Warn­ing is­sued over new scam

The Oban Times - - News -

A HIGHLAND man has been cheated out of a sub­stan­tial sum of money af­ter fall­ing vic­tim to a new scam.

Highland Coun­cil Trad­ing Stan­dards of­fi­cers have re­ported a conman pos­ing as a rep­utable prop­erty land­lord used the man’s mo­bile num­ber to col­lect per­sonal in­for­ma­tion from his Face­book ac­count.

David MacKen­zie, Highland Coun­cil’s trad­ing stan­dards man­ager, ex­plained: ‘ We re­ceived an in­quiry from a Highland stu­dent who had placed a ‘flat wanted’ ad­vert in an on­line clas­si­fied ads web­site.

‘His ad­vert had only his mo­bile num­ber, no name or other iden­ti­fi­ca­tion de­tails. He re­ceived a call from a man who seemed plau­si­ble and who name- checked peo­ple and places the stu­dent knew.

Af­ter al­legedly ‘car­ry­ing out checks’, the caller got back in touch and of­fered a room in a flat in re­turn for a hold­ing de­posit.

The stu­dent was keen to se­cure the flat and sent the de­posit by bank trans­fer. Un­for­tu­nately, there was no flat and it was a scam.

Mr MacKen­zie con­tin­ued: ‘There was lit­tle we could do to help the con­sumer. A bank trans­fer is a bit like hand­ing over cash and there is lit­tle chance of re­cov­er­ing the money. Plus the crime here is fraud rather than a Trad­ing Stan­dards mat­ter so we passed the in­for­ma­tion to the po­lice.

‘We ex­am­ined the case to de­ter­mine how the scam­mer knew so much about the stu­dent from just a tele­phone num­ber and no name.

‘It turned out the in­for­ma­tion was gleaned from the stu­dent’s Face­book ac­count, de­spite the fact he thought his Face­book profile was set to not dis­close his mo­bile num­ber.

‘There are two key set­tings on Face­book deal­ing with your mo­bile phone num­ber: who can see your mo­bile num­ber and who can look you up by your mo­bile. Most peo­ple un­der­stand the first set­ting but we sus­pect many peo­ple don’t re­alise the po­ten­tial im­pli­ca­tions of any­one be­ing able to find your iden­tity from just your mo­bile num­ber.’

The coun­cil is urg­ing con­sumers to make sure their Face­book set­tings are what they want them to be.

The coun­cil of­fi­cer added: ‘If a scam­mer has only your mo­bile num­ber but not your name and no other iden­ti­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion, they can still search Face­book to see if you’re listed.

‘ We are ad­vis­ing con­sumers that if you don’t want peo­ple to find your Face­book profile by us­ing your mo­bile num­ber, to change the pri­vacy set­ting on ‘Who can look me up’. For ex­am­ple, change that from the de­fault set­ting of ‘Ev­ery­one’ to just your friends.’

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