Fraud within the personal finance sector

Traditionally, it has been viewed that criminals target the vulnerable and elderly. However, Royal London personal finance specialist Helen Morrissey notes that this view is “evolving quickly”, with recent scams showing that no one is safe.

“There are even reports of fraudsters exploiting the recent issues at TSB to send out emails asking people to set up new accounts from which they then target people’s savings. Other recent email scams include people receiving emails from HMRC saying the recipient is due a tax refund and needs to click on a link and input their details,” Morrissey added.

Emails, such as the ones described by Morrissey, often include the logo’s and headings of the firm that it is impersonating, meaning that consumers must be vigilant, taking the utmost care when opening emails or answering phone calls from fraudsters claiming to be from a legitimate source.

Morrissey warns consumers to “always bear in mind” that a bank would never send you an email asking for your PIN number or on-line banking details.

“They certainly won’t ask you to transfer funds from one bank account to another. It is always worth checking the sender’s email address to see if it is genuinely from the company they say they are from. You can do this by hovering the cursor over the email address rather than clicking it,” she said.

Referring back to Morrissey’s previous point in relation to people of all ages being targeted by fraudsters, not-for-profit organisation Cifas revealed that, in 2017, there was a 27 per cent increase in the number of 14-24 year olds being used a ‘money mules’. In particular, Cifas reported that “cash-strapped” students were being targeted by fraudsters, often promised large financial rewards for minimal amounts of work.

The National Fraud Database warns that criminals were targeting these younger people through social media platforms and messaging applications, such as Whatsapp.

“To avoid banks’ stringent identity fraud checks, criminals are increasingly turning to laundering their illicit funds through other people’s bank accounts, and probably giving them great compensation for doing so.

This trend has already increased 11% since 2016 and could easily continue to rise. More young people are being recruited in this manner, particularly among the student population, who are handing over their identities and banking credentials without understanding the implications.