Has a large sum of unsolicited money ever appeared in your account? It happened to me a couple of months ago. Here’s how the attempted scam worked.
One evening I got a notification from my bank that several thousand pounds had been deposited in my account, but I wasn’t expecting any payments.
I logged-in to find that a family member, Susan (name changed), had transferred the money. Confused – but with the words ‘scam alert’ quietly running through the back of my mind – I picked up the phone to call Susan.
At that very moment, she started calling me. I answered and she said in a panicked voice something along the lines of ‘my bank’s on the phone, they said my account isn’t secure, money has been sent to you, but you need to transfer it to a different safe account – they said you have to do it right now.’
A push payment scam begins
Susan was incredibly stressed and out of breath – and obviously on the receiving end of a push payment scam, though of course she didn’t realise it yet.
I told her to hang up the phone on ‘the bank’ immediately, find her bank card and call the number on the back and explain what was going on to her actual bank.
Meanwhile I called my bank to report the payment as part of a scam and ask them to return it to the sender. By the next day, Susan’s bank had frozen her account and reassured her that the money would be returned. My account had also been frozen.
Scammers use an existing payee
Susan and I tried to piece together what had happened. We gathered that the scammers had somehow gained access to the account (possibly using malware that can read one’s screen to steal her two-factor code), and had made the transfer to me.
It seems the scammers were not able to add a new payee to the account (as presumably this would require greater scrutiny from the bank), so they picked an already existing payee at random to send the money to.
Then kicked in the tactics of a classic ‘push payment scam’; convince the victim that their account is compromised and that they need to send the money to a ‘new’ and ‘safe’ account, which of course is under the control of the scammers.
Huge emotional pressure
The difference here is that a third-party contact of the victim is involved – making it more likely for the scam to succeed. Why? Having several thousand pounds of somebody else’s money sitting in your account applies great emotional pressure to the third party.
It was hard enough for me to say ‘no’ when Susan had instructed me to forward the money on to a different account – ‘it’s their money after all, who am I to tell them?’ – but I suspected it was a scam.
But how many people who have no idea it’s a scam will simply do as their family member asks? Luckily I did say ‘no’. The money has been returned and both of our accounts unblocked.
I suppose the old ‘if it seems too good to be true…’ rule applies. So if you get a large sum of money randomly deposited in your account, contact your bank and think twice before touching it. I hope sharing my experience here will help warn others and raise awareness.
Has this situation ever happened to you? How did you deal with it?