Nearly a decade ago I spearheaded a campaign to stop the explosion of nuisance calls, and it’s fair to say it took a lot of convincing that these calls were a lot more than, well a nuisance. Often they caused a great deal of distress and sometimes they led to people falling victim to scams. Happily a lot of progress was made with shutting down nuisance calling but it would appear the resulting scamming and fraudulent activity has now become more of a menace and has the potential to hit millions.
I don’t think a day goes past when I don’t hear of someone being sent a text message, answering a phone call or being emailed with a scam. One of my own team members here at Resolver received four in the space of a week! And while some of these can be reasonably easy to spot, others are far more convincing. Add to that they are increasing – and getting more creative – meaning that simply hanging on that call or clicking on a link and registering your details in a website gives scammers the ability to harm you – either in terms of your identity or taking your hard-earned cash or savings.
Then there’s the increase of ways to pay – or get credit. People paying using an e-payment system, or in instalments with buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) agreements are generally looking to make purchases more quickly and affordable by spreading the cost. However, we’re seeing more and more incidences of unknown transactions being taken from e-payment accounts, or accounts opened fraudulently in consumers’ names through BNPL and even in established banks.
So with more opportunities for fraudsters to act, and the wealth of publicity we’re all seeing about fraud and scams, it begs the question of whether enough of the right things are being done to clamp down on this activity.
What’s Resolver seeing?
The bad news: fraud and scams are indeed on the rise among our customers. Fraud-related cases were up by a third last year compared to 2019, and included incidences of ID fraud, money going missing from accounts and those falling foul of scammers taking their money.
It didn’t particularly matter which type of financial provider customers were asking for help – as the cases were on the rise virtually across the board – in a period where other complaints typically made to finance institutions were falling. But the biggest rises were among e-payment and payment services and BNPL providers, suggesting that these ‘newer’ ways to pay may well be ones to watch throughout this year. This is not to say our more established financial services are immune – with current accounts still making up the single highest number of cases concerning fraud last year.
The better news: those that had cause to contact their provider about fraud were generally more satisfied with how they’d been dealt with than customers in the previous year. This is encouraging, but more can be done. We’re still seeing people not being refunded despite the transactions being recognised as fraudulent and we’re still seeing many struggling to contact providers to even report fraud. At the very least, given the propensity and subsequent justified publicity, organisations should have their doors firmly open to make sure those reporting genuine fraud will be heard, and that their complaints are acted on as a priority.
Let’s be fair, these types of scams were never uncommon, but now they are virtually everywhere you look. And looking at the companies that are being imitated, it’s clear that scam merchants are getting clever, as it’s no longer a random text purporting to be from HMRC or a once every few months email from a bank with whom you closed an account years ago.
Users have told us that they have received texts from scammers claiming to be mobile phone providers – in fact their mobile provider – saying they had missed a payment. Others are reporting (and this is one of the bigger ones) texts looking like they are from well known delivery and postal firms – including Royal Mail – saying they either have unpaid fees, or that they have missed a delivery. These are particularly worrying as we’re all getting more deliveries at home – and we’re all using our mobiles for work so accepting those calls we might otherwise screen. It’s really easier than even the most cynical might think, in a moment of distraction or even panic, to click that link and be duped.
The point is that these types of scams prey on a need to act with urgency. They’re often calling on you to do something that you think you should do, or worse, threatening you with action if you don’t click that link or make that call. I don’t need to point out how unacceptable this is even pre-Covid. What I would say is that in a time where we are all struggling with various things, this type of ‘fear factor’ will often be the thing that pushes people along, and is why we need more action to stop this behaviour.
Consumers can act – but what about organisations?
I can add to the voices of many telling all of us to be vigilant – and indeed we have our own tips on how to avoid being a victim of fraud, or scamming. But with the proliferation, I’m wondering why we have to bear all the responsibility as consumers of simply not acting when we see a text message claiming we’re being investigated, or answer a phone call telling us our internet is being disconnected in a matter of hours?
With Action Fraud reporting only last month that £373 million was lost to repeat victims of fraud during 2019/20 (yes, not those who had the ‘luck’ of being duped just once), I’ve got to ask, what is being done investment wise, and vigilance-wise by organisations to try and stamp this out?
The recent efforts of banks to pay back lost money is commendable but I think they need more help from others when it comes to actually stopping the fraud or scams happening in the first place. Technology, as ever, moves quickly, and we know that organisations can find it hard to catch up. But I think enough is enough now, and that this should be a joint priority for business and government – acting alone will not be enough.
Have you been a victim of fraud, or suspect you’ve received a scam? Resolver can help raise your issue for free