Scams, stings and swindles – protecting yourself against fraudulent attack
Written by Trevor Keidan on September 11, 2015.
The constant stream of emails and phone calls we all receive trying to scam us is one of the most irritating aspects of modern life, and in spite of efforts by the police and financial institutions to make the internet a safer place to be, the scammers are getting increasingly devious and clever and always seem to keep one step ahead with new methods to make a dishonest buck.
While there can surely no longer be a computer owner alive who would still fall for the Nigerian ‘Dear beloved’ money transfer scam, a quick Google search will produce details of dozens of examples of unsuspecting members of the public being conned out of money with sophisticated scamming set ups. And we’re not talking pin money - there are many horror stories of bank accounts being decimated and individuals losing their entire life savings. According to Financial Fraud Action UK, over £23m was swindled out of telephone scam victims in 2014.
If you are tech-savvy you may wonder how people are so easily duped but for those who have not grown up with internet banking, scams may not be so easy to spot, especially when dressed up as anti-scam precautions. Frightened people can more easily be persuaded into taking actions they may not usually take. Telephone fraudsters prey on vulnerable people – frequently the elderly – often pretending to be either the police investigating reported scams or financial institutions purporting to be concerned of a potential breach of security on their accounts.
In addition, often the fraudster on the phone will challenge the person to call 999 or their bank to check on the veracity of their call but the victim will unknowingly be immediately reconnected to the scammer, or a nice-sounding Scottish lady doing a very convincing turn as a banking call centre operative, because their line has been kept open for a short period.
Another ubiquitous scam is the Microsoft cold call when a ‘technician’ claim that there is a problem with your computer which can be fixed for a fee. Unwitting victims enable the caller to access their computer and give credit card details over the phone to pay for this ‘service’. Often larger sums are subsequently taken from the credit card and the scammer continues to have access to the computer and all the personal data contained which can be used for further illegal activity on an ongoing basis.
There are a number of ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from scams:
- Never give passwords or banking information to any incoming caller however genuine they seem.
- If asked to call back to check the veracity of a caller, do so from a different phone to the one you have been called on, or make a call to a number other than your bank in between times to check your phone has not been hijacked.
- Even if the caller ID seems to match the number of your bank, don’t take that as proof of a genuine call.
- If you are a victim of a scam, or you believe you have been targeted, inform your bank and the police immediately.
- If you have elderly or young relatives who may be particularly vulnerable to scams, keep them informed of how they may be targeted and teach them how they can protect themselves
Unfortunately, many of those who have fallen prey to phone transfer scams have had their compensation claims rejected because the banks argue that they willingly authorised transfers. This is a grey area which only highlights the need for us all to take steps to keep ourselves informed of the increasingly more complex and sophisticated scams which emerge and to protect ourselves from attack. Keep those savings safe people!