Warning issued over new scam
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.’