Christmas fraud warning is issued

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service is warning the public and the business community to beware of fraudsters in the run up to the Christmas season.

Chief Inspector Henderson Hunte of the police’s Financial Crime Unit said: ‘Scams which prey on people’s good nature are extremely prevalent during this time of the year and members of the community are warned to be on their guard at all times.’

Among one of the relatively new scams is one in which potential victims are sent a form via email from the USA’s Internal Revenue Service. The form requests personal information, including bank account details, passport number, mother’s maiden name and social security numbers.

The personal information asked for in the forms can be used to steal people’s identities and the IRS has issued several consumer warning in recent months about the fraudulent use of their logo and name by scam artists.

Police warn that this is not a real IRS form, and that the IRS does not ask for this kind of information nor correspond via email.

Some of the more common scams being seen in Cayman currently include:

Lottery scam

The victim receives an email stating that they have won millions of dollars, often as a result of a computerised ballot system. Individuals are instructed to pay money before they can collect their winnings. The money will be requested via money transfer agencies, such as Western Union, and will purportedly be for registration, tax, customs fees, etc.

Hoax SMS message

A hoax SMS message is currently being circulated which reads:

‘Congratulations! Your mobile number has won the sum of £250,000.00 GBP on this year NOKIA PROMO. For claims call: +2348032764530. Or Email us: [email protected] Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device from Cable & Wireless bMobile.’

The email address given as a point of contact for information is not valid. The telephone number is also invalid with callers getting a busy signal when they call.

‘LIME would like to advise customers not to respond to this as it is mobile phone SPAM, effectively an unsolicited bulk message that has been sent to potentially thousands of our customers.

‘We did not authorise or send this message, it is a hoax,’ said Tony Ritch, LIME country manager. ‘We also want to let the public know that we will do every thing we can in such instances to identify those responsible and report them to the relevant authorities as well.’

Purchasing puppies

Fraudsters offer puppies for sale over the Internet or in the local press, often using a yahoo or similar email account as the only point of contact. The fraudster request funds to have the puppy shipped with an additional fee to have it delivered to the customer’s door. Once they have the money, the customer will not hear from them again and will not get a puppy.

Credit card fraud

This involves businesses being contacted by overseas companies wishing to purchase goods or services. The orders are often higher than those normally dealt with and could be viewed as a windfall for the victim business.

These scams often occur in the form of businesses with conference facilities being asked to facilitate a conference or seminar.

A credit card is used to pay the bill and soon after the fraudster will cancel the booking and request that the refund be sent in cash via money transfer.

The FCU has seen a lull in the appearance of fraudulent travellers’ cheques over the past four months, but is nonetheless urging members of the public and businesses to be on the alert to this type of fraud.

Anyone who comes across any of the above schemes is asked to ignore the communication and delete or destroy all correspondence after informing the FCU that they have been in receipt of such scams.

Anyone who receives fraudulent cheques should also contact the FCU as soon as possible on 949-8797. Attempting to cash counterfeit cheques is an offence that could lead to a 10-year prison sentence.