The fraudsters want access to your bank details. Here are the steps to take if you are targeted
Scams are on the rise as fraudster gangs use increasingly sophisticated methods to gain access to your computer and help themselves to your money or encourage you to transfer sums to pay for goods that do not exist.
These crooks are said to be targeting the customers of banks whose security systems have been called into question, such as Santander and Lloyds.
Bank transfers are the most vulnerable because banks are not liable by law to refund you, unless you have paid on your credit or debit card.
Britons make more than 70 million bank transfers a month, compared with about 100 million a year, a decade ago. Which?, the consumer group, says that losses through bank transfers went up 64 per cent to £133.5 million in 2014-15.
Will I get my money back?
Credit card payments are covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act and payments made by debit cards can be refunded by chargeback. There is no such protection in making a bank transfer, a fact that says six out of ten people do not realise, says Which?.
Are the banks doing enough?
Which? argues that if banks were liable for fraud from bank transfers they would improve security systems. Research found 6 out of 11 high street banks had failed to adopt a two-step security system that could better protect their customers. Halifax, Lloyds, Santander and TSB scored poorly on security. Two-factor authentication involves a password or Pin and a card-reader or mobile device.
Lloyds dismissed the research as limited and over simplistic. It says: “The findings do not provide an accurate reflection of the sophisticated security our customers benefit from that is undetectable in this research. Our mobile banking app allows customers to access their accounts by entering three characters from their memorable information. The app uniquely associates each device with its owner.”
Santander says: “We invest significant resource each year to alert customers to scams.” TSB says: “We have complex controls to protect customers from becoming victims and we remind customers to be vigilant and to contact us if they believe something isn’t right.”
Which frauds are most common?
Be on your guard for text messages or calls claiming to come from your bank, or texts from telecoms and tech companies such as BT, Microsoft or Talktalk.
The details of 157,000 Talktalk customers were stolen in a computer hack attack in October 2015. A BBC investigation found that details were used by scammers in India to call customers, asking them to give them access to their computer so that they could do some form of maintenance. Sometimes they claimed people were due a refund and asked for their bank details.
Be wary of calls from people who say that they are from your bank and ask you to log in, or tell them your password. No bank would do this.
Hackers can access your emails, and then send you a message purporting to be one of your contacts and ask you to transfer money.
Also watch out for fake online advertisements; never pay for goods before collection and be wary of holiday lets that may not be real. Amit Sangovi, 39, from Pinner, found what he thought was a holiday flat in Paris on Airbnb last summer. Amit emailed the person purporting to be the owner, who emailed back asking for payment via bank transfer to an account in Spain. After the payment, the property disappeared from the internet, and Amit was told by Airbnb that the booking reference was invalid. He has not received any of his £700 back because the bank was not liable for the transfer.
A spokesman for the Financial Conduct Authority says: “We require banks to have systems in place to minimise the risk of financial crime. Where we find weaknesses in their financial crime controls, we hold them to account.”
How can I stay safe online?
Install anti-virus software, such as Kaspersky, and regularly run a scan of your computer. Change your password often, avoiding anything obvious because these can be cracked using hacking programmes. Think random: the government’s Get Safe Online website has some useful advice on this issue. Do not use the same password for every account. Don’t access bank accounts using wifi systems in coffee shops.