As losses increase every year, fraud continues to be at the heart of the agenda across the government, law enforcement, the banking sector, wider industry and consumer groups. Despite that focus, the outbreak of Covid-19 has seen new opportunities for fraudsters to trick people out of their money emerge.
The dramatic changes to our lives as we live with a lockdown has quickly led to fraudsters preying on the fact that people are staying at home, with an almost immediate increase in cold calling and scam text messages.
We’ve seen a resurgence in several scams, as well as some new ones, with a particular favourite of the fraudsters – the remote access scam – growing faster than others. This scam involves a call from a fraudster pretending to be your broadband provider, claiming to have identified a fault with your connection or your router, and offering a fix. With more people at home you’re more likely to answer the call, and with more people working from home (or just your kids streaming more content!) the internet is generally running a little slower – so the scam seems more convincing than it otherwise might.
The fraudster asks you to let them access your PC remotely to fix the issue – and they often show you a faked speedchecker result on your screen to prove the fix. They’ll then offer compensation, and ask you to log into online banking to receive it. Once you’ve signed in, they’ll show you another fake screen while they’re adding themselves as a new payee behind the scenes. They know your bank will send a passcode to verify the new payee, which they’ll try to trick out of you, often saying that it is needed to verify your identity. Now the fraudster is just a few clicks away from your money. When you get control of your screen again, you’ll see the fraudster has drained your account and are long gone.
Your broadband provider will never phone to suggest your connection has been compromised or is broken, and would certainly never ask for permission to access your computer and for you to log into online banking. This scam, like others, is simple to defeat – just hang up. No genuine organisation will mind if you hang up and call them back on a number you trust. If it’s a bank, use the number printed on the back of the card. If it’s somebody else look up their number on their website, so you know that you’re talking to them and not to a fraudster.
Throughout the Covid-19 outbreak we’ve also seen a notable rise in fake text messages asking you to click on a link and enter your details. One virus-related scam that has been a regular fixture of the pandemic is a text “from your GP” asking you to call urgently about a coronavirus test. The scam is typical of the ways criminals will prey on our fears – calling the number in the message will connect you to a criminal who will trick you out of personal information or payment details. Sometimes, instead of a call, the message will contain a link. The link will take you to a phishing site, where every piece of information you enter is sent straight to criminal gangs waiting to defraud you.
There are simple but highly effective steps people can take to avoid falling into the trap of a spoofed text. Always be suspicious of the sender – it’s easy to make a message look like it has come from an authentic source. Never dial a number in a message – instead, track down the correct number via the official website. Likewise, it’s crucial to avoid clicking on links in text messages, so find the legitimate site online and visit it directly.
Finally, purchase scams are on the rise too. As people across the UK raced to buy items such as facemasks, hand sanitiser and even extra toilet roll, the fraudsters started to cash in. Criminals have set up tens of thousands of websites (and used existing ones) to offer desirable goods for sale and take your payment – only for the items never to arrive.
If you’re using an auction site, remember that fraudsters constantly try to lure customers away from official platforms and might even offer a discount to pay them directly rather than using the site’s legitimate method. Don’t be tempted – it’s probably a scam. Play it safe and use trusted, reputable websites.
In April last year TSB became the first bank to guarantee that all of its customers would receive their money back should they ever become an innocent victim of fraud on their TSB accounts (Terms & Conditions apply). We made this promise because fraud has now become so complex and sophisticated that it’s very difficult to spot. And, of course, it can be devastating to victims.
Ninety-nine percent of all bank transfer fraud cases reported by customers have been reimbursed since the introduction of our guarantee. The remaining 1 per cent were rejected when the customer was found to be complicit in the crime and had tried to exploit the guarantee.
Meanwhile, we continue to invest in partnerships with police forces across the UK to supply equipment, specialist training and insight into fraud, which has led to some great results in breaking up thousands of attacks and arresting dozens of fraudsters.
And we’ll continue to offer targeted education and expert advice, while also investing in technology and these law enforcement partnerships across the country to tackle this increasing problem – and help people across the UK stay safe.
To find out more about Coronavirus scams and the TSB Fraud Refund Guarantee visit www.tsb.co.uk/fraud-prevention-centre/how-to-recognise-fraud/
By Ashley Hart, Head of Fraud, TSB