Avon and Somerset Police and the Action Fraud team have seen an increase in students being targeted in relation to a money laundering scam. In a common scenario:

  • a fraudster or scammer will call you and ‘spoof’ their number, which means the phone number shown to you on your screen will match that of a legitimate agency (typically HMRC but this may vary)
  • contact could be via other means such as a text, email or letter
  • they will tell you something similar to “you are being investigated for money laundering”, “you have been drug dealing” or “you have been convicted of tax fraud”

They will tell you that you need to pay of sum of money immediately to avoid arrest (in some cases they tell the victim a warrant has already been issued, or that police are on their way) and often that you must instruct a solicitor to act on your behalf in court. They will communicate with you via telephone and sometimes messaging apps including WhatsApp.

The facts:

  • HMRC do not use WhatsApp to communicate and will only ever call you about a claim or payment on a debt that you already know about
  • HMRC or other agencies will never use threatening language
  • no legitimate agency will ask you to pay via gift cards, Bitcoin or payment vouchers, nor will they ask you to pay, transfer or remove money from your accounts
  • no legitimate agency will ever tell you over the phone that you have a warrant outstanding for your arrest – this would be a huge breach of data protection

You can expect it to be a fraud if:

  • contact is unexpected and in relation to something you know nothing about
  • any personal information is asked of you including your bank details or passwords
  • the fraudsters tell you to transfer money, move money or pay another person/account
  • the fraudsters tell you they need remote access to your computer

Tips from Avon and Somerset Police:

  • if you suspect something is wrong, it probably is
  • step away from any telephone call and take a few minutes to think about what is being asked of you. Does it sound real? Are they making you feel scared?
  • speak with someone else about it to get their opinion
  • never provide any personal information over the phone and certainly never pay any money
  • always do your own legitimacy checks. Call the agency they are claiming to be from, but remember if you're using a landline to let the line clear fully and wait at least five minutes - the fraudster will keep the line open on their end so you just go back through to them)
  • if email is involved, check the sender. Often scammers will use addresses similar to joe.bloggs@mail.com; look for .police and .gov after the @ in the address of a real sender
  • the Police are always here to help; you are welcome to contact Jordan Coates on 07701 283643 or Amy Horrobin on 07592 592102 if you have any further questions

If you suspect a scam or have been the victim of a scam you need to report it to www.actionfraud.police.uk.

Find out more about avoiding scams and phishing attempts.