An official campaign to protect consumers against financial fraud has been launched after a survey showed that only 9% of people were able to correctly identify scam texts and emails in an online test.
Monday marks the start of Take Five to Stop Fraud Week, which is backed by the Home Office and financial institutions, and aims to combat one of Britain’s fastest-growing crimes. According to the government, fraud is now “the most prevalent crime in this country”, with 3.3m cases in the 12 months to June 2017. One of the problems, according to the campaign, is that many consumers think they are “too smart to be scammed” and are therefore leaving themselves vulnerable.
Banking trade body UK Finance said £366m was lost to financial fraud – which includes email deception and phone-based scams as well as online fraud – in the first six months of 2017.
A further £101m was lost by victims of so-called “authorised push payment” scams – also known as email intercept fraud. This is where people are tricked into transferring money into a fraudster’s bank account, typically as a result of criminals hacking into emails sent between individuals and the tradespeople they are employing.
The Take Five campaign carried out research showing that four in five people (80%) claimed they could confidently identify a fraudulent approach.
However, when it invited people to answer a series of questions designed to see if they could correctly separate the scam texts and emails from genuine messages, only 9% – 5,942 – out of 63,000 who completed the quiz answered all eight questions correctly. “The results contradict the public’s perceptions of their savviness to spot a scam,” said a spokeswoman for the campaign, which is inviting people to test their own fraud and scam knowledge by taking the “Too Smart To Be Scammed?” quiz.
The campaign has issued three pieces of advice:
• A genuine bank or organisation will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your pin or full password, or to request that you move money to another account.
• Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected email or text.
• If you are approached with a request for personal information, don’t provide it. Instead, contact the company directly using a known email or phone number.
In August 2017 the UK’s fraud prevention service, Cifas, said identity theft was “reaching epidemic levels” in the UK. This crime typically involves criminals pretending to be an individual in order to steal their money, buy items or take out financial products in their name, and during the first six months of 2017 there were a record 89,000 cases.
The Guardian has featured a number of cases of people falling victim to bank transfer scams. Campaign events include a “roadshow” that is due to visit a number of shopping centres, including Lakeside in Essex today, Merry Hill in Birmingham on Tuesday, the Trafford Centre in Manchester on Wednesday, and Braehead in Glasgow on Friday.
Author – Rupert Jones