Romance scams can cost you a fortune, take care on Valentine's Day


Romance scams can cost you a fortune, take care on Valentine's Day



Beware fake lovers on Valentine's Day

MORE and more couples meet online or via dating apps – however, cyber criminals often use these channels to target vulnerable people for financial gain. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the Dating Fraud Partnership has published new advice to help people looking for love avoid becoming a victim of online fraudsters.

   People spend much of their lives online, communicating and meeting new people via social networks, and millions of people have found their partners through online dating. Whilst it’s easy to get swept up in the romance of it all and let your heart rule your head, organised criminals target people looking for love. For victims, dating fraud can shatter their lives both financially and emotionally.

   To help prevent people looking for love avoid becoming a victim of online fraudsters, the Dating Fraud Partnership has launched the #SafeDating campaign and published the following five #datesafe tips:

  1. Get to know the person, not the profile and ask plenty of questions - don’t rush into an online relationship.
  2. Check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly used phrases and the term ‘dating scam’ into your search engine.
  3. Talk to your friends and family about your dating choices. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them.
  4. Never send money to someone you’ve met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you've been speaking to them.
  5. Don’t move the conversation off the dating site messenger until you’re confident the person is who they say they are. If you do decide to meet in person, make sure the first meeting is in a public place and let someone else know where you’re going to be.

   Get Safe Online has more information on safe online dating and will be tweeting advice to protect people from romance fraud using hashtag #safedating. Keep an eye out for the posts and don’t forget to share them.


If you believe you have been the victim of dating fraud, please report it to the dating provider as well as the police.

If you have been the victim of actual or attempted fraud, report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting:

Victim Support also provides free and confidential support to help victims of dating fraud to move on with their lives.


Essex NHW Association celebrates

Crime fighting group celebrates 25 years

THIS is a momentous year for Essex Neighbourhood Watch Association and everyone will be in a party mood.

   Because the Association will be celebrating its silver anniversary - 25 years in which they have grown to over 140,000 Neighbourhood Watch members in Essex including Neighbourhood Watch Facebook Group members.

   They are managed by fourteen District Co-ordinators who attend our Association’s meetings every two months.  

   Roger Hirst ,Essex Police Fire & Crime Commissioner, will be congratulating the Association members at a special meeting  to help raise the profile of Neighbourhood Watch in Essex.

   The Association will have special badges that celebrate the 25 years and also new members badges which are only available from the District Co-ordinators ( in other words cannot be bought from any website) .

   District Co-ordinators would welcome the opportunity to hear from members of the community who would like to have information on Neighbourhood Watch so that they can advise them what it means for them to be involved with the Watch on Essex.  

   For the sixth consecutive year Roger Hirst has agreed funding for Neighbourhood Watch and also funded the printing of 50,000 of the Essex County Neighbourhood Watch Members Guides ( which is available by email version too) . 

   Many District Councils and Parish Councils have shared the costs of Neighbourhood Watch Street signs which Chief Constable Mr. B.J Harrington acknowledges that they help to reduce the opportunity of crime. 

   In the past year Essex NHW has distributed and installed over 600 street signs in Essex. Braintree District Neighbourhood Watch received this year £200 from Essex Association of Local Councils towards Street Signs.

  The Association looks forward to hearing from any person to advise them how Neighbourhood Watch has helped to reduce the opportunity of crime.

Clive Stewart





Which? has exposed serious security flaws with popular children’s smart toys and is calling for the government to introduce mandatory security standards to prevent unsecure products being available for sale. 

     The consumer champion, with security specialist NCC Group, conducted a snapshot test of connected toys sold by major retailers - including Amazon, Argos, John Lewis and Smyths - and found they are lacking in basic security which leaves them vulnerable to being hacked and could even enable a stranger to talk to a child.  

   The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) established a new voluntary code in October 2018 to improve the security of connected technology products, but most manufacturers have failed to sign up - only three have signed up publicly - and the threat of unsecure products continues.

    Which? is calling for it to be made mandatory for manufacturers to ensure smart products meet appropriate security standards in order to go on sale.

   Which? looked at seven popular devices and found that with three of them, a stranger could exploit flaws in the design to communicate with a child. 

    A security flaw in the £30 Vtech KidiGear Walkie Talkies could allow someone to start a two-way conversation with a child from a distance of up to 200 meters. 

    The consumer champion also found security flaws in popular children’s karaoke products ‘Karaoke microphone’, sold online by relatively unknown brand Xpassion/Tenva, and ‘Singing Machine SMK250PP’ by Singing Machine. Both could allow people within 10 meters to send recorded messages to a child because the Bluetooth has no authentication, such as a PIN.   

    Which?’s tests also revealed the Boxer Robot, an interactive Artificial Intelligence robot, Mattel Bloxels, a board game and educational web portal, coding game Sphero Mini and the ‘Singing Machine’ were all found to have security issues which leave them open to hacking. 

   Users are not required to create strong passwords for their online accounts meaning their personal data could be at risk if the account is compromised, or if the company running the online service suffered a data breach.

    Two of the seven products Which? looked at - Bloxels and Sphero Mini - also had no filter to prevent explicit language or offensive images being uploaded to their online platforms. Any child using the public portal or app on these products could then see or hear this content. 

    Which? is now calling on the next government to introduce a mandatory requirement for connected devices to be appropriately secured before they reach the point of sale in the UK.

    Industry must also show it is taking the security of internet-enabled and smart products seriously by introducing basic level security as a first step. This includes ensuring devices require a unique password before use, they have data encryption, as well as consistent security updates.

Tips on how to buy and use smart toys

1. Read the description of the connected toy carefully in the shop or online. Find out what the toy actually does and how your child will interact with it. Toys such as the Rizmo - an interactive cuddly toy that was also tested and didn’t raise concerns - don’t require an external network connection or mobile app, and so the risk to your child is lower.
2. Search online to see if there have been any security concerns raised about the toy previously, such as a leak of personal data. If you are at all concerned, consider a non-smart toy instead.
3. If you do buy a smart toy, submit only the minimal amount of personal data required when setting up an account for your child. So, not too much data is exposed if things do go wrong. Do set strong passwords, though, to ensure any accounts are properly protected.
4. Keep an eye on your child when they’re playing with the smart toy, particularly if it can send or receive messages. It is not advisable to leave them unsupervised. 
5. When your child is not playing with the smart toy, make sure you turn it off completely so that it is not vulnerable to being exploited. 

For further information visit:




In a bid to raise awareness, businessman Sir Richard Branson has released an animated guide to explain the ways that criminals use his name and likeness to steal personal and financial information. 

   He also recommends reporting anything you think is a scam, to Action Fraud.

   In the video, a cartoon version of Branson points out: "Scammers are contacting people who post on our social feeds. Even if it’s a verified account, know that I never direct message anyone, nor does my team.

   “I never endorse any get-rich-quick schemes—this is a sure-fire way to lose your investment."

   Last year, Branson highlighted a series of bitcoin scam stories that used his name in an attempt to convince victims to part with their cash.

   “I have written several times warning people about the growing problem of fake stories online linking me to get-rich-quick schemes, fake pages, misleading ads, false endorsements and fake binary trading schemes.” he wrote in a blog post.

   “While I have often commented on the potential benefits of genuine bitcoin developments,” he continued, “I absolutely do not endorse these fake bitcoin stories.”
  To help clamp down on online scams, Virgin has opened its own reporting portal at where people can report any cases featuring Richard Branson or Virgin that seem suspicious.
  If you have been a victim of fraud or cyber crime, report it to Action Fraud at



Phishing scam warning

HERE a worrying warning from Sgt Jon Hiron of East Cambridgeshire police who was  targeted by a phishing scam that arrived in his text message inbox on his mobile phone.

   Having been out on a long distance cycle ride Jon received a notification purporting to be from 'Barclays Bank'. The message claimed that a transaction had been made to a value of £1976 - quite alarmingly - at the 'Apple Online Store'. It requested contact if this transaction was not made by himself.

   The text message is really very convincing and actually came through on a chain of other legitimate Barclays Bank text messages - which seemed to corroborate it's legitimacy. On this basis Jon made the call to the number shown - an 0330 number.

   He spoke to a lady who then reassured him that she would close down the transaction, and sent him through some authentication software, asking him to enter codes that she generated for him, and some personal information.

   Jon became wary when it appeared to him that he was being asked to complete a form that was asking him to transfer a sum of £45,000 out of his account. When he challenged this the female voice tried to reassure him that everything was fine, and that it just 'looked like that'. 

   When Jon then said that he would visit his local branch in person, the caller hastily terminated the call, hanging up.

   Jon subsequently checked his account and it became clear that the offender had setup a loan for £50,000 in Jon's name, and the funds had been credited to his bank account. The contact was apparently attempting to extract those funds and transfer them elsewhere.

   Sgt Hiron said: "I'm not a gullible guy - I've seen all sorts of things and I have years of service dealing with criminals. The fact that the text message arrived apparently from Barclays in exactly the same chain of previously legitimate messages was really quite convincing - I didn't question that at all.

   "When I spoke to the lady at the 'call centre' things became increasingly suspicious, until eventually I'd had enough and challenged what was going on. She abruptly ended the call and I knew it was wrong. I was probably only moments away from creditIng £45,000. If this can happen to me - it can happen to anyone."

   Barclays Bank have been made aware of this incident and they are certainly not the only bank affected by the phenomenon of phishing fraud.

   If you receive a message of this nature, don't call the number in the text message, call your bank from the telephone number you usually use, or visit a branch in person. 

If the situation is legitimate, they will have record of it. Never give out your password, safeword or pin number to anyone purporting to be from your bank. For more information on Phishing Fraud, visit Action Fraud:


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