Have you been affected by fraud? Here’s Commander Chris Greany on the rising challenge of fraud and what the police are doing about it.
It seems to me that the UK is currently awash with people becoming a victim of some type of fraud. In my role as national Police Coordinator for Economic Crime, I see the heartache that fraud causes to many people, especially to the elderly and vulnerable.
Fraud has many faces, but almost all exist on one or two key principles. The first is an offer that looks real or true to entice you to be curious. The second is a convincing story that supports the first. And the third is the fear of losing something or missing out. I have said for some time now that ‘if it looks too good to be true, it’s probably fraud’.
The police response
The City of London Police is the national policing lead for fraud. This means that when a person or a business is a victim of fraud or cybercrime, we have the reporting mechanism to deal with this nationally. And that reporting mechanism is Action Fraud. It’s the only national reporting system in the world and we’re investing more money into its activities as the demand increase.
With the information we get we try to support police forces nationally to investigate some of this crime. I say ‘some’ because much of this fraud originates from outside the UK and it’s sometimes difficult to apprehend all offenders. Fraudsters are liars. Everything they present is false, fake, so tracking them down is often a greater challenge than it looks.
The internet is unregulated and it can be a dangerous place, with websites presenting opportunities for fraudsters to take advantage of. Alongside the UK internet registrar, the City of London Police takes approximately 4,000 fake websites offline a month. These are websites that are designed to steal your ID, credit card details and ultimately your money.
We also run an active defence prevention centre which looks at the crimes as they come in and gets prevention messaging out to victims through a whole host of different channels.
The fake phone call
Computer-enabled fraud, fake websites and malware are also of serious concern, but many frauds are still conducted by someone giving you a call.
A person phones you saying they’re from your bank, or email provider, or an investment company. And this may happen over many phone calls, not just one. Persistence is another technique fraudsters use.
They may also know information about you to try and convince you that they’re genuine. We forget that much of our personal information is freely available to anyone, via the voters register, phone directories, social clubs and so on. In essence, the research can be done from someone’s armchair, which means it all sounds very convincing when they call you.
At this point you’re vulnerable to parting with further information, or transferring money or allowing someone to access your computer. Stop and think for a moment… take a breath… ask a friend. If it’s genuine, the caller won’t mind. Most of all, be suspicious. Is this all sounding a bit too good to be true?
If you get a call like this, from someone claiming to be from you bank or email provider, here’s what to do:
- If they ask for your name, don’t answer. Instead, ask them ‘who are you and what is your name? Because you’re calling me out of the blue and I don’t know who you are.’
- If they do then say where they’re from and it’s a company you do business with, say ‘Thanks, I am now putting the phone down and I will call your fraud department back.’
- The next step is to find the number for the company from trusted records (eg bank statement) and to call them from a different phone. If their previous call was legitimate they will let you know. If they don’t know anything about it, then you’ll know someone has been trying to trick you.
It’s not always that easy to put the phone down, but legitimate organisations will completely understand. So don’t be embarrassed to say ‘no’, hang up and call back on another phone. It’s in your best interest.
Have you ever been called by a scammer pretending to be from your bank or another company? What did you do?
This is a guest contribution by Commander Chris Greany, Police Coordinator for Economic Crime. All opinions are Chris’s own, not those of Which?