Christmas is an expensive enough time of year, without losing money to fraudsters. Whether by cash, card or online, more people making payments means that there are more opportunities for fraudsters. We are keen to help you protect yourself from fraud over the festive period and this article provides information on common types of fraud.

Email Payment Scams

Fraudsters send payment requests that replicate the format used by legitimate companies (such as energy or telecommunications companies).

Consider:

  • Were you expecting a demand for payment or refund?
  • Is this method of communication normal?
  • Check the sender’s email address, is it misspelled or are there numbers in it?
  • Do the logos and branding look right?
  • Does the email contain suspicious links?
  • Does the email contain spelling or grammatical errors?
  • Is the email threatening in tone or demanding urgent or immediate payment?
  • If your email account has been hacked – it’s possible fraudsters will intercept emails and change details. For example, if you make payments to a friend or local service provider, the fraudster may impersonate them and ask you to update payment details for them, but really the money will go into the fraudster’s account.

How to protect yourself:

If you’re not 100% sure, do not click on any links and do not make any payments. Contact your service provider directly using either the details you have for them, or those you have obtained independently (e.g. via their website).

Phone Payment Scams

Fraudsters may call you and pretend to be from your bank, the police or a legitimate company. They typically claim to have seen fraudulent activity on your account. They might claim to have set up a ‘safe’ account for you and ask you to transfer funds to that account to protect your money.

Your bank or the police will never phone and:

Ask you to transfer money to another account

Ask for your PIN or online banking password

Ask you to withdraw money and give it to them for safe keeping

Set up a ‘safe’ account for you without asking

Ask you to check whether the number called from matches their registered number (it is possible for the caller to alter the number displayed on your phone)

How to protect yourself:

  • Hang up the phone
  • Wait five minutes to clear the phone line – fraudsters often wait on the line and listen. Try calling a friend to check the line is clear (or dial the speaking clock). Alternatively, use another phone to contact your provider or bank using the details you have for them, or those you obtain independently (e.g. via their website).

Shopping Online

Criminals can steal your money by directing you to illegitimate web pages while you’re browsing online.

Make sure you protect yourself:

  • Only make payments on secure websites – a padlock symbol in the browser window is a good indication of this
  • Only use websites and brands that you trust
  • If it’s a new website or brand – undertake some research, do they have good reviews? Try to establish a physical address and telephone contact details
  • Do not click on any links if they’re not from a source you trust
  • It’s best to use a secure Wi-Fi connection – avoid public Wi-Fi
  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is – an item drastically under RRP could be fraud or a counterfeit
  • Avoid using direct bank payments/transfers to pay for products because you don’t have the same consumer protections
  • Regularly check your bank statements – are there any transactions you don’t
    recognise?
  • Your bank may send you a text message with a secure code for an online shopping transaction. If you receive one out-of-the-blue, call them immediately and do not repeat the secure code to anyone.
  • If concerned, contact your bank immediately

Cash Machine Scams

There are a number of ways for criminals to steal your money at the cash machine. Avoid becoming a victim by recognising when something is wrong:

Skimming Devices

These scan the magnetic strip on your card as you insert it into the machine. Have a look at the slot where you enter the card, are there scratches, sticky residue, or any signs it has been tampered with? If concerned, do not use the machine.

Distraction

These are scenarios where criminals stand by cash machines to steal money or your card directly from you. They might bump into you, drop something near you or someone may talk to you to distract you while someone else picks your pockets. A common tactic is to wait until your cash has been dispensed and ask you if you have dropped money, using the opportunity to take your money from the ATM. Be aware of groups of people hanging around an ATM or appearing behind you and standing too closely. If in doubt, walk away.

Fraudsters have also been known to look over your shoulder while entering a PIN to learn it before stealing your card using a distraction technique.

Card Traps

If your card isn’t returned or the cash is not delivered but a receipt is issued, contact your bank and cancel your card immediately. Also, if there is someone watching the machine or hanging around for no apparent reason, use another ATM.

Remember:

  • Take time to think – does a situation seem suspicious?
  • Criminals will try to rush you – say ‘no’ if you’re not sure
  • Your bank will never ask for your PIN, full password, or ask you to withdraw or transfer money
  • Contact your bank immediately if you are concerned your card or account has been compromised