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.
Fraudsters Pose as Financial Ombudsman Service Staff with Fake Compensation
There has been a warning issued for people to watch out for fraudsters who are claiming to be from the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Fraudsters are cold-calling victims and telling them they have a cheque for a large amount of money from a compensation claim. The victim is then told to buy an iTunes (or similar voucher) roughly to the approximate value of £300 to ‘release’ the compensation. The fraudsters then claim that a courier will collect it from their home address and that a cheque will be sent to them in the post.
The Financial Ombudsman Service deals with complaints from consumers about the financial services industry, is a free service for the public and would never cold call individuals and ask for a fee to claim reimbursement.
If you receive a call claiming to be from the Ombudsman and you believe this to be suspicious you can call them directly on 0300 123 9123.
Protect yourself from fake Ombudsman calls
Please make yourself familiar with the following points:
- Never buy iTunes or gift vouchers if instructed to by someone claiming to be from a government body or official.
- Never provide personal details – such as your address, phone number etc. – unless you are sure a request is genuine.
- Never hand over any payment to anyone claiming to work at the Ombudsman – their service is free to all consumers.
- Never provide any of your banking or credit card details, unless you know for certain that the request is genuine.
- Never give anyone your security information, such as your internet / telephone banking password or log-on details.
Global cyber incidents which have taken place have highlighted the significant and growing threat posed by Ransomware.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a form of malicious software (malware) that enables cyber criminals to remotely lock down or encrypt the files on your device. Criminals use ransomware to extort money from you, a ransom and will claim to restore access to your files and devices once you have paid. Ransomware can be delivered in various ways; for example, via attachments in authentic looking emails claiming to be from genuine companies.
How to protect yourself
- Anti-virus software should be installed and used on all your devices and configured automatically to update. Regularly run a complete scan of your system to check for any malware infections.
- Install the latest software and app updates, again on all your devices. These updates will often contain important security grades which help protect your devices from viruses and hackers.
- Backup all your important data to a storage device that won’t be left connected to your computer or network, such as an external hard drive, or an online storage device.
What to do if you have already been infected with ransomware?
Even if you have followed all the points above and been extra vigilant before opening emails, it is sometimes unavoidable to become a victim of ransomware. If your system becomes infected, do not pay any money. If you pay the demand, there is no guarantee that access to your files or device will be restored. Criminals have been known to re-target victims that have already paid a ransom once as they see the victim to be vulnerable.
It is sometimes possible to remove a ransomware infection without paying any money. A website called No More Ransom has been set up to help victims remove the ransomware.
The website can be found via the following link: https://www.nomoreransom.org/en/index.html
If you are still unable to remove the ransomware, seek professional, technical help from a trustworthy source.
Investors Lose Over £87k a Day to Binary Options Fraud
According to Action Fraud £87,410 is lost to binary options fraud every day in the UK.
It is also reported that under 25’s are six times more likely to trust an investment offer made via social media and online advertising and these offers overtake the telephone as the most common method for investment fraudsters.
The Financial Conduct Authority is urging that you are vigilant to the threat of online investment fraud. Fraudsters who offer investments in binary options, contracts for difference (CFDs), forex and cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, often promote themselves online and via social media channels.
The fraudsters typically promise high returns and use images of luxury items, expensive cars and watches to entice people to invest in their scams. After someone has invested, they distort prices on their website, tie people in with extreme pay-out clauses and even close customer accounts, refusing to pay back their money.
Investment Fraud is Changing
The rise in people being targeted online means that the profile of investment fraud victims is changing. While historically over 55’s have been most at risk to investment fraud, the FCA’s latest study conducted as part of its ScamSmart campaign, found those aged under 25 were six times more likely to trust an investment offer they received via social media, compared with over 55’s.
Action Fraud figures reinforce this trend, showing that under 50’s are significantly more likely to fall victim to a binary options scam versus other types of investment fraud.
More than one in five respondents said that online customer testimonies and reviews increase their trust in an investment company. However, fraudsters are known to create highly professional looking online investment platforms that feautre fake customer reviews, logos, and statements, to lure in prospective investors. A further one in ten said they wouldn’t conduct any of the listed checks at all before parting with their money.. These include checking whether the firm was regulated by the FCA or registered with Companies House.
Binary Options are now Regulated
On 3rd January 2018, binary options became a regulated investment product, meaning that all firms trading in binary options will need to be authorised by the FCA.
To Reduce the Chance of Falling Victim to Investment Fraud
- Reject unsolicited investment offers whether made online, on social media or over the phone.
- Before investing, check the FCA register to see if the firm or individual you are dealing with is authorised and check the FCA Warning List of firms to avoid.
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