05 06 or call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or their local Police Authority on 101.