Phone scammers rake in nearly £24m in one year

Posted by Michael Bolt in Identity Theft on 8 December 2014 - Michael worked as a Credit Analyst at checkmyfile until 2015

The amount obtained by telephone scammers from innocent consumers this year has reached £23.9m, according to recently released statistics. This represents three times the losses incurred to the practice in 2013 - underscoring the rising problem of fraudulent cold-calling.

Concerns about the risk of internet-based fraud have increased in recent years. Additionally, the number of people targeted via telephone is also increasing. Some 58% of people have received suspicious phone calls seeking personal and financial information this year, compared to 41% in 2013, according to the result of a recent survey. The ICM poll was conducted on behalf of Financial Fraud Action UK, an industry body who run fraud prevention services for the financial services industry.

‘Vishing’ or voice phishing has seen fraudsters impersonating bank employees, police offices or IT system providers in order to obtain card details, PIN numbers or passwords from their victims. A tactic commonly used is to suggest that the victim has been the victim of fraud and to then convince them to hand over sensitive financial data in order to attempt to resolve the problem.

Some fraudsters have even encouraged their victims to call their bank in order to verify the identity of the caller – although when the victim ends the call, before the next call is placed the fraudster simply stays on the line and impersonates a member of staff at the bank.

Victims have been asked to transfer cash, make a cash withdrawal at the bank or to pass their bank card on to a courier. The survey results revealed the surprising degree to which individuals are willing to hand over sensitive personal data. A quarter of respondents failed to challenge a caller’s identity, despite being asked for sensitive financial information. Additionally, a startling one tenth of respondents stated that they would be prepared to hand over their bank card to a courier or transfer funds to another account if asked.

British banks and credit cards companies, in conjunction with the police, have issued a warning about the practice as part of a wider awareness campaign.

Perry Stokes, of the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (a specialist policing unit), says, “Always be on your guard if you receive a cold call and are asked for personal or financial information, or to hand over your card or cash to someone. The bank or the police will never tell you to take such actions, so if you’re asked it can only be a criminal attack”.

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