I think by now most people are aware that banks will not call you and ask for your pin, but that’s not to say that some people are still getting caught out by this type of scam.
The numbers of this type of incidence is falling, mainly because of the publicity has made most of us aware of the danger when anyone asks for your pin. But the thieves, scammers, call them what you will, have recognised this as well, so they have moved on and have a new and in my opinion far more dangerous way to steal our money. It’s called ‘number spoofing’, and my attention was drawn to this by an article in the Guardian newspaper by Simon Hattenstone, who pointed out that “life-changing sums” have been lost.
Apparently, it is relatively easy for these thieves to change their caller ID to mirror your bank’s number (if you have the bank’s number in your contacts list), so in comes the call as your bank. Scary! The call back facility simply calls back the thieves’ number, who pretend to be the bank and all the time your mobile lists the bank as the number called.
However, it’s not just phone calls – this works with text messaging. You could recieve a text that purports to come from your bank. Worse still, it can appear tagged along with actual legitimate text messages from your bank. Which? magazine has warned consumers about this aspect specifically, because mobile phones group messages that claim to come from the same caller.
Having convinced you that it is your bank calling, the spammers say things like they have noticed suspicious activity around your account and suggest you move some money to a safe haven account – and you can guess what happens then. No pin question is asked and all the time your mobile will be telling you it’s your bank, so obviously you feel safe.
If you get any such call or text and want to check its validity then hang up, dial your bank yourself using the number on your bank card. If you are able, use a different phone to the one the call or text came in on.
In many of the cases it was only when the Guardian became involved that any action was taken by the banks involved. I don’t want to go on about their actions because I’m not qualified and it will serve no purpose.
Prevention better than cure
We all know that prevention is better than cure, and as accountants we need to make sure that our clients as well as our family and friends are made aware of number spoofing, so that they in turn can make sure their family and friends are aware. The more people who know, the less the chance of the thieves achieving their goal.
How can we get the message out? Well, most of us have websites with blogs and the like, so why not put something up on your site? If you are active on social media say something about this to your friends and followers. If your practice has a newsletter then get something about this in the next issue. Circulate something about number spoofing to all your staff so that they too are aware and they in turn can pass the word on.
Let’s do what we can to make sure that our family, friends and clients don’t find themselves at the mercy of a bank trying to get a refund, because win, lose or draw the effect on the those involved can be devastating. As one victim said: “I felt ashamed that I fell for the trick and I lost confidence in my own decision making and became suspicious of anyone who called me – including my own GP.” Another said: “This has had a significantly negative effect on me and my husband’s mental health, our plans for the future and our trust in anyone.”
• Tony Margaritelli Chair, ICPA
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