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In the last year alone, £731.8 million has been lost due to unauthorised financial fraud.

This loss is the result of 1,910,490 reported cases. Every year, thousands of cases go unreported.

It’s vital to know how to recognise a scam and protect yourself.

Because if you fall victim to financial fraud, it can be very difficult to get back the money you have lost.

And vigilance is more important than ever.

Cyber crime, usually with financial implications, is the fastest growing offence in the UK. And it’s lucrative. Recent figures from credit reference firm Experian show that the average amount snatched by criminals is now £884. Often it’s difficult, if not impossible for a victim to recover their money.

 

Quick Definitions of The Most Common Scams

Phishing (Email Fraud)

Phishing emails are one of the most common online scams as they are easy for scammers to create and they can send out millions at a time.

These emails are designed to capture the personal and/or banking information of the receiver. They work as the fraudster spoofs the email display name and inserts the logo of a well-known company to make you believe the email has come from a legitimate source.

This could be a bank claiming that your account has been compromised, a shopping website offering you unbeatable deals, or an online subscription service that says your account with them has expired. These are just a few examples of the hundreds of different ways a fraudster can attempt to con you out of your money.

The email will often contain a link that will take you to another website which has been created by the fraudster. This website will ask you for your details which will then be captured.

Smishing (SMS Fraud)

Smishing is the text message version of phishing (SMS + Phishing = Smishing).

Fraudsters send out thousands of text messages at a time in an attempt to gain their victims’ personal and banking information. The texts will appear to come from your bank, or another well-known company or organisation. Some scam messages are even sophisticated enough to appear in a thread already held between yourself and your genuine bank.

Similar to a phishing email, the fraudster will try to make you perform some kind of action. They may claim that your online banking account has had a failed log-in attempt, or they may pretend to be from another brand and claim to have unbeatable, once-in-a-lifetime deals.

They will provide a link that, once clicked, will take you to a malicious website which has been designed by the fraudster to capture your personal and/or banking details.  

Vishing (Cold Calls)

Cold calls are one of the biggest and most common scams out there and they have been operating for years.

A fraudster will phone you out of the blue and claim to be from your bank or another well-known company or organisation (often broadband providers or computer services). They will tell you that you need to confirm some bank details with them, or they will be offering you once-in-a-lifetime deals or investment opportunities. They may also claim that something is wrong with your computer or internet connection and they require access to your device to fix the problem.

This is an attempt to get you to hand over your personal and/or banking information so they can use it for further crimes such as identity theft.

Malware Scams

There are multiple types of malware that can be used by fraudsters to infect your electronic devices. Malware is often sent to victims in the form of phishing emails, smishing messages or through social media and malicious websites.

These are some of the different types of malware:

Viruses: A virus is a kind of software that self-replicates. If it is not gotten rid of quickly, it will eventually grow so big that it will slow down and inevitably cripple your device and destroy or alter any data you have held on it.

Spyware: Spyware can be one of the most dangerous types of malware as it can be virtually undetectable by the user. The software will essentially ‘spy’ on the user and their activities on the device which means it can log what you type when you log-in to online accounts, such as your banking account. A ‘keylogger’ records what is typed and sends it back to the fraudster.

Ransomware: Ransomware is becoming one of the biggest and most notorious types of malware as it has been used to infect hundreds of thousands of systems at the same time, disrupting whole organisations. This types of malware is able to completely lock down systems, making them completely inaccessible.

Identity Theft

Most phishing, smishing, cold calls and social media scams are attempts to gain your personal and/or banking information so the fraudster is able to steal your identity. Once they have your information, there is a huge number of different things they can do with it.

Most commonly, it is likely to be a type of financial fraud, e.g. credit or bank card fraud, benefit or tax rebate fraud, or taking out a form of credit in your name. They can also use the information to commit other crimes in your name, such as entering or leaving a country illegally, smuggling drugs and other illegal products, or laundering money.

Once this has been done, it can cause detrimental consequences for the victim.

If a loan has been taken out in your name and hasn’t been paid back, it is likely you will find yourself being liable for the debt and then making it more difficult for you to obtain credit in the future (unless it was proven that you didn’t obtain the credit in the first place). If a crime has committed in your name, you may find yourself as part of a criminal investigation and difficult to prove yourself innocent.

Advance Fee Fraud

An advance fee scam (or loan fee scam) is when a fraudster makes contact with you, either through phishing, smishing, cold calls or social media, and will offer you a loan or another financial product.

People who have difficulty obtaining credit, or have made several loan applications with no success are most likely to fall for an advance fee scam.

The fraudster will offer you loan with unbeatable rates and express that you do not need a good credit record in order to tempt people into take the offer. When you start the ‘application process’ they will request that you pay an upfront fee in order to cover set up costs, to be used as insurance or to be used as a deposit.

After you have paid the fee, the loan will never materialise and the fraudster will disappear with your money, leaving themselves completely untraceable.

Remote Access Fraud

Remote access scammers will try to convince you that there has been a problem with your computer or internet and you need to give them access to the device, or purchase some software to fix the problem.

This is most commonly performed via cold calling and the scammer will claim they are from a large telecommunications or computer company. They will tell you that your computer has been sending them error messages which means there is a virus on the computer or your internet has been hacked.

They will convince you to give them access to your computer so they can see the screen you are using so they can ‘fix the problem’. Then they will ask you to log-in to accounts so they can see the details you are entering, or they will ask for you bank details over the phone in order to purchase something to fix it.

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