A notable increase in the number of phone scammers posing as officials in order to prise money away from unwitting consumers has led to the initiation of a widespread anti-fraud campaign to alert the public to the snowballing danger of such skulduggery.
Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK), the representative body of UK lenders and card companies, have launched a nationwide campaign focussed on informing consumers of how to identify and handle these phone fraudsters.
Known as ìVishingî, the process typically involves the victim receiving a cold call from the con artist, who then attempts to convince the victim that they are a figure of legitimate authority, such as a bank adviser or police officer, and that the individual has fallen prey to a fraudster. The scammer will then ask for the victimís card details, pin number and passwords with a view to accessing their bank account, and if successful will siphon funds away from the victim.
In many cases, when their legitimacy is questioned, the scam artist will urge the victim to call their bank to corroborate their story, only to remain on the line, duping the victim into believing they are calling their bank by playing a fake dialling tone. They then ëanswerí the fake the dialling tone, masquerade as the victimís bank and get their personal finance information before commencing their heist.
Another trick deployed by phone scammers involves telling individuals to hang up the phone and call back, but not put the receiver down on their end, meaning they can resume the previous conversation whilst consumers believe they have started a new call.
Consumers are advised to wait for a period of time before calling back, use a different phone or simply ignore these calls and speak to their bank at a later period to assess whether there is any truth to these cold callersí claims ñ but, in actuality, there will never be any truth to such claims so individuals ought to pay them no heed whatsoever.
Sadly, you will not often be entitled to your money back if youíve handed it over to one of these scam artists, as you have chosen to do so of your own back without any transaction taking place.
Research from FFA UK shows that vishing has cost consumers £23.9m over 2014 ñ over three times as much as the amount lost to the same tactic in 2013 ñ with the number of cold calls made also up by 17% on 2013.
Despite regular warnings from banks and law enforcement impressing on consumers to never give out their 4-digit PIN numbers or any passwords relating to their personal finance, FFA UKís findings show about 25% of people do not question a cold-callerís identity during vishing.
Detective Chief Inspector Perry Stokes, head of the dedicated cheque & plastic crime unit, said: "Always be on your guard if you receive a cold call and are asked for personal or financial information, or to hand over your card or cash to someone.
"The bank or the police will never tell you to take such actions, so if you're asked it can only be a criminal attack."
Consumers must remember that no legitimate official would ever make a spontaneous attempt to access their bank account, ask them to transfer money, ply their PIN number or card details away from them or send someone to meet them in person. This will always be the approach taken by a fraudster.