Would you know how to spot if someone was trying to defraud you? With fraud being the UK’s fastest growing crime, it is no wonder that a recent survey by Mumsnet showed that nearly half surveyed are worried about becoming a victim of fraud. But as worried as we are about falling pray to fraud, nine in 10 are not confident in identifying criminal tactics like vishing and smishing.
Worrying stuff, considering that more than a third of mums say they are approached up to SIX TIMES PER WEEK by individuals wishing to obtain personal information from them – that seems like a lot doesn’t it? Almost once a day. And in this hectic life we lead as mums – all these approaches via telephone calls, emails and text messages – seem to make us even more vulnerable to being a target of fraud because being busy and distracted is exactly what fraudsters bank on to get us to part with our money.
To help tackle the problem, Mumsnet and the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign – a national campaign that offers advice to help consumers prevent financial fraud – have teamed up to help parents confidently challenge criminals out to obtain personal information.
At a recent event to mark the collaboration at which I sat on a panel to discuss the topic (watch it over on Mumsnet’s Facebook page here), I certainly learnt that everyone – no matter how smart they think they are – can easily fall pray to fraudsters and it’s made me wonder about exchanges I’ve had in the past with people purporting to be my bank saying that they have noticed irregular activity on my account, asking me to verify my information. So if you’re reading this thinking you’re too smart to be scammed, why not take the Take Five test here.
Astonishingly, fraudsters usually operate as a high level business (being organized criminals) – they are hugely sophisticated and have thought of every last detail to try and dupe you and get you to part with your money or personal information. They can even send a message within a legitimate SMS chain from your bank to make it look real.
So with a quarter of respondents in the UK already having been a victim of financial fraud, what can we do to try and tackle this escalating problem? Here’s a crash course including what you need to know to stay safe:
The most common types of fraud and how to spot them
Signs a text message might not be genuine:
- It asks you to provide sensitive personal or financial information, passwords, or to make transactions by following a link to the message.
- It asks you to call a certain number but that number is unknown to you. In this case, call your bank on a number that you trust to check the number and message is authentic e.g. such as the number on the back of your card.
- The sender uses an urgent tone, urging you to ‘act now’.
Ways to spot an email you’ve been sent is fraudulent:
- The sender’s address doesn’t match the website address of the organisation it says it’s from. Roll your mouse pointer over the sender’s name to reveal its true address.
- The email doesn’t use your proper name – using something like “Dear customer” instead.
- There’s a sense of urgency, asking you to act immediately.
- There’s a prominent website link which may seem like the proper address, but with one character different.
- There’s a request for personal information.
- There are spelling and grammatical errors.
- The entire text of the email is within an image rather than the usual text format and the image contains an embedded hyperlink to a bogus site. Again, roll your mouse pointer over the link to reveal its true destination.
Examples of well known scams
Here are some examples of well-known fraud and scams you should be aware of:
- An email from HMRC offering a refund
- A call from your bank about fraud asking you to move your money to a safe account
- An email from a foreign prince offering untold riches if money is transferred to them now
- A message from WhatsApp asking you to input financial information in order to continue to use the service
- A call from a broadband provider to say the internet connection is running slow and their engineer can ‘fix’ the problem by taking control of your computer
- An email from Amazon asking you to disclose personal information to reactivate your account
- A text message offering money off at a supermarket if a link in the message is clicked on
- A call from a builder or contractor asking for money to be paid directly to a new bank account
- An email from your utility provider offering a refund
- A student loans company email stating loans have been suspended due to incomplete student information
How can we protect ourselves against fraud?
Here, Tony Blake, Senior Fraud Prevention Officer and representative for Take Five to Stop Fraud advises:
- Be aware of the above advice on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim.
- Stop and think before you give any information away, no matter how bona fide it might seem. If you don’t know the number calling, think twice. They may not be who they say they are.
- Question all texts and email asking for your details.
- Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected email or text. Something I learnt at the event – you can hover over a link in an email to see whether it’s genuine or not – by doing this you will be able to see its true identity or source.
So the upshot is, take five to think about the exchange you’re having. Being in rush can often cloud our judgement and that’s exactly what fraudsters are counting on. Stop and take a moment to google if the email you have received could be scam. Take five minutes to call back your bank – preferably on another line so it can’t be intercepted by the fraudsters – to see whether the call you have just received is legitimate. And most importantly of all, trust your gut. Because if it’s too good to be true, it usually is.
If you do think you have been duped in any way, act as quickly as you possibly can. Even if you’re just a little concerned the quicker your bank knows you may have been a victim of fraud, the quicker they can act.
Have you ever been the victim of fraud? Or perhaps you are worried about being defrauded? Do share in a comment below. And for more tips why not see my post on how to keep your data safe online.
For more resources and information on protecting yourself from fraud see the Take Five website here
*This is a collaborative post