Last month, I came within a couple of key strokes of giving fraudsters access to my bank account and it is only because I have a suspicious mind that I did not fall for it. The process was so polished, I feel I should spread the word to keep others from falling for a phone scam.
Early on the 20th April 2018, I received a message on my home Mac computer that someone in a Chinese province was trying to log into my Apple ID. I pressed “No”, so that stopped and thought little more of it.
At 12:31 on the same day, I received a text, reportedly from “Barclays”, that said:
“Your Debit Card payment to Tesco Online Store for 1,720 GBP has been referred to us for further verification. If you have not made this payment, please contact Fraud Prevention on 03330220692 as a matter of urgency. No text reply.”
This was followed immediately by an advertising image from “Personal Banking – Barclays”, that matches their current advertising.
This text was on my smart phone, (Apple iPhone SE), so the underlined telephone number is a hotlink and will dial automatically, so it would have been very easy to have rung THAT number and speak to someone, believing them to be from Barclays Fraud Prevention.
There was an alarm ringing in my head; “trust, but verify”, so I rang the Barclays personal banking number from my bank card and after going through security, established that the telephone number was fake, there had not been any recent transactions through any of the connected bank accounts and certainly nothing of £1,720.
So how would it have played out if I’d have rung the “fake” number? An article in the Sun, https://www.thesun.co.uk/money/5316442/new-convincing-natwest-scam-that-could-trick-you-into-handing-bank-details-to-fraudsters/, suggests that I would have been tricked into handing over my bank details, a technique called “smishing”, but other reports suggest that I could have been asked to withdraw money to further a “fraud investigation”, like Elle Reams, https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/money/diary-of-a-bank-fraud-victim-how-scammers-stole-my-10000-savings/). Either way, it would have been very bad news for my bank account balance and my confidence.
I have been involved in finance since I graduated in 1984 and would usually consider myself to be “Scam Proof”, as I have been an external and internal auditor, management accountant and financial controller, in financial services and often involved in security matters, but I came within seconds of doing something disastrous for my financial health.
So what should anyone do to avoid falling into a similar bear trap?
Change passwords regularly; my Apple ID was probably the one I have changed the least and was partially compromised. Confirming that this was a live address gives a scammer a target for other exploits.
Do not trust a text, just because it says it is from your bank. That your smartphone says that a text is from “Your Bank” does not make it so. Just like spam e-mails, text headers can be spoofed to appear to come from a trusted party.
Never use a hotlink to telephone or go to a bank’s website. Always look up the actual contact details from a known good source. Following links that are “convenient” is just giving the fraudsters the upper hand.
If someone says they are the police or fraud prevention, take steps to verify their identity. If they say they are police, then ask for a collar number and name. From a different telephone, ring the main enquiries number and ask for confirmation that the officer is who they say they are. For a bank employee, use the bank’s main contact number and ask to speak to the fraud team.
Try and keep your personal information off the Internet. Social media and web tracking make it easy for a third party to collect information about you. If you gave any half competent fraudster a full name, date of birth, national insurance number and mother’s maiden name, they would be well on the way for identity theft.
If you have any doubts, ring Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, and ask for help.
If you would like to know more about how we can help you plan and realise your financial goals then contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01223 792 196.
The information contained is for guidance only and does not constitute financial advice. It is based on our understanding of UK legislation, whether proposed or in force, and market practice at the time of writing. Levels, bases and reliefs from taxation may be subject to change. Accordingly, no responsibility can be assumed by Martin-Redman Partners its officers or employees, for any loss in connection with the content hereof and any such action or inaction.