THE trade and investment division of the British High Commission here yesterday issued an advisory listing out "tell-tale" signs of online fraud and scams.
"We have been receiving a lot of enquiries and visits lately asking us about the legitimacy of certain companies that people are dealing with or have dealt with, and which usually involves them being asked for a lot of money," the high commission's First Secretary of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), Dr Stephen Phillips, was quoted as saying in a statement issued yesterday.
"People start to sense something is not right and most of the time their instincts are correct it is a scam," he added.
Phillips listed a number of tips, from carrying out background checks of the company contacting the individual to more specific advice such as authenticating the source's location based on the codes used in the telephone contacts.
"Many of the people behind these scams rely on the United Kingdom's good reputation in the commercial and financial services sectors to fool people that they are a legitimate company. In most cases the origin of the scam is not even in the UK but in some other third country," he said in the statement.
An "obvious" sign of a fraud or scam was the use of Western Union as a payment gateway.
"Most companies do not use Western Union for transactions, as it is more of a personal service rather than a business one," he said.
It was also reminded that bank account or credit card details should not be shared unless it was confirmed that the company was a legitimate one and that method of online payment was made through a secure site, identifiable by the presence of the "s" in "https:" in the web address or a padlock icon at the bottom of the internet browser.
The UKTI also recommended a website, http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/toolsToHelp/findCompanyInfo.shtm, as a "good place to start checking" into the legitimacy of a UK company.
"Check that the suspected company's details match with the details found on the website," Phillips said.
"Many times scammers use real company names and other details, such as address and registration number, pretending they work with that company. In this case, more research needs to be done, for example whether any names of directors or staff match up."
Residents were also urged to be "suspicious" of dealing with companies that use web-based email addresses such as Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail. While conceding that some legitimate companies did use such email addresses, the UKTI said that this can be checked against emails listed in websites of known fraud or scams to be sure.
The nature of the telephone number provided by the company in question was also a point of reference into its legitimacy, and a way to check was to "call and see who answers". Internet searches of the first five digits of the alleged UK number can be used to ascertain the location of that contact, the statement added. The UKTI advised to be particularly wary of telephone numbers starting with 07, 08 and 09, as calls to telephone contacts starting with these numbers can result in a hefty phone bill.
"It is a scam if you receive copies of passport details, with a picture of a stranger, from the suspect company saying that they are sending you all their information as proof of identity. It is also good to watch out for the language used in the correspondence you have with the suspect company," Phillips said, adding that the less consistent the language used, the less trustworthy the company was.
Another sign to look out for was the additional charges that the suspect company imposed on the individual.
"Currently there are no export taxes, duties or levies in force on goods being exported from the UK (or wider EU), although that is liable to change. In no case are there 'special export fees' or permits (e.g. "IBC and Trade Union Permit") required."
"At the end of the day, if it sounds too good to be true, then do not believe it. There is no company or organisation that will give away large amounts of money and put it in an 'offshore account' for you to redeem as soon as you pay the process fees. Or if the price on a quantity of goods seems a real bargain then there may either be no goods or you will not get what you thought you bought." Ubaidillah Masli
The Brunei Times
Thursday, May 17, 2012
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