There was a time that losing money meant simply misplacing your purse or wallet – or falling victim to a pick pocket or burglar.
Then everyone began to use banks to ‘keep their hard-earnt money safe’ and for many years, banks, building societies and even the post office WERE safe repositories for our cash.
Then came the advent of credit and debit cards and internet banking.
Suddenly we could access our cash whenever we wanted to AND use cards to pay for a multitude of things online.
New problems began…
Because new breeds of tricksters, fraudsters and thieves quickly worked out that they too could access OUR money whenever THEY felt like it by manipulating us the consumer!
This article is going to run through a few of the most common tactics employed by these fraudsters and offer up some hints and tips to keeping your money safe online.
We met up with Lizzie Wilson a Community Banker at Nat West to pick her brains about the type of scams that go on. Here’s what she said about her current role:
I have worked for NatWest for over 18 years in branch, as. Business Specialist opening accounts for non-profit groups and for the last 18 months working with groups, clubs, societies, schools and South Yorkshire Police and Sheffield Trading Standards to inform and protect people of all ages from scammers.
I love my job and am passionate about protecting people from the financial and emotional consequences of falling victim to scammers. The emotional side is often overlooked but that is what drives me to be a Community Banker.
“ I have worked for NatWest for over 18 years in branch, as. Business Specialist opening accounts for non-profit groups and for the last 18 months working with groups, clubs, societies, schools and South Yorkshire Police and Sheffield Trading Standards to inform and protect people of all ages from scammers.
I love my job and am passionate about protecting people from the financial and emotional consequences of falling victim to scammers. The emotional side is often overlooked but that is what drives me to be a Community Banker.”
Types of ‘Cons’
Conmen haven’t really changed the basis of their techniques for exhorting money, it’s simply the way they access the cash that has evolved…
Approach One: YOU HAVE WON!
Now you could receive this message in one of several ways…
- Letter through the mail
- Phone call
You will be led to believe that you have won…a substantial sum of money, a car, holiday whatever…”All you have to do is send a handling fee/buy a qualifying product”
The earliest of these scams would ask for a cheque to be sent in order to release your prize. Now they are more likely to ask you to make a payment over the phone or online.
Hearing you have ‘won’ something IS exciting and it could be quite easy to get carried away.
No matter how tempting the offer may seem DO NOT part with ANY cash to claim a prize.
Stop and think for a minute – have you actually entered any competitions? If you haven’t then why are you being told you are a winner?
Rip up the letter. Hang up the phone. Delete the email.
Approach Two: There’s a Problem with…
We bet that most people reading this will have received at least one of those annoying phone calls, claiming to be from:
- Internet provider
- Government Dept
- Even Apple or Microsoft
The caller will claim that there is a problem with your service/account or perhaps that you are due a refund.
They may appear to know something about you, who you bank with for example, which may lull you into a false sense of security. Of course their ultimate aim is to gain access to your bank account.
You may even question yourself…’Did I pay that bill?’ ‘Could my account be hacked?’ – seeds of doubt will be sown in your brain making you more susceptible to the callers’ suggestions.
Depending on the particular scam, you may be told:
- You need to pay £xx in order to ensure your broadband/phone is not cut off
- Your bank account is unsafe and you need to transfer your funds to a new account to protect it
- You need to provide your bank account details (and often other info) in order for a ‘tax’ refund to be made to you
- You need to allow remote access to your PC/Laptop/Mac in order for ‘an issue’ to be resolved
The callers are usually very persistent, often keeping their potential victims on the phone for ages and tricking them into giving away all sorts of information. They will always be professional sounding, polite and helpful. They have to be convincing or you would not believe them. Remember if you don’t believe them they won’t get your details. Finally on this point if they weren’t convincing the UK economy wouldn’t lose £BILLIONS to scammers every year.
If this type of scam is carried out via email it is known as phishing.
An email pops into your inbox purporting to be from your bank/service provider/HMRC – on first glance it looks legitimate. The email tells you there is some kind of problem and that you need to ‘log on’ to your account in order to rectify it.
Helpfully a link is included for you to click…DON’T! Clicking the link will take you to a fake website which will collect the details you enter – potentially allowing the fraudsters access to your online banking.
Another variation on the email theme is to prompt you to open an attachment…doing so then infects your computer with a virus which could allow a scammer to log into your machine and access any stored online banking information (and indeed anything else on the computer).
Yet another way spammers target people is via text messages (known as smishing). A message pops up on your phone claiming to be from your bank saying there is a problem with your account. The message will go on to provide a phone number or a link to a website where you will be encouraged to enter your bank details as if you were logging onto your account.
Of course the site is phoney, and the fraudsters simply collect all the details you type in – meaning THEY are now able to access your bank account.
Keeping Yourself Safe Online
Reading the above could lead you to think that keeping your money safe online is nigh on impossible – that’s simply not true. Banks and financial institutions have all sorts of technology designed to thwart fraudsters but you have to take responsibility too.
Have caller display operational whenever possible so that you can see the number that is calling you.
If it doesn’t seem familiar – don’t answer it!
If you do answer and the caller purports to be from your bank (or indeed any other institution) and they are asking for information such as account numbers/PIN numbers etc HANG UP. No bank will EVER ask for these details in their entirety from their customers!
To be doubly sure, ring your bank (use the number on the back of your credit or debit card) but WAIT for at least 15 mins after hanging up as the scammer may ‘hijack’ your phone line – you’ll think you have reached your bank but the reality could be it is still the original caller.
If the caller claims to be from a telephone or broadband supplier saying that your line is going to be disabled if you ‘’don’t press 1 to speak to someone” HANG UP. UK phone and broadband suppliers would not contact you this way and they most certainly would not ask for money over the phone in order to prevent disconnection.
Likewise with the “I’m calling from Microsoft there’s a problem with Windows” phone calls…just hang up!
Any letter that appears to be offering a prize in return for you parting with money should go straight into your recycling bin!
Responding to these approaches will lead to you receiving more and more of them. In one extreme example, 83-year-old Rita lost her entire life savings after replying to scamsters who bombarded her with letters.
You will NEVER win the prize.
Any ‘freebies’ you receive or goods you are tempted to buy in order ‘to qualify’ for a prize draw will be of dubious quality.
So called ‘phishing’ emails can sometimes be difficult to spot at first glance.
The scammers will go to some trouble to replicate the genuine article in terms of fonts, logos etc BUT what they can’t do is send from the correct email address. Take a look at the ‘from’ address bar at the top of the email – it may look similar to the real email address but look more closely. There may be random numbers or letters in there…e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org
If the address doesn’t look valid BIN the email – preferably without even opening it.
If you do open it DO NOT click on any links or attachments.
DON’T be tempted to reply to the email or use a phone number shown in the message.
If you are concerned there may be a problem with your account either log on to it directly or phone the supplier on a number they provide on their website or literature.
Forewarned is Forearmed!
This article is not intended to frighten anyone, rather to ask you to be careful – either for yourself or someone you are caring for.
It’s human nature to be concerned about the safety of our money. Similarly we can’t help but be tempted by the prospect of getting more!
It is also human nature to trust those we perceive to be in positions of authority – like our banks and other service providers.
That’s what scammers and fraudsters are counting on – the twin pillars – Greed and Trust.
The best advice is to use your common sense…
- If you didn’t enter a competition you haven’t won a prize
- If your broadband is through Sky*, why are Virgin* allegedly calling you to say you have a problem? (* substitute any supplier you can think of!)
- If you aren’t expecting a tax refund why would HMRC be emailing?
Just stop and think…
Finally, never be embarrassed if you have fallen for a scam. They rely on people being too ashamed to share what has happened to them, meaning other people aren’t warned about new and emerging scams. Scammers are very clever, ruthless and convincing people. Always let your bank and/or supplier know immediately if you think you have given your details to a scammer and let the police know too.