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Take five, say no

The number of impersonation scam cases more than doubled in the first half of 2021, to 33,115, said the banking sector trade body UK Finance. These scams resulted in criminals stealing £129.4m through this type of fraud alone. In the same period last year there were 14,947 impersonation scam cases which led to £57.9m stolen.

UK Finance is publicising its Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, against online, email and phone-based scams. Research for UK Finance has found that nearly one in five (19 per cent) of people feel uncomfortable saying ‘no’ to a request for personal information from a stranger via email or text, rising to almost a quarter (23 per cent) when it comes to phone calls. This could leave them at risk of an impersonation scam, UK Finance warns.

Overall, 92 per cent of people admit to saying ‘yes’ because they don’t want to appear rude. The research found that people use all sorts of phrases to avoid saying ‘no’, with the most popular being ‘I’m not sure’ (used by 37pc), followed by ‘I don’t think so’, ‘Let me think about it’, and ‘I can’t at the moment’ (all 34pc) and this can give criminals a way in, campaigners warn.



Carl Wearn, Head of Risk & Resilience at cyber firm Mimecast said it was no surprise, with criminals moving online as a result of the pandemic. “Cybercriminals are increasingly looking to take advantage of the trust people have in brands to trick them into sharing personal information. As this research shows, criminals also look to leverage the UK public’s politeness in these attacks. People need to ensure they are on their toes and aware that these impersonation attacks are on the rise, and it is vital that they report anything they might be suspicious of. Consumers should be more careful than ever and understand that these scams are on the rise. It is important that they always ensure correspondence is genuine and if they are concerned that it might be a scam, they should check the organisation’s official website.

“Brands must also do more to prevent their brand being exploited, or risk losing customers. Recent Mimecast research found that 73% of UK consumers said it’s the brand’s responsibility to protect itself from fake versions of its website and 62pc said it’s the brand’s responsibility to protect itself from email impersonation. It is clear that consumers see it as the brand’s responsibility and are willing to vote with their wallets if they fall victim to a brand impersonation attack. To prevent this, organisations can use technology such as Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC), which allows brands with an online presence to detect and reject any unauthorised sender who attempts to use a brand’s email domain.”

Unless we take action to educate consumers on the fraud techniques targeting them on a daily basis, the amount of money being stolen will continue to rise at this alarming rate, said Benoit Grange, Chief Technology Evangelist at the digital authentication product company OneSpan.

He said: “Consumers must make it a habit of always checking that these communications are legitimate. If something seems in any way suspicious, they should not continue to engage in conversation or click on any links shared with them. Fraudsters are experts in knowing exactly how to trick people into sharing their personal information. No trusted organisation would ever ask a customer to transfer money or share their personal information via email, SMS or telephone. If there is even the slightest doubt, customers should contact the organisation through a trusted route to confirm if a piece of communication is legitimate or potentially fraudulent.

“Combating these fraud attempts requires a collective effort from banks, telecoms, social media firms and the public sector to raise awareness of these social engineering techniques and also ensure the right measures that use the latest anti-fraud technologies are in place to beat fraudsters.”

Meanwhile such tech firms as Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Amazon, Microsoft and TikTok are collectively donating $1m of advertising to the Take Five campaign.


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