Six million have been victims of financial fraud

Financial fraud

More than one in ten people have been a victim of financial fraud, one in ten have had one of their online accounts hacked, and a third of Brits say they are worried that they could become a victim of financial fraud at any time.

See also: Scamwatch: yet another Amazon fraud!

See also: Too many accounts leaves us at risk from hackers and scammers

See also: Scamwatch: most common scams of 2016

Financial fraud and cybercrime is booming. Financial Fraud Action UK says there were over a million incidents of financial fraud in the first six months of 2016 - up 53% from the same period a year earlier. If we are to protect ourselves from financial fraud, we need to understand the different forms of attack the fraudsters take.

Card-not-present fraud: Criminals get hold of card details either by recording them during a legitimate transaction, or downloading malware onto the victim's computer. They then use those details for online shopping.

Card ID theft: Card ID theft is either application fraud or account takeover fraud. In the former, the criminal uses stolen or fake documents to open an account in your name, and runs up debts. Account takeover involves them taking over a genuine account, and clearing it out.

Card not received fraud: Criminals steal cards on their way to you, and use them before you realise anything is amiss.

Cash machine fraud: Criminals target ATMs. They may look over your shoulder at your PIN, and then steal your card - or use a device attached to an ATM which copies the card details and records the PIN.

Phishing: Typically, phishing emails come from someone pretending to be a reputable company and usually ask you to enter your account details.

Vishing: Fraudsters phone a victim and persuade them to give out personal information and account details.

SMiShing (SMS phishing): This is similar to the previous two types of fraud, except it's carried out via text message.

Malware: Malware or malicious software is when a computer virus is installed onto your computer without your knowledge. This enables fraudsters to steal personal information including passwords and PINs when you enter an internet banking site.

Protect yourself

Matt Sanders from Money says that once you know your weak points, you can take steps to protect yourself. He suggests five areas we need to work on:

1. Protect your account numbers and PINs:
Never provide debit or credit card numbers, PINs or other personal information in response to an unsolicited email, text, online or telephone request. Genuine organisations, including banks and card providers, never request information in this way.

Be wary of unsolicited calls, emails or texts claiming to be from companies or organisations connected with your finances, requesting personal details. Never reply to a suspicious email, click on links or ring a number within the message. Use a different phone line to ring out if you've received a suspected vishing call.

2. Keep passwords and PINs strong and keep them secret:
Choose strong PINs and passwords. Don't use obvious numbers like birthdates, anniversaries, or consecutive, ascending or descending number sequences. Strong, hard to crack passwords contain a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Memorise your passwords and PINs – don't write them down or disclose them to anyone else. Don't use the same password and PIN for all your accounts and payment cards. And don't use the same passwords for social media sites and online banking.

3. Protect your card
When you receive a new payment card, always sign the back. Then when you make a transaction, make sure it remains within sight at all times.

4. Protect your personal information
Protect your personal information on social media using privacy settings, and only accept friend requests from people you know. In the real world, shred documents containing personal or financial information you no longer need.

5. Protect your devices
Regularly update your computer's firewall or antivirus software, and always PIN-protect smartphones and other mobile devices.

6. Stay safe online
When shopping online, always look for secure transaction symbols. The web address should start 'https' and the page should display the secure payment 'lock' logo. If possible, always shop or bank online from your personal computer. Always log-off from a site once you've completed a transaction, and always access your online financial accounts by typing the web address into your browser.

7. Regularly review financial statements:
Check credit card and bank statements on a regular basis and look out for unusual or unauthorised transactions. Contact your provider immediately if you suspect fraud. It's also important to make a note of when you should be receiving a new payment card. If it doesn't arrive when you expect it, contact the card provider as soon as possible.

Sanders says: "Financial fraud comes in many guises – from crooks using stolen credit cards to increasingly sophisticated digital scams. Being aware of the different types of scams and knowing the warning signs to look out for, can also help people avoid falling victim. And, once people appreciate how easy it can be for criminals to piece together personal data gleaned from online profiles, such as those shared on social media, they tend to be more cautious about openly sharing their personal information."

Victims of scams and fraud
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Victims of scams and fraud
Susan Tollefsen, Britain's oldest first time mother, was scammed out of £160,000 by a fraudster she met on an online dating site. A man claiming to be an Italian gold and diamond dealer told her he was in the middle of a land deal but couldn't access cash. Tollefsen felt sorry for him and started wiring him money, eventually selling her jewellery, her flat and borrowing £32,000 from friends to give him. Read the full story here.
In March 2015 an American woman who was only identified as 'Sarah' went on the popular US television programme the Dr Phil Show to reveal she had sent $1.4 million to a man that she had never met. Although she was certain she wasn't being scammed, her cousin made her go on the programme because she was convinced it was a scam. Find out more about the story here.
Maggie Surridge employed Lee Slocombe to lay a £350 deck in her garden in March 2015. However Slocombe used a combination of lies to scam Surridge out of thousands of pounds. He told Surridge that the front and back walls were dangerous and needed rebuilding and also conned her into building a porch, all for the cost of £8,500. Read the full story here.
It's not just individuals who can be the victims of scams, big corporations can also fall foul of these fraudulent practices. In 2015 Claire Dunleavy repeatedly used a 7p 'reduced' sticker to get significant amounts of money off her shopping at an Asda store in Burslem, ending up with her paying just £15.66 for a shop that should have cost £69.02. Read the full story here.
Sylvia Kneller, 76, was conned out of £200,000 over the space of 56 years thanks to scam mail. The pensioner became addicted to responding to the fraudsters, convinced that she would one day win a fortune. Ms Kneller would receive letters claiming she had won large sums of money but she needed to send processing fees to claim her prize. Learn about the full story here
Leslie Jubb, 103, became Britain's oldest scam victim in August last year when he was conned out of £60,000 after being sent an endless stream of catalogues promising prizes in return for purchasing overpriced goods. The extent of this con was discovered when Mr Jubb temporarily moved into a care home and his family discovered what he had lost. Find out more about this story here
Stephen Cox won more than £100,000 on the National Lottery in 2003 but has been left with nothing after falling victim to two conmen. The 63-year-old was pressured into handing over £60,000 to the men who told him his roof needed fixing. They walked him into banks and building societies persuading him to part with £80,000 of cash while doing no work in return. See the full story here
Last year the Metropolitan Police released CCTV footage of a woman who had £250 stolen at a cash machine in Dagenham. The scam involved two men distracting the woman at the machine, pressing the button for £250 then taking the money and running away. Read about the full story here.
Rebecca Ferguson shot to fame as a runner up on the X-Factor in 2010 but fell victim to a scam artist last year when someone she had believed to be a friend conned her out of £43,000. Rachel Taylor befriended the singer in 2012 and claimed to be a qualified accountant, so Ferguson allowed her to look after her finances. Instead of doing this Taylor stole £43,000 from the Liverpudlian singer. Read more here
When Rebecca Lewis discovered her fiance had started a relationship with a woman he met online she packed her bags to leave. But that didn't stop her checking out the mystery woman, Rebecca quickly realised Paul Rusher's new love was actually part of a romance scam. She told Paul just before he sent the scammers £2,000 which was supposed to bring his new girlfriend to England. Find the full story here.

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