A sophisticated credit card scam has been costing local businesses tens of thousands of pounds.
The most recent case saw an agricultural supplies business in the Mid-Ulster area losing £5,000 of stock as a result.
Police are asking businesses to be vigilant after a number of companies across Northern Ireland fell foul of the scam.
Detective Inspector Will Tate said: “Police are currently investigating a UK wide credit card fraud which entails someone purporting to buy up large quantities of stock from various sectors. Orders and payments are taken over the telephone and a number of credit cards are used to make payment.
“Reports suggest that the person placing the order may have an Asian-type accent and asks for the order to be dispatched quickly. The ‘buyer’ will send a local, independent courier to collect on their behalf who is not involved in the scam.
“Many local businesses across the province have been victims of this. It has huge implications for their often relatively small, family run businesses. Average loss is around £6,000. Last year it is estimated that there was £113,000 of lost revenue to local businesses, and this was likely the tip of the iceberg.”
DI Tate said police would urge caution when taking credit card payment by telephone.
He continued: “These people have all the required details, including the person’s address. It gives the appearance of being legitimate. But the callers may not be able to tell the seller which bank the card is issued from.
“These people are brazen. They are targeting every sector across the country and police are appealing to business owners to be vigilant and report anything suspicious to police.”
As part of ongoing enquiries, a quantity of silage netting was recovered in the Dungannon area on August 22. It is thought this may have been purchased with a fraudulent credit card. Police are keen to speak to anyone who is aware of netting being purchased in this way recently.
A 34-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of fraud and has since been released on bail pending further enquiries.
DI Tate said: “Police appeal for any victims to come forward or anyone with information, and are warning businesses and local couriers advertising on internet sites to be aware of who they are working for. If you would like to report a crime or need advice please call the 101 number.”
Police say there are a number of things business can do to help prevent them falling victim to this type of crime:
- Large orders – do not accept credit cards…request a Bank Transfer which is secure
- Checks can be done on the credit card details provided. Google search the first four digits to identify which credit card company/ bank the card belongs to and then contact that bank to verify the transaction / cardholder details. If it does not match then do not accept payment. This may take a bit of time getting through to the right people, but a legitimate customer will not mind waiting that length of time.
- These fraudsters want to break down payment onto a number of credit cards. Money is not an option for them, there is no negotiation on price.
- They will take whatever you have. Quantities / specifications are immaterial to them.
- These fraudsters will not let the business arrange for the courier, they insist on providing their own.
- Ask Questions about where the goods are to end up / what they are for. Research this to ensure the information is legitimate eg business named / addresses provided etc
- They do not want or will not accept an invoice.
- Question any courier attending thoroughly about who they are working for/ where goods are going. Research the information provided before releasing goods.
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