What is advance fee fraud?


Financial Crime

There's nothing more inconvenient than paying for something that doesn’t turn up. You might have put an order in online that gets delivered to the wrong house, or go to pick up a birthday cake, only for the bakery to realise they've missed your order.

These instances can normally be put down to human error and the company will usually make good by refunding you or sending another product. But things wouldn’t be sorted so quickly if you're a victim of advance fee fraud.

This type of scam happens when fraudsters target victims to make advance or upfront payments for goods or services that never materialise. To help you understand this type of fraud further, we're going to take you through the scams it features in. 

Recruitment scam

When looking for a job, you might put your CV or personal details on a job site – a seemingly harmless act. But fraudsters can take these details and contact you claiming to be an employer or employer's agent. They will tell you you're being considered for the role (which of course, you'll get), and ask for a small fee to apply for the job.

You'll then be asked to pay a fee whenever you receive help from the fake recruiters. For example, if the job is abroad, you'll usually be referred to an agency to help you with setting up travel, accommodation or visas. Evidently, these arrangements never happen and you'll be left disappointed when you do try to travel to your new job.

You can find out more about this recruitment scam in our blog.

Rental fraud

It's no secret that the competition for rented properties is high and knowing this, fraudsters advertise flats or flat shares to con their victims.

Once interest is shown in the property, the fraudsters try to convince the prospective tenant into handing over an upfront fee to secure the flat immediately – often without even viewing it. In many cases, the flat either doesn't exist or is already rented out if it does.

The upfront fee the victim pays to secure the property is often lost as part of this rental fraud. Victims of this type of fraud are usually students looking for accommodation.

Impersonation scam

Another strand of advance fee fraud is the impersonation of officials or organisations. The council tax scam is one particular fraud, which sees fraudsters call up their victims pretending to be from the council.

They tell them that they've been put in the wrong council tax bracket and are therefore due a tax rebate, typically worth around £7,000. To receive this rebate, the victim is told they'll have to pay an administration fee. This varies from case to case, but can be between £60 and £350.

The victim usually only realises that they've been scammed when they don't receive the money and get in contact with the council directly.

You can read the full details of this council tax scam in our blog.

Remember, if something sounds too good to be true – a dream job, dirt cheap apartment or tax rebate – it probably is. Make sure to do your research before you sign up to anything and if it still doesn't feel right, trust your instincts.

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