OFFICERS are urging Cheshire residents to be vigilant after three people in the area have been scammed out of thousands of pounds.

An 81 year old from Macclesfield is the latest person to be conned out of more than £9,000 after getting a letter from the ‘International Postcode Lottery’.

It follows an elderly couple from Northwich being tricked by the same scam after receiving a letter in March this year claiming they had won a vast sum of cash.

The letters stated that they needed to call a specified number to claim the money and when they called they were told they needed to pay a proportion of the tax for the money to be transferred to the UK.

They paid the money requested via cheques but never heard anything back.

Action Fraud and Cheshire Police have since confirmed the couple have not won an international lottery and are victims of an increasingly common scam that is being investigated nationally by City of London Police.

Police Constable Jim Day, Financial, Abuse, Safeguarding and Prevention Officer at Cheshire Constabulary’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “Sadly scams like this are very common, and although in this instance the victims live in Northwich people throughout the county and the country are being targeted every day.

“From April 2018 to September 2018 there were 3,732 fraud offences reported in Cheshire, with the total amount of money lost by the victims being £8.3 million.

“Over the past two months we have had more than 800 Auction Fraud referrals regarding scams."

Runcorn and Widnes World: The scam letter. Pic credit: Cheshire PoliceThe scam letter. Pic credit: Cheshire Police

As well as the 'International Postcode Lottery' scam, officers in the area say dating and romance fraud is also becoming increasingly common with people looking for love via social media or chat rooms being the main target.

Mr Day added: "Dating and romance scammers lower your defences by building an online relationship with you before asking for financial help.

“I have dealt with numerous cases whereby dating and romance fraud victims have lost many thousands of pounds.

“HM Revenue and Customs scams are also increasingly common, with people paying money having received fake HMRC phone calls – including automated phone calls – letters or emails saying that a warrant is out for their arrest for unpaid tax and requesting immediate payment via bank transfer or iTunes and gift card vouchers.

“Over-the-phone fraudsters can be very convincing and use a range of tactics to try to convince victims to part with their money.

“For example, they may claim to be working for the police and ask you to call 101 or 999 to verify their identity. When you try to do so you will end up talking to an accomplice as they will not put the phone down when you do, ensuring that the line is kept open.

“Scammers may also pretend to be calling you from your bank, internet or phone provider or HMRC.

“All these scams are orchestrated by serious organised crime groups.

“I urge the people of Cheshire to be vigilant and to follow our advice on how to avoid falling victim to such scams.”

What you can do to avoid being scammed

Cheshire Police has released the following advice to stop other families being conned by lottery scams:

  • If you receive emails or letters saying that you have won a large amount of money on an overseas or online lottery you have not entered, ignore them.
  • If you receive an HMRC phone call – including an automated phone call – letter or email saying that a warrant is out for your arrest for unpaid tax, contact HMRC via an official channel at a later date.
  • If you have responded to such emails/letters/phone calls, break off all contact with the fraudsters immediately.
  • If you have given the fraudsters your bank account details, alert your bank immediately.
  • Be aware that once you have given your bank account details to a fraudster you are likely to be a target for other frauds – fraudsters often share details about people they have successfully targeted or approached, with different identities used to commit further frauds.
  • People who have already fallen victim to fraudsters are particularly vulnerable to recovery fraud, which is when fraudsters contact people who have already lost money through fraud and claim to be law enforcement officers or lawyers. They advise the victim that they can help them recover their lost money, but request a fee. This again is a scam.