More than half of Brits have been hit by phone scams in the last year. Do you know how to spot a cold call scam? Here’s Craig of Financial Fraud Action UK on the growth of phone scams and how to avoid them.
£55,550, £1,850, £440, £99,500, £17,400, £700 – these are just some of the amounts I’ve heard people losing due to phone scams, also known as vishing. I’d like to be able to tell you that these scams are rare and this is only money that has been lost over a period of many months or years. The reality is these are sums which have been lost by ordinary people over just the last two weeks alone.
What’s more, the problem is getting worse. Our research at FFA UK shows that the amount lost to phone scams has tripled over the last year, with at least £24m finding its way into the pockets of criminals.
What your bank will never ask you
In order to beat these slick, professional and highly organised fraudsters, we need people to be fully aware of the things you should never, ever do on the phone, no matter who asks. That’s why an unprecedented Joint Declaration of the UK banks, Building Societies and Card Issuers has been launched which clearly sets out the requests you’ll never get over the phone from them.
There are key things you’ll never be asked to do over the phone, except by a criminal. This includes revealing your four digit PIN, agreeing to transfer money into another account, or handing over your bank cards or cheque book to a courier – even if they claim to be from the bank or the police.
The Joint Declaration, which is available on our website, has been the cornerstone of our campaign and has appeared as part of an advertising push in the national newspapers. I would encourage as many of you as possible to read it, as well as to think about whether you have friends, family members or neighbours who may not yet know about this growing threat.
Hang up if you’re unsure
As well reminding people of telephone ‘no-nos’, we’ve also been urging members of the public to hang up the phone if they aren’t satisfied about the identity of a cold caller. If you’re caught in two minds and can’t figure out if a call is genuine or not, take the person’s name and then call them back on a number you trust – like from the organisation’s official website.
But be careful when you ring back – fraudsters are able to keep the line open for a full two minutes after you put down the phone which means when you pick up the receiver again, you could be talking to the same person or their accomplice. So use another phone, or put the receiver down for five minutes and that way the line will definitely be clear when you come to make a new call.
Stay a step ahead of scammers
We’re often asked: ‘How do these scams work?’. The truth is that there’s no specific scam that criminals always use. In fact they deliberately vary their tactics so that people don’t become wise to their tricks.
So while recently many of the scammers call up their victims pretending to be from the fraud department of a bank and convince them to hand over details, in three, six or 12 months from now, the fraudsters may be trying a completely new ruse. But by reminding yourself of the phone requests which you will never be asked by a legitimate organisation, you’ll always be a step ahead of the fraudster, regardless of the type of scam they deploy.
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is by Craig Jones, Head of Communications at Financial Fraud Action UK. All opinions expressed here are Craig’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.