Think you know fraud? Do you reckon you can spot a con from a mile away? Check out this scenario and be honest, what would you do?
Your mobile rings, it’s a number you don’t recognise and it looks like a spam call. What do you do?
You don’t answer it and forget all about it. Easy.
Your mobile rings and it’s a number you do recognise, your bank for example. What do you do? You answer it, right?
And then you’re told you’ll need to answer some security questions. Still seems legit.
But what about when they start asking for your PIN number? What about when you’re asked for your online security code? When should you question whether this is a legitimate call?
The answer, sadly, can be as soon as you received a cold call from someone purporting to be your bank.
Because fraudsters aren’t to be underestimated. There are increasingly clever, and yet when you drill down to what they’re doing quite simple, ways con artists are targeting people of all ages and all backgrounds.
They can even call your phone and make it display a number you recognise. They can purport to be calling from any number they want. Your bank, your insurance company, your mum.
Of course you’ll know pretty quickly that it isn’t your mum on the phone asking what time you’ll be over for Sunday lunch.
But gone are the days we were on first name terms with our local bank manager. So when someone rings and starts asking you for a lot of personal information, or you’re suspicious it could be a scam, what should you do?
I was invited to find out the answer to this and lots more questions about fraud by Take Five and Mumsnet this week.
Myself and a group of fellow bloggers headed to Huckletree in Shoreditch where we watched a panel of experts discuss how to spot fraud and what action to take.
On the panel were Carrie Longton, co-founder of Mumsnet, Phil Robertson, head of Future Bank at Tesco Bank, Elaine Ross, head of fraud at TSB, Tony Blake, senior fraud prevention officer, Not Another Mummy blogger Alison Perry and Motherhood the Real Deal blogger Talya Stone.
There were lots of interesting questions and a great chance to find out what to do when faced with particular scenarios. Here’s the key information I took away, that can help you have the confidence to recognise and challenge something or someone that seems dodgy:
Different types of fraud
Here the victim is socially engineered into authorising the transfer of funds to an account they believe belongs to a legitimate payee or organisation.
One particularly heartbreaking scenario discussed was online dating scams. This can involve a victim being in a supposed “relationship” with someone online for months, maybe even more than a year. Then they are asked to send money to help their “partner” because they’ve had an emergency.
They’ve sent the money willingly, but it was all part of a long con simply to get the victim to hand cash over.
Clicks and links
That text might not be from who you think! “Smishing” is when criminals pretend a message is from a bank or other organisation that you trust.
They may tell you there has been fraudulent activity on your account and to act now. They usually direct you to call a number of visit a fake site where you’re asked for personal details.
Crooks may also “phish”, where they contact you via email. They can make messages look like they have come from your bank so always be suspicious of links in these emails. Check the link by hovering your mouse over it and see if the address looks legitimate.
Sharing personal information
Victims can be cold called by con artists who encourage them to provide personal details by engineering a conversation.
A particular incident outlined by Tony really shocked the room. The victim was called by someone claiming to be from their broadband company, asking for information.
They figured out it wasn’t legitimate quickly and said they would be hanging up and calling their broadband company immediately themselves to check. They did the right thing, because the broadband company confirmed it wasn’t a call from them.
However, later the victim received another call. This time from their bank. The caller said they understood they had recently received a fraudulent call and just wanted to check their security details. The victim handed over the information.
It’s important to remember fraud is run as a criminal enterprise. It’s sophisticated with many people working towards the goal of stealing your money. In this case there were two different scammers working on the same con, so the victim wouldn’t recognise the voice in the second call.
Check out these specific examples of scams so you know what to look out for:
Email from HMRC offering a refund.
A call from your bank asking you to move your money to a safe account.
An email from a foreign prince offering you untold riches if money is transferred to them now.
A message from WhatsApp asking for details to continue using the service.
A call from your internet provider saying your connection is running slow and this can be sped up if you let them take control of your computer.
An email from Amazon asking you for personal information to reactivate your account.
A text offering money off at a supermarket if a link in the message is clicked.
A call from a builder asking for money to be paid directly to a new bank account.
An email from your utility provider offering a refund.
An email from the Student Loans Company claiming your payments have been suspended due to incomplete student information.
Who can be a victim of fraud?
Anyone. As Elaine Ross said: “Nobody is too smart to avoid being scammed.”
The common misconception of the typical fraud victim being an older person was discussed and this just isn’t the case. People of all ages can fall for a scam, or be specifically targeted.
Mumsnet research showed one in five women had experienced a fraudulent approach at least once every day.
It’s often when we are caught off-guard in our busy lives, when we are too rushed off our feet to really pay attention, that we can fall foul of some of these schemes.
What you can do
Take five and be calm! Think about it, don’t rush into giving your details if you’re not completely confident in who you’re speaking to.
If you are unsure if a text, call or email is from your bank, or other organisation, double check it yourself.
Contact the bank on a number you normally use, or get from their website.
If you have just received a call, do this with a different line such as your mobile phone. Fraudsters can keep a line open and make you think you’re dialling out.
Make sure you know who you are talking to, it’s your money after all!
Get in touch with your bank immediately, as soon as you think you may have been conned.
Phil said: “The sooner you get on the phone, the sooner we can do something about it and get the investigation team on it as soon as possible.”
Final top tips
- When online shopping make sure it’s a website you know and trust. Legitimate websites will have protection in place to keep customers’ details safe.
- Don’t conduct sensitive business such as financial transactions over public wifi, such as those in a coffee shop. Stick to secure, password protected services for this type of activity.
- Always question uninvited approaches and never give out personal information.
- Don’t be scared! Fraud can seem daunting and the type of lengths people go to is worrying. But just be aware of the potential dangers and remember to take five if you’re not sure. Think about it, double check it and if you’re worried you have been conned, contact your bank.
For loads more tips and information on beating fraud, visit Take Five.