SCAMS that use your bank’s number to convince you to hand over sensitive information are now rife – but there are ways to protect yourself.
The Sun has put together a guide to these chilling “number spoofing” scams so you know what to look out for, and why you should always be wary of any text or call that appears to be from your bank.
As new rules by regulators could mean banks charge customers to pay fees or take out insurance to pay for bank transfer fraud, it’s more important than ever to wise up about different types of scams and how you can protect your money.
Fraudsters are increasingly opting for “number spoofing” scams where they mask their real number behind your bank’s official number so that it looks like a legitimate text or call.
Retired NHS worker Jo Wilson, 61, from Middlesex, was one victim who fell for this type of scam after a fraudster phoned her using her bank’s phone number, as we revealed in June.
The scammers stole £40,000 from her Natwest account after tricking her into handing over a code generated by the card reader she had at home.
What is a “number spoofing scam”?
These fraudsters mask their real phone digits using a “number spoofing” scam which shows a fake one on a person’s caller ID.
They find out which bank you have an account with, either through a corrupt employee or by finding out your details on the “dark web” following a data leak.
They then use software so that it looks like they are calling or texting from the bank’s official number to trick you into handing over passcodes or other details.
Because it looks like the bank’s official number on your phone, texts and calls will appear in the same chain as other – legitimate – messages from your bank.
How do I spot a number spoofing scam?
Banks will never ask you to hand over sensitive information such as passwords or passcodes.
They will also never request that you transfer money into another account.
What are banks doing to tackle fraud?
HERE’S what the major banks are doing to combat fraud:
Natwest and RBS: Natwest says it would never ask a customer to move money to another account to keep it safe from either scams or fraud and asks customers to report it to their bank immediately on a phone number they can trust.
It would also recommend that they call back from a different device or wait 30 seconds before using the device they received the original call on, if they do not have a different device.
Natwest says it’s also made it easier to report suspect text messages and it can now block websites and phone numbers used in scams more easily, it told The Sun.
Barclays: Last year, the bank launched a £10million advertising campaign warning people about the dangers of fraud.
It also gave customers more control over their own accounts, such as being able to turn off remote purchases via the app and set daily cash withdrawal limits.
Lloyds: Lloyds has a “click to call” feature in its app which will authorise you to phone the bank, making the connection more secure so you are sure you are phoning the bank.
A spokesman told The Sun that it’s working on ways to prevent text fraud as part of its million-pound investment in fraud over the next three years.
The banking group set up a secret ‘money mule hunting squad’ earlier this year which has frozen more than £1million stolen by scammers. It was just a pilot scheme but its success means that its retail fraud director plans to share its secrets with other banks.
TSB: The bank hasn’t earned the best reputation when it comes to fraud after an IT meltdown left thousands of customers vulnerable to fraudsters when they were locked out of their accounts in June.
The bank has a dedicated Fraud Prevention Centre, and it supports Financial Fraud Action UK’s Take Five campaign, which helps people protect themselves against scams.
HSBC: A spokesman said that the bank advises customers to be wary of unexpected contact by phone, text or email. It says if a customer is concerned about calling a specific number, they should phone the number on the back of their card.
In May, the bank revealed it has brought in artificially intelligent robots to help it spot fraud and money laundering.
Santander: Last week, the bank announced it will now ask customers a series of questions before they can transfer money online in a bid to combat fraud.
And in branches, staff members now tell customers that the bank will never ask them for passwords or sensitive information before they make any transactions.
Be wary of texts containing telephone numbers from what appears to be your bank.
Some banks do include their numbers in legitimate messages, but fraudsters also use this trick to get you to call them.
If in doubt, phone the number on the back of your debit card or on your bank’s website.
What do I do if I think I’m being scammed?
If you receive a request like this, put the phone down and report it to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, and your bank.
Even if you are savvy, you can still be tricked, as some fraudsters will ask you to hang up before calling you from what appears to be the bank’s number to convince you it’s not a scam.
But they’re just using their number spoofing software to fool you.
Instead, ring the bank yourself to check if the messages you have received are genuine.
What do the experts say?
Paul Davis, retail fraud director for Lloyds Banking Group has shared some tips for how customers can prevent becoming a victim of fraud.
He said: “Don’t ever give out your bank details in a text or email – and never give more than a simple answer like yes or no.
“If you receive a text out of the blue saying that your account is “at risk”, it’s more likely to be a scam.
How to spot a scam
ACTION Fraud has put together a guide to help you spot convincing bank scams:
- Don’t assume anyone who’s sent you an email or text message – or has called your phone or left you a voicemail message – is who they say they are.
- If a phone call or voicemail, email or text message asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, be cautious. Real banks never email you for passwords or any other sensitive information by clicking on a link and visiting a website. If you get a call from someone who claims to be from your bank, don’t give away any personal details.
- Make sure your spam filter is on your emails. If you find a suspicious email, mark it as spam and delete it to keep out similar emails in future.
- If in doubt, check it’s genuine by asking the company itself. Never call numbers or follow links provided in suspicious emails; find the official website or customer support number using a separate browser and search engine.
- Their spelling, grammar, graphic design or image quality is poor quality. They may use odd ‘spe11lings’ or ‘cApiTals’ in the email subject to fool your spam filter.
- If they know your email address but not your name, it’ll begin with something like ‘To our valued customer’, or ‘Dear…’ followed by your email address.
- The website or email address doesn’t look right; authentic website addresses are usually short and don’t use irrelevant words or phrases. Businesses and organisations don’t use web-based addresses such as Gmail or Yahoo.
- Money’s been taken from your account, or there are withdrawals or purchases on your bank statement that you don’t remember making.
Spot the signs
“If in doubt, don’t reply, ring the number on the back of your card or call us via our app.
“Never click on links in texts or open email attachments claiming to be from your bank, as this could download malware which scammers use.”
A RBS spokesman said these number spoofing scams are affecting the whole banking industry.
He said: “We are aware of attempts by fraudsters to spoof the bank’s phone numbers in an effort to dupe customers into disclosing their information.
“This is an industry wide issue and one which the UK telecoms providers are aware of and working closely with the banking industry to address.”
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It’s not the only scam going around.
Some customers have even fallen victim to the sim swap scam where they convince your mobile firm to activate a new sim card giving fraudsters control of your mobile number.
The crooks are then able to reset your mobile banking passwords and transfer money out of your account.
The Financial Ombudsman, which resolves customer complaints, said that banks should take into account how convincing scams have become – and not simply assume that their customers were “grossly negligent”.
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