Residents are being alerted to a new sophisticated email scam that has just been uncovered by trading standards officers in Wandsworth.
The officers are warning residents not to be fooled by the fake photographs, bogus telephone numbers, phony websites and even false certificates and invoices that are employed to try and persuade victims that the scam is genuine.
The con follows a well-worn pattern - offering enormous sums of money to people who are willing to divulge personal information and their bank account details to help a person from overseas collect untold riches they have accrued.
People who are taken in by these stories and reveal sensitive information about themselves, usually find their bank accounts end up being emptied.
However in this case, the fraudsters use more props and tricks to try and persuade their targets that the story is genuine.
Here the multi-millionaire is said to be a mother of two young children, and to reinforce that myth, a picture is supplied showing a smiling mother with two small children.
And to make it appear even more genuine a certificate from a London-based financial depository is also provided to convince victims that the money is really being held there.
And when trading standards officers answered the email as part of their investigation, they had an immediate response in the form of a lengthy email written in language that was clearly designed to reassure and comfort people that the offer was genuine.
The fraudsters also provided contact telephone numbers that could be called if people wished to discuss the arrangements - but these numbers did not exist. Investigators suspect that the numbers were included to reassure people that the deal was honest - but that the fraudsters had calculated that victims would continue to communicate solely by email.
The council's spokesman on consumer protection Cllr Sarah McDermott said: "This is a clever and sophisticated variation on a long-standing and well-documented con-trick. Unfortunately, the use of the photograph and the certificate might persuade some people that this is a genuine offer.
"However it is a complete and utter scam and people should not be taken in by it.
"The old adage that says 'if something looks too good to be true then it probably isn't true' sums this con-trick up very well. I would advise anyone who receives this type of email to completely ignore it.
"People should certainly never give any sensitive personal information like bank account details or their date of birth to someone who approaches them out of the blue."
People who want to familiarise themselves with the latest cons and frauds and so make sure they don't fall victim to them, can visit the Metropolitan Police's 'Fraud Alert' website, a one-stop-shop designed to equip members of the public and businesses with the tools they need to protect themselves against scams.
It is updated as soon as a new scam is discovered and contains tips and advice on how to avoid falling victim to the fraudsters. The website - at www.met.police.uk/fraudalert - was recently redesigned to make it simpler and more user-friendly.
Anyone who suspects they may have been targeted by a scam is strongly advised to report the matter to the Met by visiting www.met.police.uk/fraudalert/reporting_fraud.htm
Residents and businesses can also notify the council's trading standards team on (020) 8871 7720 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 7th, 2011