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2018 figures have been published for fraud offences.  Financial fraud losses across payment cards, remote banking and cheques totalled £844.8 million in 2018.

That is an increase of 16% from the previous year.

Banks and card companies prevented £1.66 billion in unauthorised fraud in 2018. This represents incidents that were detected and prevented by firms and is equivalent to £2 in every £3 of attempted fraud being stopped.

Criminals use a wide range of tactics to commit fraud including the theft of personal and financial data through social engineering and data breaches.

Stolen data is used to commit fraud both directly and indirectly. For example; compromised card details are used to make unauthorised purchases online and personal details are used to take over an account or apply for a credit card online in someone else’s name.

Social engineering is used by criminals to groom and manipulate people into transferring money or divulging their personal and financial details.

Then there are also deception scams whereby a criminal will pose as a representative from a genuine organisation such as bank, police, utility company or Government department. This can be by phone, email, text, at the door, or social media. The introduction is usually “there has been some suspicious activity on your account” or “you are due a refund”.

Distraction thefts and card entrapments are where cards are physically stolen then used to commit fraud.

Fraud losses on UK cards in 2018 totalled £671.4 million which was a 19% increase on the previous year.

Remote purchase fraud amounted to just over £500 million in 2018. Criminals use social media profiles to advertise the ‘sale’ of discounted goods to customers. When a customer goes to buy the goods; the criminal uses their card details to purchase the item from a legitimate source and keeps the payment from the customer.

£12.6 million was lost in 2018 to romance scams. In this scenario the criminal will set up a fake profile on social media or dating apps to build up a relationship and after a while will start to ask for money to be sent to them for help with Visa’s or health issues or flight tickets.

Investment scams in 2018 totalled £50.1 million whereby individuals are targeted to investment in products that don’t exist.

So, what can we do to protect our hard earned cash from criminals in this busy world we live in?

Be alert when using social media, never give out details to someone that are commonly used as passwords like mother’s maiden name or family pet. It’s easily done during innocent exchanges to divulge information that could provide a criminal with information to create a profile of you.

If using a retailer for the first time, always take the time to research them before you provide any of your details. Trust your instincts and if an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is.

When using an ATM be alert for shoulder surfers standing behind you. If you think someone is watching you, don’t use it. Walk away.

Register with a credit reference agency, identity theft is common and if an account is opened in your name it will show on your credit report and you can act immediately. You can set up alerts for unusual/ suspicious activity.

The Land Registry also has a useful tool where you can register your property for activity alerts.

Never give your personal or financial information to anyone or click on a link in an unexpected email or text. Look after your personal documents. Shred them, never just put them in a bin. If you live in a shared property where others have access to your mail, arrange for replacement cards to be collected from the bank/building society.

Beware of social media advertising goods that never materialise.

A genuine bank will never contact you out of the blue and ask for your PIN or full password.

The Fraud Act 2006 is the legislation under which prosecutions can be brought if the police can find those responsible for the fraud and if the CPS decide there is enough evidence to prosecute. Either way it does not guarantee that you will get any money back.

Being suspicious is better than being scammed.

This blog was written by:  Lynn Mahon

DISCLAIMER: Please note that this post sets out the general position under the general law. It should not be acted upon in any specific circumstances without taking specific legal advice as to those circumstances. Also, it should not be relied upon, acted upon or treated as a substitute for specific advice relevant to particular circumstances. If you do require specific advice please contact us for assistance.