Stay ahead of online fraudsters

Security 650 X 300UK Finance, which represents banks and financial services companies, said the trend toward ever more online fraud is being boosted by the COVID-19 crisis. This is because many more of us are increasingly online, working, shopping and banking from home.

In the first six months of 2020 alone, £208m was stolen in the UK as a result of reported authorised push payment (APP) fraud, where victims unwittingly send their money to a criminal-controlled account. Losses from internet banking fraud, where criminals gain access to a customer’s bank account through online banking and make unauthorised transfers, jumped by nearly a third to £64.3m, and losses from mobile banking fraud targeting UK bank's customers increased by 41 per cent, when compared to the same period last year.

But by far the greatest increase in online fraud is in impersonations scams, where criminals pressurise people into handing over money by pretending to be a trusted organisation. There were 15,000 cases in the first six months of this year, an increase of 84 per cent on the same period in 2019.

The scam works by convincing the victim that they are in some kind of trouble. For example, scammers pretend to be from an official body such as HMRC or NHS Test and Trace and while the victim feels vulnerable, ask questions that are designed to gain sensitive personal or financial information.

In July, victims of coronavirus-related scams were estimated to have lost over £11 million – and UK Fraud has warned that fraudsters will continue to adapt their techniques to be ever more sophisticated as the pandemic continues.

But by following these steps, you can reduce the risk of being a victim of online fraud:

Don’t:

  • Reveal sensitive personal or financial information, including your bank account details or PIN, over the phone. No legitimate organisation would ever ask for this.
  • Be rushed, panicked or frightened into making a decision you later regret. Scammers will try to rush you into providing your personal details before you’ve had time to properly think it through and they are experts at manipulating you into thinking they are from official organisations
  • Be afraid to simply hang up. If you feel harassed or intimidated, or if the caller talks over you without giving you a chance to speak, end the call. Register for free with the Telephone Preference Service to reduce the number of cold calls you receive in future.

Do:

  • Be suspicious of cold calls – listen to your little voice that may try to warn you that something is not right
  • Ring the organisation if that would give you peace of mind. If you hung up but are unsure whether the call was genuine, you can always ring the company or bank they claim to be from. Make sure you find the number yourself and don’t use the one provided by the caller. If possible, do not use the phone they called you on
  • Report spam calls to your phone provider. If called on your mobile phone, mark the number as spam and it will automatically be blocked next time. You can report spam calls to the Information Commissioners Office, an independent body set up to uphold information rights here. You can forward spam texts for free to 7726. If you are unfortunate enough to be the victim of a scam, report it straight away not only to your bank but also to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, as this may increase the chance of the fraudsters being caught.

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