Action Fraud, the UK's fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre, have issued a warning over fraudsters claiming to be from the Home Office.
This new scam’s aim is to obtain an up-front fee from the victim to resolve a supposed problem with their immigration status.
The phone calls come from what appears to a genuine Home Office telephone number: 0207 354 848. This has in fact been ‘spoofed, the fraudsters using sophisticated software which allows them to display any number on a victim’s phone.
The victim is asked to confirm personal details, such as their passport number and date of arrival in the United Kingdom before asking for a fee in order to resolve the problem with their documentation.
If a victim starts to question the call, the fraudsters point out the ‘spoofed’ number to make the request seem legitimate.
Many victims who have been targeted by this fraud have had an association to India. The fraudsters often state that the victim has outstanding criminal charges against them in India, or that their official documentation was not completed satisfactorily upon their arrival into the United Kingdom.
Victims are told they have three options - either face deportation; face arrest and imprisonment; or pay the up-front fee.
They are then asked to pay the fees through a variety of methods, including; Bitcoin, money transfers via a Money Service Bureau or by purchasing iTunes vouchers before relaying the voucher code to the suspect.
Fraudsters usually attempt to keep the victim on the phone until the payment is received, which can be hours at a time.
Action Fraud have offered the following advice to allow potential fraud victims to protect themselves:
The Home Office, Police or any UK Law Enforcement Agency will never ask for money over the telephone.Government agencies do not use non-secure payment methods such as a transfer via a Money service Bureau, iTunes voucher(s) or cryptocurrency e.g. Bitcoin.When receiving unsolicited calls, be wary of providing personal information, or confirming that personal information the caller already claims to hold is correct. Always ensure you know who you talking to. Ask for the details of the organisation the caller represents and call them back yourself on the officially published numbers rather than the numbers the caller may try to provide you with.If you have any concerns regarding your immigration status, please visit the Gov.uk to speak with someone regarding your specific immigration issue.
If you think you have been a victim of fraud you should report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by using the online reporting tool.