Scammers pretending to be HMRC, banks and parcel delivery firms have defrauded the public out of nearly £130 million in 2021.
‘Impersonation fraud’, in which the criminal texts or calls the victim while pretending to be from a trusted organisation, has rocketed in the past six months, according to trade body UK Finance.
Phones have been bombarded with millions of texts and calls from criminals during the pandemic. Even the HMRC’s chief executive, Jim Harra, said he had been targeted.
UK Finance said there were 33,115 impersonation fraud cases in the first six months of this year, more than twice the 14,947 reported over the same period in 2020 when £57.9 million was stolen.
People are being urged to challenge requests from texters and callers and protect themselves by telling their bank and the police immediately when asked for their information or money as the trade body said being polite can sometimes get in the way of people refusing to speak to fraudsters.
Research for the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign found nearly a fifth (19%) of people feel uncomfortable saying no to a request for personal information from a stranger via email or text, rising to nearly a quarter (23%) when it comes to phone calls. Nine in 10 (92%) people admit to saying yes sometimes because they do not want to seem rude.
To protect yourself from criminals, follow these key points:
- 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.
- 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 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.
Here’s how you can spot the signs of a scam:
- 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.
- Scammers’ spelling, grammar, graphic design or image quality is usually poor quality. They may use odd ‘spe11lings’ or ‘cApiTals’ in the email subject to fool your spam filter.