Northumbria Police has a dedicated Fraud Unit which deals with serious and complex fraud and acts as a point of contact for staff throughout the force.
A new hotline has also been set up for people wanting help and advice on reporting fraud.
The National Fraud Authority (NFA) has launched Action Fraud, a national fraud reporting centre that provides a single point of contact for fraud victims where they can both report a fraud and seek guidance and advice.
Action Fraud provides clear advice on all types of fraud, including identity theft, investment, credit card and consumer fraud. At the same time it gives law enforcement and counter-fraud agencies better information to better target fraudsters, better protect the public and bring criminals to justice, by providing vital information to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
If people or business operators want advice, support or want to report fraud they are encouraged to call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, Textphone 0300 123 2050 or visit www.actionfraud.org.uk
The force also works closely with partners such as the North East Fraud Forum and the Hadrian Project (public private partnerships) to ensure individuals and businesses are kept up to date with the simple steps they can take to prevent fraud and ensure internet safety.
Because of the variety and types of fraud only general guidance can be given in relation to the majority of perpetrated frauds.
Always take the opportunity to exercise a 'cooling down' period following consultation within which you research the company, individual and scheme you are interested in investing in.
If the fraud, the system used or the crime itself are unclear it may well be more efficient for a potential victim to report the matter to a financial institution, if one is involved. They will be in a position to verify if an offence has actually taken place and more importantly if it has, where the offence took place.
The first point of contact for the police would be the institution, to discover if they believed a crime has been committed, who had committed the crime and where the crime had taken place. Always seek independent expert advice from a reputable company.
As a general rule please remember: "If an offer sounds too good to be true it probably is."
Plastic card or cheque fraud
A protocol has been developed between the police and financial institutions in relation to the reporting of plastic card or cheque fraud.
The theft of a card or cheque should always be reported to the police.
In terms of credit card of cheque fraud, unless an account holder is reporting a 'crime in action', such as where the offence is or has just been committed and where there is potential for arrest/recovery of evidence, victims should report the matter to their financial institution in the first instance.
Financial institutions now have a Single Point of Contact (SPOC) in each police force. The institutions have the responsibility to research the case and forward any crime to the relevant police force for investigation.
The majority of account holders had not been reporting fraud to the police so, in addition to removing a layer of bureaucracy in verifying a fraud with a financial institution, it also ensures police become aware of cases where there is a reasonable prospect of an offender being brought to justice more speedily.
Account holders no longer have to go to the police as well as the financial institution. But if they do, the police will still record this as an incident.
In many cases, account holders are contacted directly by their financial institution to query transactions. The financial institution now has the responsibility to pass crime details to the police as opposed to account holders.
Financial institutions review the information, take relevant steps to safeguard accounts and their security and then report the matter to the relevant police force for further attention if they are satisfied that it is a crime.
eBay and other Internet Auction Sites
Get to know the rules and advice given by the site - they are in place to ensure user safety. Never step outside of these or outside of the site no matter how enticing the deal. Fraudsters will try to trick you into moving outside the site to conduct a transaction.
Remember: "If an offer sounds too good to be true it probably is."
Never use money transfers or direct banking transactions to pay for goods – even if this payment method is suggested by the seller after an item for auction has been ‘won’. Because of the cash-to-cash nature of these services, there is little recourse to the buyer once the money transfer transaction has been completed. You are effectively sending your hard earned cash to a stranger ‘on trust’ alone.
Use a reputable ESCROW account to pay for items. This is a payment system where both the buyer and seller’s financial details are held separately and in isolation by a legitimate third party company acting as ‘middleman’. Payment is only made once the goods have arrived and been deemed satisfactory. By doing this your transactions will be better protected and often insured.
Don't get carried away in the excitement of winning an auction. Fraudsters rely on you being over keen and off your guard. It is never too late to ask questions of a seller to ensure you are completely happy with what you are about to pay for. Do not follow through if you think it is a fraud and report the seller to the site.
Finally, if your site offers ‘second chance’ bidding on an auction, verify that any notification of you qualifying for this ‘opportunity’ actually comes from the site and not from a fraudster impersonating them. You can do this by carefully checking the address from which the e-mail is sent or by contacting the site via its published website.
Beware of using any hyperlinks or numbers attached to such a ‘notification’ as these may also be false.
Always report any suspected crime to the auction site - a number including eBay have their own investigative and anti fraud teams.
If it is accepted that a contract exists between the buyers and sellers on these sites, then if the buyer or seller fails to fulfil their obligations they will be in breach of the contract. Such a breach is a civil dispute and a complainant may well be advised to resolve the matter through the appropriate civil channels.