Brian Sims
Editor

“Criminals all set to exploit current surge in cost of living” warns Cifas

CIFAS, THE UK’s fraud prevention service, is highlighting the latest fraud threats and warning members of the public to remain vigilant of the ever-changing tactics that scammers are using to extract money and information.

Criminals are currently exploiting the recent announcement made by Ofgem that the energy price cap will increase from Friday 1 April 2022 for approximately 22 million customers. In a bid to help households cope with this increase in their bills, the Government has also announced a £200 rebate against energy bills in October 2022.

Ahead of these changes, Citizens Advice in Oxfordshire has reported a 36% increase in individuals looking for support connected to ‘fuel debt’. These changes and the public’s concern towards the rising cost of living has alerted the criminal fraternity, some of whom have diverted their attentions towards attempting to trick consumers out of their personal and financial details.

As a demonstration of this tactic, the consumer group Which? has reported instances of criminals impersonating energy companies. In one attempt, criminals ran an e-mail phishing campaign impersonating Eon by promising an £85 refund. Which? has also warned of another phishing e-mail claiming to have been sent from British Gas and offering an even greater refund of £400.

Commenting on this new threat, Amber Burridge (head of fraud intelligence at Cifas) asserted: “Criminals have been quick to take advantage of recent changes in the energy sector. By creating fake messages claiming to be from energy suppliers and offering refunds to those who click on a link, fraudsters are attempting to steal personal and financial details. Once in possession of such information, criminals may be able to commit various types of fraud against their chosen victims by impersonating them in order to commit identity fraud or otherwise by using stolen details to access online accounts.”

Burridge added: “Whenever you receive a message asking you to click on links or provide personal details, it’s important to stop and think about the consequences of doing so. It’s also important to forward any scam e-mails received to report@phishing.gov.uk such that the accounts sending these messages can be investigated.”

SFO investigation delivers £200,000-plus compensation

Upwards of £200,000 in compensation obtained by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into Amec Foster Wheeler Energy Limited will be given to the people of Nigeria after the signing of a UK-Nigeria Memorandum of Understanding. In total, the sum of £210,610 will be transferred by the UK Government, with the funds supporting three key infrastructure projects and ensuring that the people of Nigeria benefit directly.

In July last year, the SFO reached a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with Amec Foster Wheeler Energy Limited, with the company accepting responsibility for ten offences of corruption relating to the use of corrupt agents in the oil and gas sector. The offences spanned the period from 1996 to 2014 and took place in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, India, Brazil and Nigeria.

As well as financial penalties and costs paid to authorities in the UK, the US and Brazil, Amec Foster Wheeler Energy Limited was ordered to pay compensation to Nigeria. The sum was determined by Lord Justice Edis to be a “direct” loss to the people of Nigeria in tax revenue, which was evaded by the use of bribes paid by Amec Foster Wheeler to Nigerian officials.

Lisa Osofsky, director of the Serious Fraud Office, said: “We have a zero tolerance approach to companies who think they can bribe their way to financial success. Bribery and corruption not only stifle real economic growth and free trade, but they also damage democracy and risk the security of all our countries.”

Osofsky added: “I’m delighted that the tenacity of my SFO colleagues has resulted in the people of Nigeria being compensated in a way that will truly benefit them.”

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