Welcome to the latest edition of our Financial Crime Awareness Bulletin. This bulletin considers recent developments and trends in the Financial Crime sector and is designed to bring them to your attention. It is intended to draw your attention to key topics affecting the industry, highlight important issues and changes to legislation and re-emphasise the need to remain vigilant to the potential for you to be used as a conduit for financial crime.
Identity Fraud Figures Soar
A report released by Cifas, a company who are the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, shows that identity fraud has continued to rise at record levels in the first six months of 2017.
- A record 89,000 cases recorded in first six months of year by Cifas, which is up 5% from last year.
- Sharp rise in identity fraudsters applying for loans, online retail, telecoms and insurance products.
- Identity fraud now accounts for 56% of all fraud reported by Cifas members, of which 83% was committed online.
Although the number of identity fraud attempts against bank accounts and plastic cards has fallen these still account for more than half of all identity fraud cases.
How Fraudsters Operate
The vast majority of identity fraud happens when a fraudster pretends to be an innocent individual to buy a product or take out a loan in their name. Victims often do not even realise that they have been targeted until a bill arrives for something they did not buy or they experience problems with their credit rating.
To carry out this kind of fraud successfully, a fraudster needs access to their victim’s personal information such as date of birth, address, their bank and who accounts are held with. These can be obtained in a variety of ways, from stealing mail through to hacking, exploiting personal information on social media, or through ‘social engineering’ where innocent parties are persuaded to give up personal information to someone pretending to be from the victim’s bank, the police or a trusted institution.
- Identity fraud is estimated to cost the UK £5.4 billion per year.
In order to protect yourself from a fraudster, make sure you carry out the following:
- Set your privacy settings across all the social media channels you use. And just think twice before you share details – particularly your full date of birth, your address, contacts details – all this information can be useful to fraudsters!
- Password protect your devices. Keep your passwords complex by picking three random words, such as roverducklemon and add or split them with symbols, numbers and capitals: R0v3rDuckLemon!.
- Install anti-virus software on your laptop and any other personal devices and then keep it up to date. Moneysaving Expert have a recommended list of the best free anti-virus software: www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/free-anti-virus-software
- Take care on public wi-fi – fraudsters hack them or mimic them. If you’re using one, avoid accessing sensitive apps such as mobile banking.
- Download updates to your software when your device prompts you – they often add enhanced security features.
What to do if you’re a victim
If you, your business or a client falls victim to identity fraud, you need to ACT FAST. If you receive any mail that seems suspicious or implies you have an account with the sender when you don’t, DO NOT IGNORE IT.
Obtain a copy of your credit report, as it is one of the first places you can check to see if someone is misusing your personal information – before any financial loss is suffered.
If you think you, your business or a client has fallen victim to identity fraud, this should be reported to Action Fraud. You can use the following link to make reports of fraud, cyber crime, online scams or viruses.
It is extremely important to be conscious of identity fraudsters and to take the relevant action when appropriate to stop them committing the offence again and combat identity fraud.
Top 4 Financial Scams
Here are the top 4 most common financial scams in the UK at the moment and how we can combat them.
- Boiler-room schemes
These scams promise investors impressive returns – but deliver nothing apart from a great loss. Victims will receive a telephone call out of the blue and be offered an investment opportunity with sky-high returns of as much as 40%. You will most likely be told that you must act fast, and asked to transfer your money straight away. It’s common for victims to part with tens of thousands of pounds. Boiler rooms are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This means that if you hand over your money, you may not see it again or be able to get any of it back.
The FCA status of any financial firm can be checked either on the FCA register, www.fca.org.uk/register or by calling 0800 1116768.
- Phishing / Smishing
The most common scams come from fraudsters posing as someone official, such as your bank or building society. Typically, you receive an email or text asking you to click a link and verify log on, account and password details. The communication received is from a fraudster who will be able to read the information you type in, should you fall for their trick.
This information is then used to raid your account. If you lose money this way, you won’t get it back.
Your bank will never ask you to disclose full security and password details. If in doubt, call your bank and ask them if they have tried to contact you.
- Pension Liberation
Scammers are bombarding people aged 55 and over with bogus investment opportunities to try to get hold of their pension savings. One of the most common scams since the pension freedoms were announced involves alleged investment opportunities abroad.
During three months in 2016 one in three people (35%) aged 55 or over have been targeted by a potential pension scammer. According to Retirement Advantage, the retirement specialist, these consumers have been offered free pensions advice or investment opportunities by phone, text or email. Low interest rates are tempting people to take extra risks, so they are vulnerable to such fake investments. The fraudsters can approach you by post, email or telephone.
If you are offered a “must-have” investment or a free pension “review” out of the blue, be wary. Also be concerned if you’re warned that the deal is limited and you must act now.
This con intercepts cash transferred as a home deposit to a solicitor in the lead up to exchange and completion. It is carried out via the internet where a computer hacker monitors emails sent between a solicitor and client. When a bank transfer is about to be made the fraudster emails the homebuyer pretending to be the solicitor, telling them the details of the law firm’s bank account have changed. The unsuspecting homebuyer sends their cash to the new account, where it is withdrawn by the fraudsters.
If you’re buying a property, watch for any emails about payments, such as a change in bank details at the last minute. Many victims are told that the account is being “audited” and so another one must be used. Ring your solicitor if you’re in any doubt.
If you think you may be a victim of fraud, please notify Action Fraud, using the link above.