How to stay safe from online fraudsters and the tricks to avoid, top cops reveal

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Online scammer

it’s a crime which is soaring – there were 7.5 million fraud and cyber offences last year, compared to 6 million combined for every other type of crime. Every second fraudsters cost the UK £6,000. That’s £193 billion a year.

Worst of all, it’s us who are the victims. Be it phone scams or email fraud, we’re all at risk.

“These figures should be sending a shudder down people’s spines,” says Detective Chief Superintendent David Clark, who oversees the UK’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau – based at City of London Police.He adds: “Fraud needs to be a priority not just for policing but for every citizen across the UK.”

A new ITV documentary, Fraud – How They Steal Your ID, now tells how Mr Clark’s officers formed a specialist Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit to tackle the rising fraud. They spent six months tracking down a man they dubbed ‘Mr Posh’, who phoned banks impersonating everyone from a female pensioner to an Asian businessman.

Read more: Six million Brits ripped off by online fraud

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Online fraud
Online fraud

But Mr Clark says that by the time the documentary airs on Friday and criminals like Mr Posh have been convicted, it’s almost too late – because when you take one group out, there are always others there to take their place.

So what can you do to make sure you don’t become a victim?

Here, Mr CLARK reveals the newest scams you need to know about – and how you can make sure you don’t get caught out…

The Pension Pot Poachers

Fraudsters pounce when people are most vulnerable – and th at’s normally when they’re unsure of the of the right procedures themselves.

The new pension rules, allowing access to pension pots from the age of 55, came into effect last April, giving people more flexibility about how and when they access their pension savings. This means hundreds of thousands of you now have large lump sums that you may be looking to invest elsewhere – which has opened the door to a whole new avenue for conmen.

Now we’re seeing even the most savvy of people being caught out by investment fraudsters posing as financial advisers or claiming to be from Pension Wise or other Government-backed bodies.

These ‘financial advisers’ have credible looking websites and testimonials.

What a lot of people don’t realise is that only the first 25% of your pension pot is tax free but scammers often encourage you to take out all of it. So not only will they con you out of your hard-earned cash you could be liable to pay tax.

Last year, 980 cases of ‘pension liberation fraud’ in England and Wales were reported, but we suspect not everyone may report it.

Protect yourself: Government-backed bodies will never phone to offer a pension review. So if someone phones, hang up and take down their number before reporting it to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Even if a friend has recommended an investment scheme, do your homework and don’t rush into a decision. Check your financial adviser is registered with the FCA and look at their list of known scams at www.fca.org.uk

ITV
Lee Chisholm Mr Posh
Lee Chisholm Mr Posh

Never trust the phone

If you were at home and you got a call from your bank saying you were a victim of fraud and your account was haemorrhaging funds, what would you do?

yes, like anyone you would panic – and that’s exactly what fraudsters prey on.

Most of us have heard of fraudsters phoning pretending to be from your bank.

Now we’ve heard of some also sending round a ‘courier’ to collect your debit card to ‘destroy’ it. When you’re panicked, it doesn’t take much for the ‘courier’ to then coerce you into giving them your pin – or for you to agree for your money to be transferred into a “safe, holding account”, which of course, is nothing of the sort.

There’s another version of this scam is where fraudsters call pretending to be a police officer investigating fraudulent activity.

Now most people would think they would never fall for this – because they would just hang up and ring back their bank to check.

But here’s the newest part of the scam: Fraudsters are now sometimes encouraging their mark to call their bank to confirm it’s a genuine call – but even after you hang up, they can stay on the line and play a dialling tone, tricking you into thinking you’re on the phone to your bank.

Protect Yourself: When you get any call like this, always insist you will phone back. Then, always wait at least five minutes until the line is definitely clear before you phone your bank on the number on your statement – or call from a mobile. No bank will ever send a courier to collect your bank card so never, ever hand it over.

Detective Chief Superintendent at City of London Police David Clark

Detective Chief Superintendent at City of London Police David Clark

The fake banking app

Using your smartphone is now the top way to do your banking in the UK and there’s a clever scam which is fooling people into thinking they’re using their banking app when they’re not.

If your phone isn’t protected with anti-malware – software which is specifically designed to disrupt or damage your phone – fraudulent apps can be installed behind the scenes and they cleverly replicate the genunine banking apps. They act just like the real thing so it’s easy to be fooled by them. Before you know it, your account could be cleared.

Protect Yourself: You must install anti-malware software on all your devices. This is the most common mistake people make – they will put anti-virus software on their computer without thinking about it, but they don’t realise they need it on their phone too. Smartphones are just mini computers – so it’s just as vital to protect them.

Jigsaw identity theft

Everyone knows to be wary of spam phishing emails but they’re probably not even aware they’ve been scammed with this one until it’s too late.

These days most people are on three or more social media sites and give an incredible amount of information – you might list where you work on LinkedIn, your date of birth on Facebook and possibly your maiden name on Twitter.

We’re seeing fraudsters investing time on their con. They’ll fit all these pieces together like a jigsaw.

Before you know it they have enough information to apply for a loan in your name. You’re actually making it easy for the fraudsters.

But they don’t just do this via social media. A couple in the show were tricked into giving their date of birth by a ‘courier’ who called to say they were delivering a package and needed to verify who they were.

Separately, they were called by someone pretending to be from their bank asking for other information. It was actually the same scammers – and without realising they had handed over enough information for someone to steal their identity.

Protect Yourself: Limit the amount of information you give out on social media and increase your privacy settings. When picking any online password – whether for social media or an online shopping account – never use any information that could be used as a security check, like your maiden name or the name of your primary school. If the account is hacked you will be handing them that information. Instead, use three random words together, such as ‘shoe’, ‘potato’ and ‘book’. Go to howsecureismypassword.net to see how long it would take to crack your password.

On the phone, always ask yourself what information you have given that company – and what they realistically need to know. A courier would never need to know your date of birth – so why are they asking?

The mortgage deposit scam

If you’re about to buy a home then take note of this scam that’s costing homebuyers thousands of pounds. All it takes is clicking on an email link that contains malware and with a quick scan of your emails, hackers can see you’re about to move.

The scam works by the fraudster then sending you an email claiming to be your solicitor and asking you to transfer your deposit to secure your property. Of course, the bank details are not genuine.

The email may just have one character that’s different from your genuine solicitor’s email address. 
Some fraudsters have been even more savvy – after finding the information by email they send their request for the deposit by official letter in the post.

The cruel scam recently cost one couple £45,000 – and their dream of owning a home. You can’t expect a reimbursement from your bank, because you handed over the money.

Protect Yourself: If you get any correspondence from your solicitor asking for the deposit, always check with them by another means, such as over the phone, that it’s genuine before handing over any funds.

The eBay Vanishing Trick

With more and more people after a bargain, fraudsters are tricking us into buying cars on sites like eBay that probably don’t even exist. They may advertise as living in one location but when you contact them, they say they have moved as they’re relying on you not wanting to travel far to view it.

Then they get you to hand over a deposit to a third-party to secure the deal but it’s actually the fraudster’s account. You will never see the car – or your deposit again.

Protect yourself: Always see the vehicle before handing over cash, never give a deposit and check the person’s selling history. And remember the old adage, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The invoice scam

This one is hitting small businesses hard and it only takes a few phone calls from the fraudster thanks to a bit of social engineering.

First, they call up your accounts department claiming they are one of your suppliers and that they have changed banks. The next time they call, they speak to a different person, mentioning who they spoke to last time to influence them to change more details.

It’s only when the real supplier calls saying their invoice hasn’t been paid you realise you’ve been scammed.

Protect Yourself: Set up a code word with suppliers that must be used when they make any changes to payment systems.

  • Fraud – How They Steal Your ID, ITV 9pm Friday.

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