By Mark Yelland
My next door neighbour knocked on my door yesterday, in a bit of a panic. She had received a phone call from someone working in a ‘Fraud Department’ claiming that someone abroad was trying to get money from her online account. Would I come and talk to the person at the far end? Naturally, when I picked up the phone he had rung off – probably trying to find another victim.
We talked through the scam, the person did not identify themselves as belonging to any particular fraud department, had none of the information that a bank would have and did not go through the bank’s normal routine of asking a question to verify that the end user was who they claimed. To put her mind at rest, we phoned her bank from a different phone, just in case they had not really rung off, and got the real bank to confirm that there had been no unusual activity on the account.
It is an old trick, pretend to be someone in authority and try to get information from the victim to enable you to impersonate them online. Subscription fraud, identity theft or passing off causes substantial damage to businesses and is particularly distressing to those individuals who find their identity has been stolen.
The people perpetrating these crimes are professional, they do it for a living, and they are very proficient at it, so it is easy to be caught out. The answer is easy when you are not in a panic or flustered, ask questions where the bank would know real answers – what fraud department are you from, which account number and sort code are you referring to, where was the card last used? All of this would be on their screens if they were in a fraud department. Make them give you specific information, do not volunteer it. The safest solution is to hang up and call the bank from another phone to confirm if there really is a problem with the account.
Despite the advances in technology, which fraudsters are always quick to embrace, the scams themselves are often old favourites. They continue to be effective simply because, more often than not, people fail to check the identity of the person making the contact and the fraudster gets what they want, your data and ultimately your money.