Every day, people from all walks of life find themselves falling victim to financial fraud (120 a week, according to the Financial Ombudsman Service), but around this time of year, those victim numbers rise even higher.
This could be because people have been spending more money than usual in sales and Christmas present shopping, or because they’ve been letting their guard down while out celebrating the festivities, but whatever the cause, the result is the same: frustration, anger and often loss of hard-earned money.
Of course, it’s easy to think you’d never be caught out by a scammer, but you’d be unpleasantly surprised.
Often, those behind the con will stage some sort of “emergency”, making people believe they have to act immediately in order to put the situation right. Under this kind of pressure, you might be persuaded to do something you wouldn’t normally dream of doing, such as transferring all your savings into an account you’ve never heard of.
If you receive a call out of the blue asking you to do something urgently, this could be a warning sign. Banks have their own processes for detecting and dealing with fraud, such as freezing your account, so they wouldn’t call out of the blue and ask you to transfer your money into a “safe” account, or hand your debit card over to a courier.
Also, be wary of handing over your personal details. Perhaps the person on the other end of the phone is checking them for security reasons – or perhaps they don’t have any details about you at all and they plan to use what you tell them to commit identity fraud.
It’s a natural reaction when asked for your date of birth or your home postcode to answer truthfully. But the ombudsman has heard from some people who have deliberately given false information about themselves, knowing that if the person at the other end of the phone accepts it, they’re not who they say they are.
Your bank may need to carry out some security checks, but it would never ask you to provide all your details.
Samantha Hargreaves, a spokeswoman for the ombudsman service, says: “Anyone can be caught out, from experienced investors to people with a basic bank account. In recent months we have seen an increase in more ‘low tech’ but effective scams.
“Some of these work by gaining people’s confidence over the phone and then encouraging them to divulge their bank details, hand over their cards, or even transfer money directly into an account of the fraudster’s choosing.
“Once the money has gone, it can be incredibly difficult to get it back again, so always think before you transfer.
“If you have been a victim of this type of scam, get in touch with your bank as soon as possible – the sooner you act, the better.”
As with many aspects of life, the golden rule is to listen to your instincts. If something feels wrong, take time to double check the situation before making any decisions.
To help heighten your senses, here are some common scams:
Phishing: A fraudster emails you pretending to be a legitimate body such as a bank or a shopping website in order to trick you into revealing personal information.
No HANG UP: A fraudster will claim to be calling from a fraud prevention department and ask you to call your bank straight away. While the victim puts down the phone to redial, the fraudster does not, leaving the line open. The scammer stays on the phone and then pretends to be the bank.
Vishing: A combination of the words “voice” and “phishing”. This is when a fraudster calls you, again posing as a legitimate organisation, to persuade you to reveal your personal details.
Courier FRAUD: The fraudster persuades the victim to give their personal details over the phone and sends over a courier to the victim’s house to collect the card. The victim thinks their card is being returned to the bank, but in fact it is being delivered to the fraudster.
Spoofing: Another phone scam. The fraudster replicates the number of an official organisation on the victim’s caller ID. Be wary if a caller urges you to confirm their identity by pointing out the caller ID number.