Charities have been warned to look out for a fake grants scheme that has conned people and organisations out of more than £250,000 this year.
Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre, said organisations needed to be wary of unsolicited invitations to apply for grants after it received 85 reports of fraudsters posing as representatives of a government grant scheme.
The fraudsters contact organisations claiming to be from companies operating on behalf of the UK government and inviting them to complete an online application form, which they are then told has been successful.
Applicants are then asked to provide identification and are instructed to get a pre-paid card on which to deposit their own contributions to the fake government grant scheme. The fraudsters then contact the victims by phone or email to ask for the details of their pre-paid card and copies of statements in order for them to add the grant funds. But the grants are never made and the money that has been loaded onto the card by the victim is stolen.
Action Fraud said £255,724 had been taken this way since January, with victims losing an average of £3,000 each.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has taken down one website that was being used to commit this fraud. It said it was working with Companies House to identify other fake companies and websites that were involved.
Lara Xenoudakis, temporary detective chief inspector of the City of London Police, said: "Under the guise of the UK government, fraudsters are taking advantage of people's trust by setting up convincing fake websites.
"The NFIB is working hard take down these websites and prevent people from falling victim, but we are urging people to be cautious."
Action Fraud’s website says that organisations should never pay to access a grant or give out personal or banking details over the phone or online.
Xenoudakis said: "A legitimate government grant scheme would never expect to receive an up-front payment in return for the grant, so it is important that anyone who believes they have been contacted by these fraudsters makes a report to Action Fraud."