/ Scams

Scam watch: mystery ‘social score’ payment

We were contacted when a member of the public spotted unauthorised transactions on their card. But what are these mystery ‘social score’ payments?

A member of the public spotted a £39.30 deduction from ‘Rank My Social’ on their card statement, which was unauthorised. They tracked down the firm online and emailed it.

It said it analyses social media accounts and provides a ‘social score’ indicating the impression they give to the outside world.

It refused a refund, and explained they had likely been enrolled in a free trial in the process of obtaining a loan or finance.

But the member of the public had no recollection of entering a free trial while obtaining any credit.

They then spotted another unauthorised payment, this time from ‘sterling-tracker.co.uk’ for £27.65.

Guide: I think I may have given a fraudster my bank details

Their bank, Bank of Scotland, refunded both payments and prevented further ones, but the mystery of how they were started remains.

What were these mystery payments?

We asked Rank My Social and Sterling Tracker how they obtained the details, but we received no reply.

Sterling Tracker describes itself as ‘an online product designed to help you manage your budget and boost your savings’.

However, 96% of its reviews on Trustpilot are negative, with a majority branding it fraud or theft and describing unauthorised transactions just like this one.

A few describe being unwittingly enrolled while applying or a loan or insurance. You can send a subject access request to both firms and find out exactly where they got your details – here’s how it can be done.

Read checkbox options carefully when signing up for anything, and keep an eye on your bank statements for the forseeable future. Banks must refund unauthorised payments in almost all cases.

Have you ever spotted unauthorised payments on your card? Did you track down the source of the problem?

 
Comments

We know who they are. We know what they are doing. We actually know where they are too. Now, who is going to go in and deal with them – legally?

Angliaspur says:
21 August 2020

No one!! There seems to be an area of ‘legalised fraud’ prevalent in this country which is allowed to continue unchallenged. Government bodies seem completely oblivious to it or too incompetent or lazy to do anything about it. Another by product of the slow dumbing down of the ‘justice’ system here.

With so many disputed transactions and evidence of fraud, why don’t the card networks (e.g. Visa and MasterCard) shut down these merchants’ ability to charge consumers’ cards?

I agree, NFH. It would be interesting to pursue this approach to find out how quickly they withdraw card facilities and take legal action against companies that are effectively supporting the fraudsters.

It’s a great idea, but I wonder if the companies keep reinventing themselves to stay ahead of the game?

That seems very likely. Perhaps new companies should be required to deposit funds before being allowed to make use of card services.

It would be useful if Which? asked the card companies to contribute so we see the other side of the picture.

The task of monitoring and investigating alleged malpractice by hundreds of millions (?) of businesses worldwide seems daunting, at the very least, if not impractical. Losses are probably seen as a business expense as the alternative and, providing consumers are fairly dealt with, seems the pragmatic way.

As Ian says, of a rogue business has its payment facility remove it will simply establish another and carry on as normal. Like telephone scam numbers.

Consumers can do something to help by dealing with known businesses rather than taking a chance on someone. It is not foolproof, but I try to buy from UK businesses and for anyone new, check for a real address and landline number. I little online research is usually enough to instill confidence.

On Trustpilot there are numerous accounts of this scam, but the interesting aspect (for me, anyway) is that many banks are now blocking payments to the scammers.

This may be bigger than we think. During a cursory search I discovered

Rank my Social
Rate my Social
Rate–mySocial
Social–report
SocialRank
Social Grade
Rateme.social

Many of these are hosted by Virtual Footprint but Firefox warns strongly against visiting the page: Warning: Potential Security Risk Ahead

I did find a ‘phone number for cancellation: 0161 710 2754. Over to you, folks.

An acquaintance of mine (unwisely) took out a payday loan online, then found recurring payments to another outfit made from their bank account. It seemed that the “authorisation” was buried deep in the loan terms and conditions, which are unlikely to be scrutinised.

Their bank refunded the payments.

I do not know why we tolerated the extortion of such loans in the first place, let alone when these crooks rip off their desperate customers even more by allowing another crook to steal even more money .

I don’t remember any campaign to ban extortionate payday loans. I seem to remember them, in fact, being supported in front of a parliamentary select committee.

Advocates of online banking will claim it is ‘safe’ and is currently being used by approximately 21 million people. Paradoxically, they then continue with a narrative consisting of long lists of what to do in order to protect yourself from scammers. Add to this the inevitable complexity of consistent technological updating which needs to be inspected, examined and tested to establish your money is still ‘safe’, coupled with the worry and stress that accompanies the whole procedure, leaves one wondering who are the real benefactors of online banking?

Reading the numerous comments on Which Convo on the subject, it is abundantly clear that online banking is more convenient than ‘safe’. Convenient to who? Mainly the banks themselves by persistent persuasion and clever selling practices to go online, have closed hundreds of smaller branches with the loss of many jobs, leaving people in rural locations to either bank online or travel many miles to the nearest branch,

Online banking is also more convenient for large businesses and commercial enterprises whose accounts are run by specially trained people in computer skills who are able to keep abreast of continually changing financial fluctuations on a daily basis.

It is the mindset of the ordinary consumer that is being manipulated into believing that online banking is ‘savvy‘ and shrewd with an ability to make good judgement in all their financial transactions and affairs. Sadly the scammers always seem to be one step ahead of the game and a lot more ‘savvy’ than most and who make quite a lucrative living by exploiting the not so ‘savvy’ elderly and vulnerable.

I find online banking very convenient and I have had no safety issues. What we see reported are those cases where someone has had a negative experience. Rarely reported are what I expect are the vast majority who are perfectly satisfied.

Credit card and cheques attracted fraud, before online banking. A sad fact is there are clever people out there who will be ahead of the game in designing ways to part less careful people from their money. Nothing, regrettably, is perfect.

I share Malcolm’s view. On-line banking has been perfectly safe and extremely convenient for me. It has saved money in postage and stationery and avoided delays in the transfer of funds. I can determine with pin-point accuracy on which day a payment will enter the payee’s account and the reliability of that has been exceptional over all the years I have been making payments on-line. On-line banking is not a substitute for using bank branches; whether paying by direct debit, standing order or cheque I did it all from home with no necessity to go to the bank. Sending coupons off with your credit or debit card numbers written on them to buy goods by mail order was a far riskier process in my opinion.

Banks branches were on the slippery slope of declining custom long before on-line banking became commonplace.

For those who are unsure about using on-line banking, many alternatives remain available but exactly the same degree of care is required when entering account details and sending to the right place. With on-line banking, once you have set up a new payee the details are recorded and can be reused time and time again without concerns. It is always advisable to take precautions when setting up a new payee, or receiving ‘new’ payment instructions involving a change of account details, but on-line banking is not unique in that.

Malcolm and John your long standing engagement with Which Conversation has no doubt increased your awareness of most of the pros and cons of banking scams, as it has for myself also. Unfortunately not everyone is so well informed, very apparent from the many postings from people with negative experience. Banks today are well protected from criminal theft which has prompted the thieves to target their most unsuspecting and vulnerable customers instead.

Online banking is very convenient for some. It is also very convenient for the scammers to keep ahead of the game and target those who they think are most likely to easily part with their life savings by a mere click of a key on their mobile, their iPad or their computer.

I agree with you, Beryl – using on-line banking for payment transfers is not for everybody and the banks should make sure that good alternatives are available. But there are benefits in on-line banking for most customers even if they only wish to check their balance, switch money between their own accounts, control their direct debits and standing orders, open a savings account or investment product, or communicate securely with their bank.

In terms of frauds, especially the Authorised Push Payment type, the banks do need to step up their efforts to prevent crimes from occurring in the first place through control procedures, better banking practices to prevent criminals from opening accounts that can be used to receive stolen funds, and customer guidance plus, in certain cases, intervention. Providing refunds to defrauded customers is the easy fix for banks [using other customers’ money] but does nothing to stop the crime. That is why I thought Which?’s recent research report should have broadened out to focus on the prevention of crime as well as the plights of the victims.

On-line banking is not in itself an unsafe channel if used carefully like any other medium which can be misused. The eventual full implementation of the Confirmation of Payee process will significantly reduce the incidence of the Faster Payment Service route being used for the diversion of money to criminal hands. It is extremely regrettable that a number payment service providers will not participate in that scheme and that the Payment Systems Regulator has decided to limit the requirements to implement Confirmation of Payee to six banking groups. Others can participate voluntarily but unless there is full coverage there will be reduced protection if either the sending or the receiving bank for a fraudulent transfer is not obliged to cooperate in the Reimbursement Code.

Gordon Lawrence says:
21 August 2020

I worked in IT for 15 years before retiring. I don’t trust on line banking and wild horses wouldn’t persuade to transfer my bank account online. I also thought that banks were legally obliged to provide a service to their customers with branches. With so many having been closed and many destinations left without a bank I do wonder why our politicians don’t come out into the open and take them to task. The idea that cash is not wanted is all part of a campaign to encourage on line use. Given the large number of elderly people in the population this apparent trend is crazy. So many elderly people do not have (or want) a computer or have a smart phone and it is difficult to transact any business these day without the constant request from businesses for one or both. I need cash for the window cleaner, greetings cards, flowers, arcade stall purchases, gifts to grandchildren, tips to all and sundry including postman so who’s to say cash is not needed. It’s about time the banks were brought to account.

????

Luke Hear says:
20 August 2020

I don’t have any trouble paying for lots of things using cash. These include motor and house/buildings insurances, road taxes, TV licences, concert tickets, etc., and in the past have included mortgage payments amongst others. The next best things to cash are cheques. There are probably lots more methods of paying things, and then, at the bottom of the list, are on-line payments.

Hilary says:
21 August 2020

Luke where do you live?! (rhetorical q).
This would be impossible for many people due to loss of bank branches and post offices. Sub POs don’t now deal with what used to be normal, eg licences and passports. Decades ago I paid my mortgage in cash but I doubt the banks have even considered that this century! I have no idea where there may be a branch of an insurance company. Lockdown has unfortunately accelerated online use. It has not been possible to change old notes, in order to pay even the newsagent, without a risky trip on public transport to town to find a main PO, to then queue alongside non-maskwearing customers. Vulnerable people need an online account to reimburse their shoppers who won’t handle cash. I don’t know when the £20 changed, as I hadn’t seen one before shielding, and I dare say that the rise of card-only purchases in the last few months means that many will be still unaware of the new note.

Rein de Vet says:
26 August 2020

REF: lockdown shopping. My weekly shop would be too small for free delivery so I add my shopping to one of my family members, who then collect it ready bagged or delivered. Then family member leaves bag(s) on my doorstep.

Happy Papa says:
7 September 2020

The most fundamental point for me in ‘On-line’ banking and the attendant scams is simply “Why can’t the banks get the money back?” After all, when I want to open an account, I have to prove who I am, where I live. They then check my credit references. The account is then monitored for suspicious activity to prevent money laundering as part of the LAW. So, how come when we get scammed the Banks can’t get the money back? Or is it that they don’t want to poke about in the mess too much in case it exposes their failures to comply with the Money Laundering prevention rules! Prior to on-line working, much fraud was perpetrated by people inside organisations helping it along. Am I the only person who suspects that the Banks could do more? Or is it cheaper to just pay out when truly challenged? Simply identifying when the account to be credited is Non-UK would be a major step forwards.