March 2023 CAPASP Newsletter

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Hi everyone, I hope this newsletter reaches you in good health and good spirits.

Hopefully we've put the coldest of the winter weather behind us and can look forward to a beautiful spring ahead of us. 

We missed sharing a newsletter in January and February due to unexpected absences and lots going on at CAPASP HQ (read on to find out more!) but it's great to be writing to you all again. With potential changes afoot this might be my last newsletter so I shall take this opportunity to thank you for reading and sharing our newsletters and alerts and please do continue to spread scams awareness wherever you can! You are making a real positive difference!

Charlotte Homent

Community Protection Team Await News of their Fate

Sarah Freeman offering scams advice in the community

Member of Community Protection team offering scams advice in the community

You may recall from our December newsletter that Cambridgeshire County Council's Community Protection team were under review as a proposal had been put to the council's Communities, Social Mobility and Inclusion Committee (COSMIC) to stop the direct provision of scams prevention work and delete the Community Protection team as part of the council's cost savings required for 2023/24.

These proposals, along with other recommendations for budget savings, were formalised into a Think Communities Service restructure proposal which was subject to a 30 day staff consultation. This launched on 25th January and closed on 24th February. The team currently await the final outcome of the consultation.

The team would like to thank anybody who took the time to submit feedback on the proposals and who have supported them throughout this unsettling time. We will let you know of the final outcome once it is announced later this month.

In the event that the team no longer exist to coordinate Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Against Scams Partnership, we expect another partner will take the lead and that newsletters and social media communications will continue, albeit possibly in a different format.

HMRC Scam Cons Local Student Out of £15,000

Letter used to con student

Fraudulent letter used to con student

A student in Cambridge was recently cruelly conned out of £15,000 by an HMRC scam.

Fraudsters telephoned the victim, an overseas student in their final year at university, claiming that they owed £985 in tax arrears. The caller backed up the call with some threatening letters, shared by WhatsApp, which created a real sense of urgency and alarm that the student must respond quickly. The letters mimicked the font style, logo and named officers of HMRC and the Supreme Court and therefore looked very genuine. See example of one page of the letters here.

The student had worked hard in cleaning and caring jobs alongside their studies, for the first two years of their course, so that they could focus solely on their studies in the final year. When the sum the criminals claimed to be due matched one that had previously been paid to HMRC, genuinely, in relation to their employment, the student believed that the new demand was genuine too. 

The scammers tricked the student into sending thousands of pounds more than the £985 they claimed was required to meet the tax bill, explaining that much would be reimbursed. This was for alleged 'allegations fees, document charges, case charges and a letter from the court house that all criminal activity will be removed'.

Sadly, this was all lies and the student lost around £15,000 which comprised their hard-earned savings and a loan from a family member. 

Being new to employment in the UK, the student was unaware of some of the red flags that might have alerted them that something wasn't right. For example HMRC do not:

  • Telephone tax payers to chase arrears
  • Use WhatsApp to share letters 
  • Use WhatsApp for officer communications
  • Request overpayment for anything 
  • Threaten arrest for tax arrears

Unfortunately the student does not bank with one of the parties to the Contingent Reimbursement Model (CRM) Code of Practice for Authorised Push Payment Fraud which means they are unlikely to get their money back through their bank. 

If you receive a telephone call purporting to be from HMRC, hang up immediately. Do not press any keys that the caller instructs nor give any payment details.

If you receive a text message claiming to be from HMRC forward to 7726. If it's an e-mail, forward to 

Report telephone and online scams to Action Fraud on their website or on 0300 123 2040.

Friends Against Scams update

Friends Against Scams logo

The latest stats show 6254 Friends Against Scams in Cambridgeshire, all equipped with the skills and knowledge to 'take a stand against scams'. Brilliant!

Since our last newsletter partners have delivered Friends Against Scams talks to:

  • Fulbourn Ladies Group
  • Athena care homes in March and Peterborough
  • Age UK Friendship Club in Peterborough

and residents at the following Cambridge City housing schemes:

  • Talbot House
  • Ditton Court
  • Brandon Court
  • Ditchburn Place

If you would like a talk to be delivered to your community group or if you would like to become a SCAMchampion to deliver Friends Against Scams talks yourself, please contact us before 31st March and we would be happy to assist. Please contact the National Trading Standards (NTS) Scams Team's Friends Against Scams Team thereafter.

Romance and Doorstep Scam Warnings on the Airwaves

With our February radio interviews falling on, or close to, St Valentine's Day, the theme of staying safe from online romance scams was the order of the day.

Norman Knapper

Norman Knapper

On 13th February, Charlotte spoke to HCRfm's Norman Knapper on his 'Over to You' programme about the clever language used by fraudsters to manipulate their victims and the red flags that users of online dating sites should look out for. 

Kev Lawrence

Kev Lawrence

The following day Charlotte joined BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's Kev Lawrence on the Money Hour. As well as advice for people dabbling in online dating, Charlotte gave advice to people who are concerned that a friend or family member may be being conned by a romance fraudster. You can listen back here

March's radio interviews focus on doorstep scams such as rogue trading, distraction burglary and 'Nottingham Knockers'. You can listen back to Charlotte's chat with Jeremy Sallis on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire here.

Listen out for Charlotte's interview with Norman Knapper on Monday 13th March from 7pm. Tune in to HCRfm on 104fm or or on your smart speaker.  

NCSC's Top Tips for Cyber Security

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has created a brilliant e-learning course which gives expert advice to help keep devices and data secure. The course has four topics:

  • Defending yourself against phishing
  • Creating strong passwords
  • Securing your devices
  • Reporting incidents

You can find the training here.

If you are part of a local council, community group, charity or suchlike, Nigel Sutton, Cambridgeshire Constabulary's fabulous Fraud and Cyber Security Advisor, is able to come and give a cyber security talk to help keep your members and your organisation safe from cyber threats. Contact Nigel here

Fenland Community Safety Survey

Fenland Community Safety Partnership are running a survey to find out about any community concerns relating to crime and disorder in the district. So if you live or work in Fenland please complete the survey relevant to your local area here.

Fake Disney+ Subscription Offer

Disney Plus logo

The consumer association Which? is warning of phishing e-mails claiming to offer an annual Disney+ subscription for just £2.00 instead of the usual £79.90 (£7.99 a month).

You can read more here and sign up to receive Which? scam warnings direct to your inbox.

For more information and the latest deals for Disney+ visit their website.

Report phishing scams like this to NCSC by forwarding to 

Family Scam Evolves

We've previously warned about the 'Hi Mum' scam that originally started out on WhatsApp targeting parents of adult children. The message claims to be their child in need of some financial help due to a broken phone, unexpected bill etc.

As with most scams, the fraudsters behind them soon broadened their approach so people started to see these messages on regular SMS text too.

Now the New Milton Advertiser & Lymington Times reports that the scam has evolved to mimic a parent needing help and targets adult children.

All iterations of this scam are still out there trying to con people out of their money so please spread the word and take care!