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24 April 2018

4 scams to watch out for

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Scams are big business. Last year there were around two million of incidents of fraud in the UK, according to the Public Accounts Committee. And when you consider that the majority of such crimes aren’t reported, the scale of the problem gets even bigger. Here are four types of scam and what you should do to protect yourself.

Account takeover fraud

This sees criminals hijack your bank account details – sort code and account number – before buying products and other services using your account or even extracting all your money from it. This is a popular form of fraud because the data needed to execute it can be easy to find:

  • Through data breaches
  • Account details plucked from the bin or stolen from the post-box
  • Stolen from wallets or purses
  • Unexpected phone calls attempting to harvest your personal online login security answers

Signs of takeover fraud include:

  • Unusual transactions on your account – things you don’t remember paying for
  • Funds disappearing from your account
  • Charges from bounced cheques

Protect yourself from account takeover fraud by:

  • Querying any unusual transactions with your bank
  • Shredding anything that has your account details on before throwing it out
  • Ensuring your post is redirected if you move house
  • Never supply online security answers over the phone. If you have concerns regarding a particular call, end the call without supplying the requested information and call the bank back using a confirmed telephone number from their website.

Remember, too, that account takeover fraud does not just apply to bank and credit accounts. It can also happen on email accounts, online shopping accounts, loyalty schemes and on social media accounts.

Charity donation scams

Here, pretend charity collectors exploit our sympathy by asking for donations to important causes. In reality, these worthy causes don’t exist and the fraudsters keep the money for themselves. Charity donation scams can take place physically – a fraudster knocking on your door – through a fake website, or over the phone. Signs that something isn’t quite right include:

  • Suspicious behaviour by the collector – they appear intimidating or produce ID that doesn’t look genuine
  • Promotional material or websites are badly written or look unprofessional
  • You’ve never heard of the charity before

Protect yourself:

  • Charities should be registered with the Charity Commission – check if they are here
  • Only give to charities directly
  • Do not send money to someone you don’t know or trust
Email interception fraud

With email interception fraud, a fraudster hacks into emails between a customer and a company, such as a property-buyer and a conveyancer. This is a growing scam that typically sees criminals target high-value transactions like the purchase of a house.

Let’s say you are buying a house. You receive an email from your solicitor requesting the deposit for the property. This is shortly followed by another email from them explaining that their bank account details have changed and you should instead transfer the funds into a new account.

Now, this could of course be a genuine request – but it could also be a sign that the email has been intercepted. What hackers do is infect a computer with malware designed to recognise when a key phrase – like ‘request for funds’ – is used.

When a key phrase is used, the fraudsters contact you disguised as your solicitor, asking you to transfer funds into a new account, which is of course theirs.

Things to look out for:

  • A company suddenly changing its bank account details
  • Emails from a company that look different to the ones they usually send you

Protect yourself by:

  • Always being cautious when you get any email discussing payment details
  • If you are asked for payment to a new account, contact the company directly to confirm

And remember, it’s not just property transactions that scammers target. If account details for any kind of purchase are sent by email, there’s a risk it could be intercepted.

Online shopping fraud

You buy or sell something through an ecommerce site like eBay or Etsy. Everything seems fine until you realise you haven’t been paid for what you’ve sold, you can’t get a refund for what you’ve bought or it never arrives and you’ve no way of contacting the seller.

The rise of online shopping sites allowing us to buy and sell with ease has led to the prevalence of such scams. Typically, they see fraudsters try and sell poor quality or non-existent products, or ‘buyers’ who never actually pay.

Protect yourself:

  • Only buy from recognised ecommerce websites
  • If buying from individual sellers, look for signs they’re reputable (good feedback, been trading a long time etc)
  • Pay by recognised services, like PayPal, not money transfer

If you have been victim of fraud or attempted fraud, report it to ActionFraud

Masthaven will never ask you for your full account password and takes its responsibilities over account protection extremely seriously. If you have any concerns at all, call our savings team on 0330 363 6666 or email [email protected]