Anti-fraud campaign urges bank customers to pause before handing over details
A campaign has been launched to combat financial fraudsters who "prey on people's trusting nature", as figures show one scam takes place every 15 seconds across the UK.
More than one million cases of financial fraud where victims lost money were detected in the first half of 2016, which was a 53% increase compared with a year earlier, according to Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK).
There were 1,007,094 such incidents between January and June - equating to one every 15 seconds - made up of payment card fraud, cheque fraud and online and telephone banking fraud.
FFA UK, along with major banks and financial services providers, has launched a campaign called Take Five, which encourages people to pause and think before they respond to any financial requests or hand over any personal details. This pausing could be by stopping a phone conversation or delaying a reply to an email or text.
The Take Five campaign will be highlighted by banks in branches, on ATMs and on websites.
The drive focuses on financial frauds directly targeting customers, such as email deception - known as phishing - and phone and text-based scams, known as vishing and smishing.
It aims to help protect people from criminals duping them into moving money into bank accounts controlled by fraudsters.
People may find themselves falling victim to fraud when a criminal calls them pretending to be from a legitimate body such as their bank, the police, a utility company or HM Revenue and Customs.
Katy Worobec, director of FFA UK, told the Press Association the campaign aims to "empower people to take back control of conversations and not feel that they've got to listen politely while someone cons them out of their money".
She said in some cases fraudsters pose on the phone as police officers and pretend the victim's account is at risk, telling them they need to urgently transfer their money into a "safe account" that really belongs to the criminal. Con artists will also send texts and emails pretending to be from their victim's bank. Sometimes fraudsters even send couriers to a victim's home to collect bank cards.
Ms Worobec said people should not feel under pressure and "react by doing something you wouldn't normally do if you were to stop and think about it".
Backing the campaign, commissioner City of London Police Ian Dyson, the national policing lead for fraud, said: "Fraud and cyber crime account for nearly half of all crime, according to the British Crime Survey, and this campaign is aimed at giving people the confidence to think before they act.
"Pausing for that short moment and asking ourselves, 'Is this the safe thing to do?', will go a long way to thwarting the fraudsters that prey on people's trusting nature."
Research for the campaign found nearly three-quarters (73%) of people claim they are aware of fraudsters' methods.
But more than a quarter (26%) admit they still provide personal details to people claiming to be from their bank, even if they do not think they should.
The most common reason for respondents sharing their details was because they felt the person seemed genuine, while some felt pressured. Some shared details because they were busy and wanted to get the caller off the phone quickly.
The survey was carried out among more than 3,100 people, of which more than 1,500 had been victims of fraud.
Nearly a quarter (24%) of financial fraud victims admitted the main reason they were duped was because the fraudster was extremely convincing.
However, more than a third (37%) of people thought they were being scammed during the conversation - but still continued with the transaction.
Nearly a quarter (23%) realised after the conversation had finished that they were a victim of fraud.
Home Office Security Minister Ben Wallace also backed the campaign and said the impact of financial fraud can be "devastating on victims, with fraudsters using increasingly cunning and convincing tactics".
Tony Blake, senior fraud prevention officer at the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit, said: "Take Five is about knowing it is fine to stop a conversation or not to respond to an email so you can take a moment to think and take back control of the situation."