Identity Theft Scams: How to Protect Yourself

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    Identity theft fraud is when a criminal pretends to be someone from a trusted organization or agency. This may include posing as someone from a bank, the police, a service provider, and even a government agency. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, scammers have even posed as public health officials in search of your hard-earned pennies.

    The scammer will then trick individuals into transferring money using various fake cover stories. Such stories include claims that your bank account needs fraud protection, a fine or tax needs to be paid, or an erroneous refund needs to be paid back.

    With new research showing that nearly a fifth of people have difficulty saying “no” to inquiries from strangers on the phone, the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign urges the public to challenge anyone who calls for financial information .

    Take five to stop cheating

    The Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign urges people to take three steps to protect their personal information and money. These steps are Stop, Challenge, and Protect and are discussed later in this article.

    The campaign also warns the public of the large number of fraudulent calls, SMS and emails across the UK as the number has grown significantly. New figures from UK Finance show that the number of identity theft fraud cases more than doubled to a staggering 33,115 in the first half of 2021.

    Shockingly, these scams resulted in criminals sacking £ 129.4 million through identity fraud alone. By comparison, there were only 14,947 identity theft scams in the same period in 2020, resulting in a £ 57.9 million theft.

    This highlights the huge increase in this type of fraud and how quickly scammers are targeting the unsuspecting public.

    Too polite to say no

    Research for the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign found that 19% of the public felt uncomfortable saying “no” to a stranger requesting personal information via email or text message. That statistic rises to almost a quarter of people (23%) when it comes to phone calls. This means that almost a quarter of the population is ready to be a victim of identity theft.

    But why do people feel they can’t say no?

    Overall, 92% of people admit to saying “yes” because they don’t want to appear rude. Instead of saying “no”, people prefer to use other sentences. These include “I’m not sure” which is used by 37% of people and “I don’t think so” which is used by 34% of people. “Make me think about it” and “I can’t right now” were also common phrases.

    However, sentences like these can give criminals a way to manipulate and convince their victims.

    Three steps to stay safe

    Impersonation

    As mentioned earlier, the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign urges the public to stay safe and protect their personal and financial information from fraudsters.

    This includes the following three important steps:

    1. STOP – Before parting with your money or information, stop and think. Taking a moment before doing anything can protect you from being scammed.
    2. CHALLENGE – If something doesn’t feel right, challenge the caller. Remember, it’s always okay to decline or decline requests made. In fact, you can ignore them entirely if you want. Do not feel pressured to do anything. Reputable callers, such as your bank or government agency, will understand your concerns and will be happy to answer your questions or concerns. Scammers are likely to either rush or pressure you. They can even try to panic you into making a hasty decision. Better to play it safe, so don’t be afraid to ask questions or hang up when you feel bad.
    3. TO PROTECT – If you think you or someone you know may have been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately. It is also recommended that you report this to Action Fraud. Your help can prevent further scams.

    Even if you think you know how to protect yourself from scammers, it is always important to stay vigilant and updated on the latest scams. Even the brightest people can become victims. Not to mention, criminals are finding new and clever ways to scam you out of your money both online and in person.

    Comment from a fraud expert

    Tony Blake, Take Five fraud expert, said:

    “Criminals are experts at pretending to be who they are – and can deceive even the most accomplished people who don’t want to appear rude.

    “If someone contacts you unsolicited and asks for personal or financial information, pause and think for a moment – even if they claim to be from an organization you trust. Only criminals will pressure you to act quickly. Remember, it is okay to say no and contact the organization through a channel that you know is sincere.

    “The banking and finance industry is working to fight fraud on all fronts by investing millions in advanced technology and working closely with the government and law enforcement agencies to stop the criminal gangs responsible.”

    UK Finance’s full Half-Year Report 2021 can be read here. For more information and tips, check out our FREE Download eBook “Top Scams and How to Protect Yourself From Them”.

    Disclaimer: MoneyMagpie is not a licensed financial advisor, and therefore the information contained herein, including opinions, comments, suggestions, or strategies, is for information, entertainment, or educational purposes only. This should not be viewed as financial advice. Anyone considering investing should do their own due diligence.



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