Fraud warnings have been issued by some of the UK’s leading banks, after a rise in text message scams designed to target savings accounts as the end of the tax-year draws closer.
In the last week alone, tens of thousands of scam messages have been received by customers of Barclays, Halifax, HSBC, and Lloyds, fraudulently purporting to be from the banks themselves.
In the vast majority of cases, these messages call on account holders to verify suspicious transactions that never happened, by inputting sensitive information such as online banking details and full names.
How do I spot the scams?
Katherine Hart, a Lead Officer at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), said: ""Fraudsters change the form and methods of their scams to match shifting consumer behaviour.”
The "surge” in online shopping and payments during the Covid-19 pandemic means the public should be more vigilant when making online payments and receiving messages claiming to be from their bank.
"If you receive a suspicious text like this, please contact your bank directly and verify with them. Also, forward any scam texts to 7726, which is a free reporting service run by Ofcom,” Hart added.
Reputable firms such as banks will never ask you to enter your bank details via text or email; if in doubt, delete the message and call the official customer services line.
Other signs a message may be fraudulent include spelling or grammar mistakes, not addressing you by name, and suspicious looking website or email addresses.
Contact Action Fraud if you wish to report a suspected scam – those in Scotland should contact Police Scotland.
Email scams can be reported by contacting the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) by emailing [email protected]
£479 million lost in 2020 to scams
The news comes days after it was revealed that less than half of the total value of losses to bank transfer scams last year was returned to victims by banks and other finance providers.
Some £479 million was lost in 2020 to scams where people were tricked into making bank transfers to fraudsters according to the data from UK Finance – up by 5 per cent compared with the previous year.
Banks and other finance providers were able to return £206.9 million of the losses from APP fraud – where people are tricked into making bank transfers to fraudsters – to victims, which UK Finance said was about three-quarters more than the sum returned in 2019.
Many banks have signed up to a voluntary code to reimburse victims of APP fraud in cases where neither they nor their bank is to blame.
However, there have been concerns that some banks are interpreting the code differently to others and may be expecting customers to have sophisticated knowledge about scams in some cases.
UK Finance said it has seen criminals openly advertising fraud and scam services for sale online, including template phishing websites and custom-built scam apps which replicate real banking apps.
It said it “cannot be right” that online firms are effectively profiting from fraud.
Be ‘aware’ of the different types of scams
Scams targeting businesses also increased by almost a third in January and February, compared to a year ago, new research suggests.
Impersonation scams were the most commonly used tactic by criminals to target businesses, said Barclays.
Fraudsters pretend to be organisations or authorities in the hope they will trick victims into sharing personal or banking information or to even transfer money out of their account, said the report.
The bank is issuing a scams warning to all businesses, but particularly those in the property and construction sector, as its study reveals that small and medium enterprises in this sector made up almost a quarter of all business scams last year.
John Heaver, Barclays’ head of business banking fraud, said: “Property and construction businesses often display their company details outside or near construction projects they’re working on, making it easier for fraudsters to research and target their scam.
“It’s incredibly important that business owners and their staff are aware of the different types of scams that can occur and remain vigilant at all times.”