Financial fraud

July 2017
Tony Blake

Financial fraud is now the number 1 crime in the UK.  In 2016, £768m was lost, equating to roughly £2m every single day.  The Metropolitan and City of London Police have a Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit, sponsored by the banking industry.  Last night Tony Blake, Senior Fraud Prevention Officer within the unit came to the bank to talk through how fraudsters are able to steal and use our data for financial gain, the tactics fraudsters use to entice us into revealing financial information and to demonstrate how we can all take steps to avoid becoming victims of financial fraud.

Blake discussed how there are all sorts of ways that criminals are able to gain access to our data: social media, data hacks and phishing emails are just a few examples.  Social media has become one of the largest sources of personal data and Blake demonstrated how something as simple as ‘liking’ a Facebook page can grant companies access to personal details if you don’t have stringent privacy settings in place.  In the wrong hands, this personal data can be used for financial fraud attempts.  But what about for those of us who stay away from the online world of Facebook?  Blake provided another illustration of how we ‘consent’ to giving our data, using an example of either paying £10 to go to a conference, or bypassing the fee by providing some basic personal information – name, phone number and email address.  In this situation, most of us would likely opt to avoid the fee and fill in the form but this then allows our details to be bought by marketing companies and, significantly, also by fraudsters.

The message Blake conveyed was that even the brightest of individuals are able to be ‘duped’ into revealing personal information.  The primary reason is Social Engineering – ‘The clever manipulation of the natural human tendency to trust’.  Worryingly, research has shown 98% of individuals will give their security details out over the phone to somebody they believe is calling from their bank.  ‘Phishing’ emails are one of the biggest ways that financial fraud is carried out; clicking on a link in an email can allow a virus to be installed onto your computer and/ or provides the fraudster unrestricted access to your online movements; these can be traced and your personal details and passwords stolen.  Although many people are aware of these phishing emails, the fraudsters are getting increasingly smart with the ways in which they contact individuals.  Blake demonstrated how they can use technology to send texts which appear to have come from your bank, grouped in with messages you have previously received and often acted on.

But, it is not all doom and gloom.  Whilst financial fraud is certainly on the rise, Tony Blake’s fundamental message was simply to exercise caution at all times:

  • never disclose security details, such as your Personal Identification Number (PIN) or full password – it’s never right to reveal these details;
  • at a cash point, always cover your PIN when entering it;
  • don’t assume an email request or caller is genuine – people aren’t always who they say they are;
  • don’t be rushed – a bank or genuine organisation won’t mind waiting to give you time to stop and think;
  • listen to your instincts – if something feels wrong then it is usually right to pause and question it;
  • stay in control – have the confidence to refuse unusual requests for information.

By exercising due caution, we can all help to protect ourselves from becoming another fraud statistic.

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