James Walker: Simple tips to help you frustrate fraudsters

The internet is awash with finance scams
The internet is awash with finance scams
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There’s nothing worse than having to tell people they’ve been tricked out of their life savings – and there’s very little that can be done about it.

Just last week, I spoke to a lady who’d been robbed as part of a telephone ‘vishing’ scam. She’d lost £80,000. The week previously, I’d spoken to a business that had been fooled in to transferring £200,000 to a fraudster.

Millions of pounds have already been stolen by fraudsters as a result of a new generation of scams. The best way we can all fight back is by staying informed. Not just updating your own knowledge, but by speaking to older or more vulnerable friends, neighbours and relatives who – along with younger people – are disproportionately targeted by the scammers.

Here’s my quick guide to the fraudster’s favourite tricks doing the rounds at the moment. Sorry about the ‘vishing’ and ‘smishing’ business – I didn’t make those terms up!

Vishing: The fraudster calls you and pretends to be from your bank – or impersonates an authority figure like a policeman. You are told your account has been compromised and need to transfer your cash to a new account which is actually the fraudsters. The fraudster tells you to call the number on your bank card but stays on the line when you hang up. If you don’t check for a dialling code they pretend to be the bank and take your money.

Smishing: This method of fraud targets online banking. The fraudster uses a cheap bit of technology that means they can impersonate your bank’s number. They ask for your online banking passwords or codes and trick you in to giving them what they need to access your account Then they get you to transfer money or pinch it themselves.

Courier fraud: This kind of fraud works in the same way as vishing. Only the fraudster tells you that they will send a courier to collect your bank card after getting your details. In the worst examples, people are told their local bank staff are the fraudsters and are made to go in and transfer the money out, ignoring the cashier’s warnings.

Solicitor/business fraud: This scam targets solicitors handling big transactions or mortgage payments or businesses. It works in the same way as the others, but the sums are huge. I’ve seen £350,000 tricked out of one!

Email fraud/fake site fraud: We’ve all seen those dodgy emails that used to do the rounds asking for your details. Well, now they’re very, very convincing. I’ve seen emails ‘from’ the Inland Revenue, government, banks, ombudsmen and many others all looking convincing – all fake. Check out the end of the http address too, often the giveaway is the lack of a .com .co.uk or .gov.

Don’t forget the golden rule: No bank will ever ask you to hand over your personal passwords or details – and they’ll never ask you to transfer money out either. Be sceptical, think before you click and if you think you’ve been tricked get in touch with the business asap.

Anyone – literally anyone – can be fooled by these expert con artists. I’ve listened to telephone recordings of vishing and heard even cynical people can get worn down by the constant onslaught. Though I hate to give them credit, the modern fraudster is very convincing. They have to be when the rewards are this high.

If you’ve been a victim of fraud, please do report it. Action Fraud are the people to contact. James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk