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Scam Alert and Renewed Appeal

Alert message sent 13/03/2017 13:22:00

Information sent on behalf of Surrey Police

Ref 45170024786
Alert: HMRC and iTunes gift card scam.  
We are investigating one of these in #MoleValley please share:

Action Fraud is warning people of a new trend that has hit the UK where fraudsters contact victims claiming to be from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and trick them into paying bogus debts and taxes using iTunes gift cards. 
Victims are being contacted in a variety of methods by fraudsters claiming to be from HMRC and are told they owe an outstanding debt. In the hundreds of cases reported to Action Fraud in the past month, the fraudsters all ask for payment in iTunes gift card voucher codes. 
Fraudsters are now moving onto iTunes gift cards to collect money from victims 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 over the phone. 
Fraudsters are contacting victims in three ways:
  • Voicemails: Fraudsters are leaving victims automated voicemails saying that they owe HMRC unpaid taxes. When victims call back on the number provided, they are told that there is a warrant out in their name and if they don’t pay, the police will arrest them.
  • Spoofed calls: Fraudsters are cold calling victims using a spoofed 0300 200 3300 number and convincing them that they owe unpaid tax to HMRC. 
  • Text messages: Fraudsters are sending text messages that require victims to urgently call back on the number provided. When victims call back, they are told that there is a case being built against them for an outstanding debt and they must pay immediately.  
One victim had reported purchasing over 15 iTunes gift card vouchers from Argos at £100 pounds each and handing them over to fraudsters on the phone after receiving an automated voice message. Another victim handed gift card voucher codes worth £15,000 after receiving a cold call. 
This new trend that has only surfaced in the UK over the past month has been used by scammers in the USA who have been posing as police, attorneys, debt collectors and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents. 
How to protect yourself: 
  • HMRC will never use texts to tell you about a tax rebate or penalty or ever ask for payment in this way.
  • Telephone numbers and text messages can easily be spoofed. You should never trust the number you see on your telephones display. 
  • If you receive a suspicious cold call, end it immediately.
To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.
Detectives are renewing an appeal for information from the public as part of the active investigation into the murder a year ago of West Molesey resident Robyn Mercer.
The body of the 50-year-old antiques dealer was discovered outside her home in Walton Road on the morning of 14 March 2016.  The mother-of-two died as a result of multiple blows to the head.
During the past 12 months officers and staff have worked tirelessly in a bid to bring those responsible for the brutal murder to justice. Many different teams have used their specialist skills to help the complex investigation named Operation Zebu.  Detectives from the Major Crime Team, officers with forensic expertise, internal police and external independent search teams, dog units, family liaison officers and Neighbourhood Specialist Officers have all been involved in the inquiry.
Nearly 2,500 documents made up of statements, interviews and officer reports have been produced during in-depth enquiries carried out to date. Twenty search warrants have been executed as part of the investigation, more than 1,800 items have been seized and 155 exhibits have so far been forensically examined.
Detectives have followed up on nearly 1,000 taskings and hundreds of lines of enquiry; neighbourhood specialist officers have made 6,400 house to house calls with 13,000 questionnaires returned and more than 1500 hours of CCTV have been viewed. 
In September a revamped BBC I Crimewatch programme featured DCI Paul Rymarz who made a direct appeal to the public for help in finding the offender/s. He told viewers “This was a horrendous crime which has devastated Robyn’s family and friends. Our work to try to identify and bring to justice those who committed this brutal attack continues.”
As a result of the programme, information was received which enabled detectives to locate and identify a dog walker who had been seen on CCTV shared with the Crimewatch audience.
A reward of up to £10,000 was offered by the independent charity Crimestoppers for information that led to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.
A specialist independent search team was brought in to conduct an underwater search of a lake in October. At the waterside in Oxshott DCI Rymarz told assembled media: “We will continue to pursue all potential leads and will relentlessly carry on until the offender/s are behind bars.”
Today, DCI Rymarz said: “I would urge anyone who has information which might help the investigation and has not yet come forward, to speak with officers as a matter of utmost urgency. I am convinced the answer lies within the local community and we must ensure those responsible for this atrocious act faces conviction.”
Anyone who can help the investigation is asked to contact Surrey Police on 101 quoting Operation Zebu.
Message sent by
Andy Reid (Surrey Police, InTheKnow.Community Administrator, Mole Valley)

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