Better protection nears for victims of scammers

I love being the bearer of good news, so dust off those confetti cannons and light those sparklers, for victims of scams will have much great protection from 28 May.

No bank will ask you for passwords or personal details.

On that date a new scheme comes in to place from the big banks to provide compensation to people who’ve been tricked in to handing over their cash. And it’s desperately necessary. In the first half of 2018, consumers lost £92.9 million due to push payment scams.

Now nothing’s perfect, of course. The code is currently voluntary (most banks are signed up) and there’s still some debate about how it will work in practice. You aren’t guaranteed a refund either – but the burden of proof shifts more in your favour if you’ve not been careless and have clearly been tricked.

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The best way to fight back against scammers though is to know their tricks. So here’s my quick guide to the fraudster’s favourite tricks doing the rounds at the moment. Spread the word – particularly to older or more vulnerable people, friends and neighbours alike.

◆ 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 then 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 business.

◆ Email fraud/fake site fraud: We’ve all seen those emails that used to do the rounds asking for your details. Well now they’re very convincing. I’ve seen emails “from” HMRC, the government, banks, ombudsmen and many others all looking convincing – all fake. Check out the end of the http address.

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.

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, report it to Action Fraud. Some fraudsters have been caught, though there’s often little money left. But by reporting these thieves, you can help make life much harder for them.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service