It happened to us!
Well, to Mr P to be precise. Last year he bought something with his debit card from a website he hadn’t heard of before, and a few days later I noticed that our bank balance was about £120 less than it should be. I checked the statement and there were about 30 withdrawals that had started the previous day; one from a shop, five from an online betting site, and the rest were small sums for computer gaming.
We contacted the bank straight away and Mr P’s card was stopped. He was asked a few things about his security of his card and when his answers satisfied the bank, they agreed to investigate and refund the money. Fortunately they could see from our prior transactions that we don’t indulge in gaming or betting. The missing sums reappeared in our account about three days later and Mr P later had a declaration in the post to sign and return to say that he had not made those payments.
I have taken a keen interest in financial fraud scams and preventative measures that we can all take ever since.
It’s a good job that we weren’t close to the edge
It didn’t cause us any hardship as there were no big expenses coming out of our account imminently and we had an emergency fund. This could cause someone a major problem though if money goes missing from their account close to their mortgage, rent or Council Tax payment; if there would not be enough money in the account to pay it, the bank would not do so and this would be classed as a payment in arrears.
It could mean that you have to borrow to tide you over
Unless you have an emergency fund, it could mean that you might need to borrow in order to make your essential payments until it is sorted out by the bank – if they do agree to return the money to your account, which they don’t always do now. You might end up incurring interest if you can’t pay it back quickly.
It all changed earlier this year
In March, the chief of the Metropolitan Police suggested that banks should not be responsible for fraud that could be the result of poor computer security. Consumer groups criticised his remarks as they saw it as a way of banks to absolve themselves of responsibility and the Met backpedalled on the comments, but I have heard since that the Financial Ombudsman Service has reported a rise in complaints about the banks’ handling of fraud losses by customers.
“Cybercrime Overtakes Traditional Crime in UK”
That was the conclusion of a recent report by the National Crime Agency, which stated that “the speed of criminal capability development is currently outpacing our response as a community”. In other words, the crooks are getting cleverer and more innovative all the time.
Is online/phone banking a good thing?
It’s convenient, that’s true. But – you have to weigh up the risk of having your bank accounts emptied though smishing and other frauds. I do use online banking but as little as possible, and only on my MacBook after deleting my browser history and using a private window. Read why a cyber crime expert won’t use online banking; https://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/nov/21/safe-internet-banking-cyber-security-online
Furthermore, the more we use electronic banking, we are putting bank branches at risk and the jobs of people who work there are in jeopardy. I do prefer to deal with people than a computer screen.
Make sure that you have strong passwords
An unbelievable number of people use ‘password’ or ‘123456’ as their password. A hacker could crack those blindfold.
It is also a bad idea to use the same password for every account that you have; if your details are hacked from a shopping site, the same password could be used to hack into your email account. Apparently 12 character passwords are the most difficult to crack, especially if they’re made up a combination of letters, numbers and other characters. Identifiable words such as ‘birthday’ or ‘coolbabe’ made up only of letters are easier to crack.
Try using a phrase to help you remember it, for example:
(“my brother Jack is a 20 ton softie”, with the beginning and end characters added to make it harder to crack.)
A few tips for keeping your money safe
NEVER disclose your bank account details and passwords to a caller.
If you’re phoned out of the blue and asked for bank/card details and/or any passwords, hang up.
Create strong passwords.
Call your bank to check suspicious calls on a different phone. If you call your bank from the same phone, fraudsters will stay on the line after you have hung up and listen to everything you say, including your bank account details.
Get the best antivirus software that you can afford.
Run the update notifications on your computer regularly.
Delete your browser history frequently.
Run malware scans regularly.
Beware of using shopping websites that you don’t know – use Paypal where possible rather than your card. Check review sites for shopping websites that you haven’t used before.
Never open emails with attachments from people that you don’t know.
If you see a USB stick lying on the ground, never pick it up and use it; this is a recent scam of dropping malicious USBs for people to pick up. Bin it or hand it in to the police.
If you’re a victim of fraud, take a look at this advice from the Money Advice Service:
Types of scam, also from the Money Advice Service:
The scale of the problem:
Photo attribution – By BrackezMassimo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons