A total of £23.6 million was lost in 2014 due to fraudsters tricking people across the UK into transferring money directly into their bank accounts, new figures from Financial Fraud Action (FFA UK) show.
The data was released as Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) today launched its annual national awareness week, with a focus on phone scams in partnership with FFA UK, whose members include banks, credit, debit and charge card issuers.
NHW's 173,000 volunteers will tell people across England and Wales to "hang up on fraud". They will ask their neighbours to share these warnings and pass on advice to three of their friends so that more than two million people can be reached by the end of the campaign.
A similar campaign is also being run this week by Neighbourhood Watch Scotland.
The drive is backed by the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), the specialist police unit funded by the banking industry to tackle criminals involved in financial fraud.
This is the first time that NHW has conducted a campaign on phone scams, and it reflects the changing tactics of criminals who now prefer to minimise the risk of arrest by never coming into direct contact with their victim, organisers said.
Katy Worobec, director of FFA UK, said: "More and more people have heard about the dangers of phone scams and how they work, but unfortunately there is still a significant number who are unaware that highly professional criminals are systematically targeting members of the public to deceive them out of their savings.
"We want to declare this week a time for all those who are aware of these threats to talk to relatives and neighbours and warn them about suspect calls and how to protect themselves."
The fraud typically works by the criminal calling their victim and pretending to be from their bank, although there are variations.
The fraudster will convince the victim that fraud has been detected on their bank account and that they have to act fast by moving their money into a so-called "safe account" or risk losing their savings.
The fraud is often successful because criminals will use a range of techniques - such as "spoofing" the telephone number on the person's caller ID display so that it matches their bank's number, or making reference to genuine account information which they have fraudulently obtained elsewhere.
Jim Maddan, chairman of the Neighbourhood and Home Watch Network (England & Wales) said: "Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators are well-known and trusted within their communities and they are keen to be proactive in keeping people safe.
"They are ideally placed to provide advice to their neighbours, as well as vulnerable people within their neighbourhood, about how they can avoid phone scams."
Consumers are being warned to be wary of cold callers who suggest the consumer hangs up the phone and calls them back. Fraudsters can keep a phone line open by not putting down the receiver at their end.
If someone feels something is suspicious or feels vulnerable, they should hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line, or where possible use a different phone line, then call their bank or card issuer on their advertised number to report the fraud, organisers said.
If someone does not have another telephone to use, they should call someone they know first to make sure the line is free.
Banks will also never ask customers to check the number showing on their telephone display matches their registered telephone number. The display cannot be trusted, as the number showing can be altered by the caller.
A bank or the police will never phone to ask for someone's four-digit card Pin or online banking password, even by tapping them into the telephone keypad.
They will not ask someone to withdraw money to hand over to them for safe-keeping or ask them to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons, even if they say it is in that person's name.
Banks or the police will not send someone to a person's home to collect their cash, Pin, payment card or cheque book if they are a victim of fraud, or ask them to buy goods using their card and then hand them over for safe- keeping.
Detective Chief Inspector Perry Stokes, head of the DCPCU, said: "Unfortunately, thousands of people have fallen victim to phone scams so before you even consider revealing personal information over the phone or making a financial investment with a cold caller, always consider if you really know who the person is. If the answer is no, don't be a victim, just hang up the phone."
If someone thinks they may have fallen victim to fraud, they should contact their bank immediately and report it to the police through Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040.
Fraudsters tricked Brits into transferring £24m last year
More than 12 million pieces of personal information were illegally traded online by identity fraudsters in the first quarter of 2012 alone, according to data from Experian CreditExpert- outstripping the entire of 2010.
The vast majority (90%) of this illegally traded information is password and log in combinations - a result of the spiralling number of online accounts many of us now have. Research shows the average Brit uses around five different passwords online, but with an average of 26 different accounts each – this is nowhere near enough protection.
"Using a different password for each account will minimise risks, but if password information is stolen from a website, all accounts using the same details will be compromised, and this information can spread among fraudsters rapidly," warns Peter Turner, managing director at Experian Consumer Services in the UK and Ireland.
Credit and store cards continue to prove particularly attractive to fraudsters and 2012 year has seen 73% surge in the takeover of plastic card accounts by criminals with nearly one quarter of all identity frauds, and 36% of all account takeovers, taking place on these cards.
Richard Hurley, communications manager at CIFAS explains the threat: "Whether it is through using an innocent party's details to open a new account in the victim's name, or hijacking the victim's details and taking over existing accounts, the modern fraudster will continue to pay specific attention to credit and store card accounts as an easy way of obtaining funds and goods, while leaving someone else to pick up the bill."
As if the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI) wasn't scandal enough, 2012 has seen fraudsters preying on PPI victims. Consumers have received phone calls from someone who knows their name, announcing that they have won their PPI claim. The caller may also know the lender's name and an estimate of the loan amount.
However, the caller will then request a payment from the consumer in order to receive their compensation. This should signal warning bells, but many innocent victims have fallen for the scam and parted with money only for the bogus firm to disappear with their cash, and of course the compensation that never existed.
Consumers should be wary of all cold calls, particularly those that request cash upfront. There is no need to pay to make a claim for mis-sold PPI – you can claim direct to your bank for free and receive free advice from debt charities like Citizens Advice and the Consumer Credit Counselling Service.
If you do choose to take on the assistance of a claims management firm – never agree to an upfront payment. Reputable firms will only request payment for their services once you have received your compensation from your lender either by cheque or by payment into your bank account.
Phishing – when an unsolicited email arrives in your inbox requesting details to your personal accounts – continues to rise, leading to a surge in online banking fraud. Online banking fraud losses totaled £21.6 million during January to June 2012, according to CIFAS - a 28% increase on the 2011 half-year figure.
The emails trick customers into visiting fake banking websites – often made to look startlingly similar to the real thing - and disclosing their online banking login details. Online banking customers are also being tricked into divulging their bank login details and passwords over the phone to someone they believe is from their bank but is actually a fraudster.
The key point to remember is that banks will never contact you by phone or email and ask you to disclose your details, so always beware correspondence of this nature. Consumers should also be cautious of emails purporting to be from government bodies such as HMRC, or other financial accounts, such as Paypal.
There were over 50 different scams known to the 2012 Olympic Committee, with fraudsters cashing in on the good-natured spirit of the Games and nationwide scramble for tickets. The vast majority of scams took the form of phishing emails – purporting bogus job offers; prize draws; lottery wins and complimentary tickets – all with the sole purpose of duping consumers into sharing personal details or parting with cash in order to claim prizes.
Official tickets for the London 2012 Games were only available for purchase through the London 2012 website and appointed ticketing partners, so any other sources were offering fake or non-existent tickets. As for competition prizes and lottery wins – consumers should remember that it is impossible to win a competition or draw that you did not knowingly enter and that if a prize seems too be good to be true, it probably is.
Insurance is an incredibly complex area of personal finance and different forms of cover are riddled with different hitches that make it crucial to read the small print. Failure to do so could lead you to pay for a product you would be never be able to claim upon, or unknowingly do something that invalidates your claim.
Always buy the right level of cover for your needs and pay close attention to any exclusions in the policy wording. For example, many travel insurance policies for winter sports won't pay out for treatment of injuries incurred while under the influence of alcohol.
Surely the lowest of the low, charity donation fraud – when fake charities play on our sympathy by requesting donations to a worthy cause – is on the rise. Donation requests come in the form of unsolicited emails; phone calls; house visits or being approached in a public place. In many cases, donation requests are linked to a high-profile event, such as Hurricane Sandy that wreaked havoc across America last month.
Either the charity that the fraudster has asked you to donate to doesn't exist, or they are misusing the name of a genuine, often well-known, charity and pocketing your money.
Don't let fraud risks put you off donating – just make the necessary checks to ensure your money is going to the intended cause. Genuine charities are registered with the Charity Commission and print their registration details on all documentation, collection bags and envelopes, so check these details exist and if in doubt, contact the Charity Commission to confirm that they are authentic. Call the helpline on 0845 300 0218 or check the online charity register by visiting charity-commission.gov.uk.
Cases of cash machine fraud, where a device is used to trap money inside the ATM machine, have increased more than 15-fold in London in the past three months. Reported incidents have risen from 150 across the UK in May, to 2,500 in London alone in August, according to figures from Link and London's Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU).
Criminals insert a device called a cash claw behind the guard on the cash drawer of an ATM. The device is undetectable to the public, who use the machine as normal until their cash fails to eject.
"The machine goes out of service and then the criminal comes along, forces open the drawer using a pair of pliers or a screwdriver, forces the device out of the cash machine, bringing the customer's money with it," explains Detective Chief Inspector Dave Carter, head of the DCPCU.
Customers are advised to immediately report any banknotes undelivered from cash machines.
Rogue property developers selling land that they claim has great investment value, when there is little or no chance of it ever being developed, are on the rise again this year. Investigations have lead to a number of convictions in 2012, yet consumers are warned to be remain wary of this big money scam.
Land banking involves plots of land offered for sale, often online, with the promise of sizable returns when planning permission is approved for housing or other development. Yet often the land is located in areas protected from development by planning law.
The companies involved soon disappear with investors' money and as the firms are not protected by the Financial Services Authority, their funds are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
In October, PhonepayPlus (the UK's premium rate telephone regulator) fined two firms a total of £450,000 for running a series of voucher scams on Facebook.
The scams, which claimed to offer free vouchers and supermarket gift cards for Tesco and Asda, resulted in members of the public signing-up for expensive premium-rate phone services.
The scams relied on Facebook users innocently sharing or liking the voucher promotions on their status, which included the promise of a voucher worth up to £250 for major retailers. After clicking on the promotion consumers were duped into participating in premium rate competitions, which involved questions sent to their phone at a cost of £5 each.