Don't Fall Prey to Telephone Scams!
1. Are there a large number of enquiries for phone scams among international students? Have you or any of your fraud lawyers take a case of telecoms fraud? Could you please enumerate and talk about it briefly?
My firm does receive some enquiries in respect of telecoms fraud/scams from the Chinese community. It usually encompasses a mixture of email, telephone and WeChat/Whatsapp scams. The types of scam we encounter are typically payment fraud and currency exchange fraud/money laundering.
The usual tactics for the fraudster are to pretend to be a trusted third party, for instance HMRC, the Court, the Chinese Embassy, or your bank etc.
HMRC – the fraudster may claim there is an issue with your tax refund or an unpaid tax bill and ask you for your personal information including your National Insurance Number. There is another scenario where people are being called and a pre-recorded message purportedly from HMRC, informs them that they owe money and that they are urgently required to call a separate telephone number to halt further action being taken against them. Upon calling the number, the consumer is given a long reference number and are threatened that "if you don't transfer the money you owe us, it could lead to your arrest."
The Court – the fraudster may pretend to be a court clerk and claim there is a criminal proceedings against you and ask you to pay immediately in order to remove the charges.
Bank – – fraudster would call and claim himself to be from your bank, saying there’s a problem with your card or account. They may ask for your account, card and PIN details. They may also advise transferring your money to a secured account to protect the deposits.
I understand the main concern for victim is how to get their monies back. You might be able to get your money back after you’ve been scammed but it would be very difficult. What you should do, and whether you’ll get a refund, depends on what happened.
Chan Neill Solicitors have acted for victims including international companies and international students on a larger scale.
Some case examples:
In respect of international students, our firm had received enquiries where for example student A had been helping a “friend” of hers who they became acquainted with on WeChat. Student A then allowed the friend to use her personal bank account as a conduit to transfer monies (cash deposit) to different third parties’ account, without knowing the source of the funds and the purpose of the transfers. Her account was then subject to an Account Freezing Order applied by the police authorities. She did not know “helping a friend” might be illegal and subject to fraud. It started with a WeChat invitations and a phone call. Our firm was successful in negotiating an out-of-court settlement with the police authority.
In respect of International Companies, we have acted for overseas companies to recover funds they remitted to the UK bank which was opened by email scammers. Funds can be recalled successfully after negotiations with the banks.
2. In the case we’ve interviewed before, many international students said that after they were defrauded of money, both their home-country’s police and British police cannot help and said they have no authority over this issue, so is there any blind spot of legal supervision? What the blind spot is? We understand many international students have fallen victim to telecoms scams and were defrauded of money. There are practical difficulties which will be explained further below: -
Personal information of the scammer - In order to issue a court claim, you will need to identify the name and address of the scammer in order to make a claim against him/her. Whether you can identify the scammer’s name and address will be crucial for issuing a claim.
Jurisdiction - Telecoms scams and phishing attacks can take place on a global scale without regard to jurisdictional boundaries. The obstacles include differing laws and standards of evidence to prosecute offenders, and the need for mutual cooperation to take effective cross-jurisdictional action. It would be difficult for Police to prosecute an individual in a different jurisdiction.
Costs - Whether legal costs are proportionate compared to the claim amount.
Tracing – whether the monies are still in the scammer’s bank account, if not where did the money go? It is very difficult to trace funds if they have been transferred to different parties in different bank accounts. This is usually the next step scammer do to make it even harder to trace.
3. Is there any relative legal provisions does the British government have for this issues to protect international student？
The Fraud Act 2006 (the Act) came into force on 15 January 2007 and applies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Act repealed the following offences:
Theft Act 1968
Section15 (obtaining property by deception);
Section15A (obtaining a money transfer by deception);
Section 16 (obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception).
There may be other ways for international students claim their monies back.
Again this can only be considered if you know the true identity of the fraudster.
4. What should international students do if they encounter similar problems, could you provide some suggestions to us?
The likely scenarios where an international student may encounter are: -
there’s a payment from your bank account you don’t recognise – this is known as an 'unauthorised transaction'; or
you’ve used your debit card and more money was taken than you expected; or
you’ve made a payment to a scammer from your account.
We recommend international students to take the following steps:
Contact the police immediately by calling 101 if:
the scammer is in your area
you've transferred money to the scammer in the last 24 hours
If you feel threatened or unsafe call 999.
Gather all the details of the scam and write to your bank immediately and explain clearly what had happened and ask whether you can stop the payment or get a refund.
report the issue to Action Fraud , the UK's national reporting centre for fraud. Action Fraud can get the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to investigate scams. They'll also give you a crime reference number, which can be helpful if you need to tell your bank you've been scammed.
If you are not happy with how the bank deals with your claim, you may consider instructing solicitors to assist as we are more experienced in handling these situations. It may also be worthwhile to instruct solicitors in the beginning as we can ensure consistency and clarity over the steps and representations made. In summary for this interview, international students are advised: -
Not to give out personal information and banking details on phone or email.
If you've already responded to a suspicious message or provided personal/banking details, contact your bank immediately to stop any activity, ask for a new card, change the security password/pin number if necessary.
If monies has been sent, then this maybe the time to consider looking for help from solicitors.
We will be able to assess the scenario and see whether there are other legal procedures that maybe suitable to take depending on the circumstances. Possible steps may include: -
Raise a formal complaint with the bank
Financial Ombudsman complaint
Regional or Global Freezing Injunction
Go to court