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Planning Retirement Online

All too easy to be taken in by the new scam calls

We all know, don’t we? That phone call which asks for our bank details or passwords; those emails that have a name of a bank in the heading; electronic communication is full of risk of scams in a range of disguises.

masked man, credit card theif

The trouble is that, however smart we think we are, every so often a call may come through when we are particularly busy or not especially alert. When the caller says you have had unusual activity on your bank card, and the call is to warn you; it could be true. How do you know? And through clever conversations from the caller, you can sometimes let slip a password or a number before you have even thought about it properly.

The crooks are becoming so clever and sophisticated. A new scam is targeting restaurant owners and diners. Criminals posing as bank staff are calling restaurants claiming there is a problem with a payment card that has just gone through. Can they check the amount? The spelling of the name? Has the payer left? All too often the restaurant manager is too frantically busy to spend too much time verifying the call. The caller asks to be put onto the paying customer and goes through their security questions. Because the restaurant has handed the phone to the customer, and also because the customer might be embarrassed that their payment has been rejected (which is hasn’t), they can become less guarded and give out their security information.

FFA UK (Financial Fraud Action UK) works on behalf of the financial services industry to coordinate activity on fraud prevention. Katy Worobec, director of FFA UK, said:

"Fraudsters can sound very professional.

"If you receive any calls from your bank claiming there is a problem with payments, make sure you phone them back on an established number to confirm the request is genuine. In addition, always wait five minutes to ensure the line is clear, as fraudsters will sometimes stay on the phone line and receive your call, pretending to be your bank."

Recently a woman in Edinburgh lost more than £160,000 of her savings despite the fact that she considered herself to be competent and security aware. She had received a call purported to be from her bank, warning her there had been suspicious activity on her card. She rang off and dialled the number of her bank to check, but the fraudster had kept the telephone line open and unbeknown to her, she was still speaking to him and not to her bank.

She said:

"The main fraudster was articulate, fluent in giving directions about what we had to do to 'protect our money' from criminals whom, we were told, were actively hacking into our accounts trying to move large sums out illegally as we spoke.

"This fear of loss, once created, and the constantly reinforced message that very urgent actions were required, underpinned and drove the way that the subsequent scenario played out."

Luckily for this lady, the bank was finally able to recover a lot of the funds, but she still lost several thousand pounds.

Some criminals are claiming to be the police or a security company.

Recently, an elderly couple in North Somerset received a call from a man claiming to be from "The Crime Reduction Unit of the police". He was trying to persuade the couple to buy an alarm that would connect them to the local police and fire service. He also wanted to make an appointment to visit their home. They weren't sure about the man so they hung up and told their neighbour, who alerted police.

Warnings from the police and others are constantly being given out to keep us alert and vigilant. A few of their suggestions include:

  • If someone claims to be from a company, check their details, look at their website and see if they have any testimonials.
  • Call the company, but don't use a number the caller gives you. Look one up on the internet or in a phone directory. Before you make the call, either use a different telephone or wait for a clear dialling tone to ensure the bogus callers are not still on the line.
  • If the person claims to be from the local police, always ask for their collar number or staff I.D number. Every officer or staff member has one. You can then call 101 to check they are who they say they are.
  • Don't release any personal information including any bank details that could be exploited unless you have confirmed the caller is genuine and reputable and you actually need what is being offered.
  • The police and the banks will never ask you for banking details or PIN numbers on the phone.

    But no doubt as you read this, new scams are being developed by criminals eager to steal your money. Always remember, nothing is ever so urgent that there is not time to check the background details and also check out who you are dealing with first.

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