One in 10 Which? members has been scammed in the past five years and with official figures showing that consumers lost a shocking £6.1bn to fraud in 2011, it’s clearly big business. I’ve found out the hard way.
I’ve worked at Which? for more than six years and I would say I’m pretty savvy when it comes to consumer issues. But that doesn’t mean I’m not susceptible to online scammers.
Indeed, only last week I found I’d become just another statistic in the world of the bank email phishing scam. Yes, I fell for the oldest trick in the book and my wallet was £240 lighter as a result.
Now, I know I shouldn’t respond to emails sent by my bank asking me to click on a link. And I know that when entering my personal details online I should make sure the site is secure (by checking it’s got a padlock sign in front of the web address). And, I also know that banks don’t ask you for these details via email. So, what went wrong? How was I so fooled so spectacularly?
Flurry of NatWest banking scams
Well, a number of coincidental events occurred to conspire against me that day. I’d tried to log in to my online NatWest account a few times and had entered the wrong password and PIN.
When I checked my emails I had one from my bank entitled: ‘Your account has been put on restricted status’. When I opened the email it went on to say that my online access had been ‘temporarily suspended’ and that this was due to ‘a number of incorrect log in attempts’.
As this happened to be true, I clicked on the link without thinking and began entering my online password and PIN. But then the alarm bells rang and before I’d entered all my details I promptly ceased what I was doing and closed down the page. But, it was too late.
£240 lost due to online phishing scam
That evening the fraudsters called NatWest pretending to be me, saying my card had been stolen and requested emergency cash. NatWest proceeded to give the scammers a PIN they could use in a cash machine whereupon they happily made a £240 dent in my bank balance.
When I filled up at the petrol station the following day I was told that my card was blocked (luckily I had just enough cash on me to pay for the fuel!). I contacted the bank and was informed that my account had been frozen.
After some further discussion, the fraudulent activity became clear. I was advised to make a claim for fraud, which to my surprise, has subsequently been turned down. I’m now in the process of appealing and do expect to have the money fully refunded.
Apart from the obvious financial loss my pride was also hugely dented. I felt really stupid especially as I work for Which?, and know about these things. Believe me, the irony is not lost on me. But it does just go to show that when your guard is down anyone can get scammed.
Have you been the victim of a scam? Did you report it and if so what response did you get?