Scammers often use one or more of the following to help them commit fraud and hide their true identity.

Money transfer agents

Using a money transfer service is a way to send money to people that you know and trust. Money transfer agents offer fast, convenient and reliable options for customers to send and receive money worldwide.

However, they are often used by scammers in order to commit many types of fraud such as advance fee, identity theft, investments and mass market fraud.

Money transfer services are popular with scammers because, whilst the sender of the money has to produce identity documents, those that collect the money do not. This way the scammers can hide their identity.

Ensure you know who the individual is you are dealing with before providing them with any reference numbers they require to collect the money you have deposited.

Never let a potential scammer educate you on how a money transfer service or cash voucher systems works. Only trust advice given by the money transfer or cash voucher company themselves.

Read the warnings on money transfer documents. The information is there to protect you.

Do not pay for items bought online, including auction sites, using a money transfer agent. Money transfer agents are not responsible for the satisfactory receipt of goods or services paid for by means of a money transfer.

Never share details of a money transfer with someone to prove the availability of funds. Doing so may enable the money transfer to be paid to that third party. This is known as a ‘proof of funds’ fraud.

Virtual offices

A virtual office is an address registered by a person or business as an alternative to their true address. They may never actually visit the address and can have all mail to the virtual address redirected.

You may think you are dealing with a well established, professional individual or business because of a prestigious virtual office address. However, the reality can be very different.

The majority of businesses using virtual offices are honest and legitimate. However, scammers often use a virtual office address instead of their own home or business address in order to hide their true identity. Often scammers use false ID to obtain the virtual office facilities.

If you see a website that has an address on it, be aware that it could well be a virtual office address and the company does not operate from it. Victims of scams have been known to attend addresses on correspondence from companies, to recoup losses or claim prizes in person, only to find they are virtual offices.

Telephone numbers

A handful of telecommunications companies provide non-geographic telephone numbers, such as ‘0800’, ‘0845’ and premium rate numbers to businesses or individuals.
Depending on the type of service paid for, the customer does not have to provide identification. Scammers often use these numbers and have them diverted to unregistered pay-as-you go mobile phone numbers or to a separate telephone answering service, making them difficult to trace.

Because of this, you should not rely on the appearance of a telephone number to tell you what sort it is. For example, ‘0208’ is usually a London number and ‘07952’ a UK mobile number. However, telephone numbers can be purchased by scammers to trick you into believing they are legitimately based somewhere they are not.

Software has also become available that enables scammers to have any number they wish to appear on the caller ID screen on your phone. This method, known as ‘spoofing’, allows the scammer to appear to be calling from a legitimate number linked to a person or company when in fact they are not.

Always be wary of the identity of a person you don’t know when speaking to them on the telephone. Be aware that if the scammer gives out a telephone number, that phone number cannot always be traced and the user identified.