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6 million Brits have been a victim of financial fraud

16 January 2017 Money shares its top five tips for guarding against financial fraud

Over a third (34%) of Brits are worried about falling victim to fraud, according to new research released today.  The poll* also found that 12% of UK adults (5.9 million people) have already been a victim of a financial fraud, while one in ten said that at least one of their online accounts has been hacked.**

The research, commissioned by Money, revealed that for many people their passwords and PINs could be a weak point in their defence against cyberattack:

  • 66% admitted to sharing personal information on social media – such as birthdates, anniversaries and names – which are used to create passwords and PINs;
  • Nearly a fifth (19%) think they need to get their passwords and PINs better organised;
  • 12% said they didn’t think their online passwords are strong enough;
  • Only 29% created strong passwords containing a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.

Commenting on the research, Matt Sanders from Money said, “Financial fraud and cybercrime is a growing problem in the UK.  According to the latest figures from the national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, Financial Fraud Action UK, more than one million incidents of financial fraud occurred in the first six months of 2016.  That’s a 53% increase year-on-year.

“Fraud can have a devastating impact on victims – both financially and emotionally.  But, there are some straight forwards steps people can take to avoid falling prey to criminals.  These include protecting their online devices with up-to-date virus software, creating different, strong passwords and PINs across accounts, and recognising that their personal information is a valuable commodity and treating it as such. 

“Financial fraud comes in many guises – from crooks using stolen credit cards to increasingly sophisticated digital scams.  Being aware of the different types of scams and knowing the warning signs to look out for, can also help people avoid falling victim.  And, once people appreciate how easy it can be for criminals to piece together personal data gleaned from online profiles, such as those shared on social media, they tend to be more cautious about openly sharing their personal information.”      

Common types of financial fraud include:

Card-not-present fraud:  Also known as ‘remote purchase fraud’, this occurs when card details are fraudulently used to make purchases that don’t require you to physically present a card, including purchases made online, through the post or over the telephone.  Criminals fraudulently obtain card details using a range of tactics such as recording card details during a legitimate transaction or downloading malware onto the victim’s computer.

Lost and stolen cards:  Fraudsters use a lost or stolen card to make a purchase or to withdraw cash from an ATM.  

Card ID theft:  Card ID theft takes two forms; application and account takeover fraud.  Application fraud occurs when a criminal uses stolen, discarded or fake documents to open an account in someone else’s name.  Account takeover fraud is when a criminal takes over another person’s genuine card.  Fraudulently obtained personal information is used to deceive the card company and the fraudster can carry out transactions from the account, request changes to the account or ask for a new card to be issued.

Card not received fraud:  Cards may be stolen in transit between the card issuer and the genuine card holder.  The risk of this type of fraud increases if you live somewhere with communal letterboxes which provide shared access to mail.

Cash machine fraud:  Criminals target ATMs to steal cards and card data, using tactics such as peering over someone’s shoulder to see their PIN, then stealing their card, or the use of devices attached to an ATM which copy or ‘skim’ card details and the PIN number, then trapping the card in the machine.   

Counterfeit card fraud:  This involves criminals creating a fake card using details from the magnetic strip of a genuine card.   Counterfeit cards are typically used overseas in countries which haven’t upgraded to Chip and PIN.  

Phishing:  Typically, phishing emails come from someone pretending to be a reputable company and usually ask you to enter your account details.  Alternatively, they might say you've won a competition and request you to send money in order to receive the prize.

Vishing:  Fraudsters phone a victim using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which is where voice calls are made over the internet rather than using a landline.  They then persuade the victim to give out personal information and account details, which they can use to falsely take money or make purchases.

SMiShing (SMS phishing):  This is similar to the previous two types of fraud, except it's carried out via text message.  As with phishing and vishing, the fraudsters will impersonate a reputable company.  The SMS will either ask you to open a link where you'll need to enter your personal information or call a number to verify details.

Malware:  Malware or malicious software is when a computer virus is installed onto your computer without your knowledge.  This enables fraudsters to steal personal information or perform actions through your device.  Malware can also be present in the form of pop-ups appearing when you click on legitimate online banking pages, which will ask you to enter personal information.

1. Protect your personal information and account numbers:

Never provide debit or credit card numbers or PINs or other personal information in response to an unsolicited email, text, online or telephone request.  Genuine organisations including banks and card providers never request information in this way.

When you receive a new payment card, always sign the back. Never let your card or card details out of sight when making a transaction.  Protect your personal information on social media using privacy settings, don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.  Access your online financial accounts by typing the web address into your browser. Shred documents containing personal or financial information you no longer need. Always PIN-protect smartphones and other mobile devices.

2. Protect your passwords and PINs, keep them strong and keep them secret:

Choose strong PINs and passwords.  Don’t use obvious or easy to guess numbers (e.g. birthdates, anniversary, or consecutive, ascending or descending number sequences).  Strong, hard to crack passwords contain a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Memorise your passwords and PINs – don’t write them down or disclose them to anyone else.  Don’t use the same password and PIN for all your accounts and payment cards.  And, don’t use the same passwords for social media sites and online banking.

3. Online safety measures:

Regularly update your computer’s firewall or antivirus software.  When shopping online, always look for secure transaction symbols.  The web address should start ‘https’ and the page should display the secure payment ‘lock’ logo.  If possible, always shop or bank online from your personal computer. Always log-off from a site once you’ve completed a transaction.

4. Regularly review financial statements:

Check credit card and bank statements on a regular basis and look out for unusual or unauthorised transactions.  Contact your provider immediately if you suspect fraud.  Note when you should be receiving a new payment card.  If it doesn’t arrive when you expect it, contact the card provider as soon as possible.

Be suspicious of unsolicited contact:
Be wary ofunsolicited calls, emails or texts claiming to be from companies or organisations connected with your finances, requesting personal details.  Never reply to a suspicious email, click on links or ring a number within the message.  Use a different phone line to ring out if you've received a suspected vishing call.

For more information on financial fraud see's dedicated guide. has created an Infographic checklist on how to protect your momey online.

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Notes to editors:

* On 26 September 2016, Bilendi conducted an online survey among 2,000 randomly selected British adults who are Maximiles UK panelists.  The margin of error-which measures sampling variability-is +/- 2.2%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and regional data to ensure samples representative of the entire adult population of United Kingdom. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

** The UK adult population is estimated to be 48,913,000 (source: Annual mid-year population estimates for the UK, 2014).  12% of 48,913,000 is 5,869,560 UK adults.