A peak in incidents where cruel con artists tried to trick people into parting with their money has led to police issuing an urgent public appeal to be aware and be vigilant.
Between Tuesday and Wednesday, officers received 24 reports from across Counties Armagh, Down and Antrim, all saying attempts had been made to scam them out of money through making a bogus payment.
The marked increase in activity this week prompted police to once again make an appeal.
Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said: “Thankfully, none of the people targeted were scammed out of any money.
“Some of the victims said they received phone calls and automated voicemail messages from people claiming to represent the HMRC, threatening them with arrest if they don’t pay taxes they owe.
“Other callers said they received emails and calls demanding they pay a certain sum of money using ‘bit coin’, or else they’d post videos online of them watching footage of a sexual nature.
“In one instance reported, the fraudsters asked the victim to buy iTunes gift card voucher codes because they can be easily redeemed and easily sold on.
“The scammers don’t need the physical card to redeem the value and instead get victims to read out the serial code on the back of their card over the phone. Thankfully in this case, the scam was spotted and no money was lost.
“In another instance, a man received a call from someone claiming to represent BT who said their internet had been hacked and requested access to their account. Luckily, access wasn’t given.”
Chief Supt Walls said they were reassured that people are able to spot these scams and are picking up the phone to report them.
But he added: “We would continue to urge members of the public to always err on the side of caution with any text, call, email or letter asking for payment or personal details in order to release money, refund fees, pay lottery wins or supply a holiday, giveaway or service.
“Our advice is always be wary of any individual who cold calls you. Don’t allow any cold caller remote access to your computer. Be especially suspicious of anyone who asks for personal details, money, banking or credit card information via the telephone.
“Once a scammer is in a victim’s computer and personal details are given by the victim, their online bank accounts can be accessed and significant amounts of money lost; money they may well never get back.
“The scammers may also advise their intended victim they’re due a financial refund and ask for details of their bank account in relation to this, which they will then target.
“If you are at all suspicious about a call you receive, hang up and phone the organisation the person is purporting to represent to check their authenticity. Ideally, make the call from another telephone so you can be sure the original caller has not remained on the line. Never be pressured into a transaction over the phone.
“Guarding your personal and banking details is essential. Never disclose them to any unauthorised person or allow anyone access to them via your computer.
“If you have received a call of this kind or are concerned by the intent of unsolicited calls, emails or letters then please report it to Action Fraud via their website www.actionfraud.police.uk or by phoning 0300 123 2040, or call police on the non-emergency number 101.
“Further advice and information can also be obtained by visiting www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni or the ScamwiseNI Facebook page @scamwiseni
“And remember if you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.”