JAMES WALKER: STAY ONE STEP AHEAD OF FRAUDSTERS

Your handy guide from our consumer affairs expert...

THERE’S nothing worse than having to tell people they’ve been tricked out of their life savings – and there’s very little that can be done about it.

Just last week, I spoke to a lady who’d been robbed as part of a telephone ‘vishing’ scam. She’d lost £80,000. The week previously, I’d spoken to a business that had been fooled in to transferring £200,000 to a fraudster.

Millions of pounds have already been stolen by fraudsters as a result of a new generation of scams. The best way we can all fight back is by staying informed. Not just updating your own knowledge, but by speaking to older or more vulnerable friends, neighbours and relatives who – along with younger people – are disproportionately targeted by the scammers.

Here’s my quick guide to the fraudster’s favourite tricks doing the rounds at the moment.

Vishing: The fraudster calls you and pretends to be from your bank – or impersonates an authority figure like a policeman. You are told your account has been compromised and need to transfer your cash to a new account which is actually the fraudster’s. The fraudster tells you to call the number on your bank card but stays on the line when you hang up. If you don’t check for a dialling code they then pretend to be the bank and take your money.

Smishing: This method of fraud targets online banking. The fraudster uses a cheap bit of technology that means they can impersonate your bank’s number. They ask for your online banking passwords or codes and trick you in to giving them what they need to access your account. Then they get you to transfer money or pinch it themselves.

Courier fraud: This kind of fraud works in the same way as vishing. The fraudster tells you that they will send a courier to collect your bank card after getting your details. In the worst examples, people are told their local bank staff are the fraudsters and are made to go in and transfer the money out, ignoring the cashier’s warnings.

Solicitor/business fraud: This scam targets solicitors handling big transactions or mortgage payments or businesses. It works in the same way as the others, but the sums are huge. I’ve seen £350,000 tricked out of one business.

Email fraud/fake site fraud: We’ve all seen those dodgy emails that used to do the rounds asking for your details. Well now they’re very, very convincing. Check out the end of the http address – often the giveaway is the lack of a .com .co.uk or .gov No bank will ever ask you to hand over your personal passwords or details – and they’ll never ask you to transfer money either.

Anyone – literally anyone – can be fooled by these expert con artists. Though I hate to give them credit, the modern fraudster is very convincing. If you’ve been a victim of fraud, please report it to Action Fraud: actionfraud.police.uk

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk He often appears on shows like BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours and Money Box – educating and campaigning on consumer rights. If you want help making a complaint go to resolver.co.uk or follow James @resolvercouk

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.