Fraudsters used “social engineering” to steal £580 million in the first half of 2023

While the amount stolen by fraudsters fell slightly in the first six months of 2023 when compared to the same period in 2022, a staggering amount was still lost to scams. The latest figures from UK Finance show £580 million was stolen by criminals.

Advanced security systems used by banks prevented £651 million from being stolen in the first half of 2023. Yet, despite these efforts, thousands of people are still falling victim to scams that could have a devastating effect on their emotional and financial wellbeing.

Indeed, the Great British Retirement Survey 2023 found that 1 in 12 people have lost money due to financial scams in the past three years. Interestingly, the findings suggest younger generations could be more likely to fall for a scam – 15% of respondents aged under 40 said they’d lost money due to fraud.

Fraudsters are using authorised push payments to scam victims

According to the UK Finance report, criminals often focus their attempts on “socially engineering personal information” to commit authorised push payment (APP) fraud in which the victim is encouraged to make the payment themselves.

Usually, APP fraudsters use online platforms, mobile phone networks, or social media to trick victims into transferring their money. Two common scenarios UK Finance highlighted were:

  • Purchase scams where people make a payment for goods they believe are genuine. The amount of money lost is typically lower than other forms of scams – purchase scams represent around 66% of APP fraud but account for 17% of total losses.
  • Investment scams may be encouraged to transfer substantial amounts to secure “high returns”. As a result, they account for nearly a quarter of all APP losses reported – the largest proportion of all APP scam types. In the first half of 2023, £57.2 million was lost to investment scams.

Fraudsters might also claim to be from legitimate organisations, such as HMRC or the police, in an attempt to gain personal information or your trust.

Even if APP fraud is not successful, the scammer may have obtained enough personal details to impersonate their victim. It may allow them to take control of existing accounts or open new lines of credit.

While your bank may compensate you if you fall victim to a scam, this isn’t guaranteed. So, it’s important to take precautions to protect your wealth when you’re making payments.

3 useful steps to take that could help you avoid authorised push payments

1. Be cautious of unsolicited contact

If you’re contacted out of the blue, be cautious. Fraudsters may contact you via phone, email, or social media in an attempt to build a rapport.

Scammers may offer attractive opportunities, such as investments with “guaranteed returns” or a way to access your pension early or without paying tax. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If an individual or organisation that you don’t know contacts you about investments, pensions, or another financial area, it could be a red flag.

Genuine financial service providers will understand why you’re taking precautions if you request additional information, so don’t be afraid to ask. You can also use the Financial Conduct Authority’s register to check the credentials of regulated individuals or firms, as well as their contact information.

2. Clarify payment details with service providers

Large transactions may attract fraudsters who might intercept communications or send you misinformation.

For example, if you’re buying a property, criminals may pose as your solicitor and inform you that their payment details have changed. It could lead to you sending large sums of money to the wrong account.

While verifying details might seem like a task you can skip, it could prevent you from falling for a scam. A quick phone call could put your mind at ease and mean you’re less at risk.

3. Don’t rush financial decisions

A common tactic fraudsters use is to put pressure on you to make a quick decision. If you’re feeling rushed, you’re less likely to spot red flags or review financial opportunities objectively.

So, if you’re weighing up an investment opportunity and your contact tells you it is a time-limited offer or sends a courier to your home with paperwork to sign immediately, take a step back.

Legitimate financial professionals will understand the importance of reviewing your options and deciding if an opportunity is right for you.

Contact us if you’re concerned about scams

If you’ve been targeted by a scam, you can contact Action Fraud to report it. You may also want to get in touch with your bank or other financial provider, as they may be able to halt or trace a transaction.

You can contact us if you’re considering an opportunity and aren’t sure if it’s a scam or right for you. Sometimes a different perspective may highlight potential red flags you might overlook initially.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

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