Staffordshire residents are being warned about falling prey to a scam involving Ukash vouchers.
Ukash is a legitimate scheme which allows people to use cash to pay online by exchanging notes and coins for a voucher.
However, fraudsters are cold-calling people across the country and falsely offering refunds of around £4,000 for mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) on previous loans.
In order to release the funds, potential victims are asked to make a Ukash payment to cover administration costs. This involves them buying a voucher from a Ukash outlet and giving the 19-digit voucher code to the offender.
Two women from Tamworth made Ukash payments of £110 and £50 to release PPI funds they told they were entitled to, but never received. In a similar scam, a Stoke-on-Trent man applied for an on-line loan and was asked to make £275 in Ukash payments up front, but didn’t get the loan.
DC Tim Whiteley, from Staffordshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “Ukash are simply cash vouchers and if you give the code to anyone it will allow them to cash the voucher or spend it from anywhere in the world. They can be safe if used as intended but if you step outside the guidelines of use, you are likely to get caught out.
“Ukash should only be used for making payments online at participating Ukash merchants. No part of the 19-digit voucher code should ever be given to anyone over the phone.
“We would ask the public – particularly those who are elderly or vulnerable - to be on their guard and ensure they do not fall prey to these scams which are taking place across the country. No legitimate organisation will ask you to pay a fee to receive money.
“Investigations have revealed that some of the payments have been credited to overseas online betting accounts used by the offenders.
“If someone phones you and seems to have knowledge of your personal details or circumstances, do not confirm any information with them or provide them with any missing details. Be very cautious, ask for their name and a contact number, so you can verify their details. If in any doubt contact the police.”
For more details about safe use of Ukash visit www.ukash.com
People who suspect fraud should contact Staffordshire Police on 101. Alternatively contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit their website www.actionfraud.org.uk