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Protecting yourself from impersonation fraud

Sophie Grosvenor June 27th 2023 - 3 minute read

Keeping your money safe is our top priority, and we have stringent measures in place to help protect our customers. However, there are also steps you can take to protect yourself from fraud.

To help you identify potential scams and stay safe, we’re publishing a series of articles on common fraudulent activity, so you know the red flags to look out for and what to do if you have concerns. 

This article tackles impersonation fraud.

What is impersonation fraud?

Impersonation fraud is when a scammer pretends to be someone you trust. They may impersonate a friend or family member, or a professional you’re working with like a lawyer/solicitor or estate agent. They could also pretend to be a representative from a trusted organisation, such as your bank or the police.

One tactic used by these criminals is ‘spoofing’, whereby they use technology to make their phone number or email address appear as though it is from a genuine source. Similarly, they may ‘clone’ an organisation’s website – creating an identical copy – to deceive the people they target.

Protecting yourself from impersonation fraud – our 5 tips

1. Be cautious

Firstly, and most importantly, always err on the side of caution. There are certain red flags you can look out for, but it’s best to check, check and check again whenever you’re dealing with payments – particularly large ones – and matters relating to your bank account.

If you are unsure, suspicious, or have any doubts at all about a payment then stop and take a step back. Scammers often try to add a sense of urgency to encourage you to rush and miss details. Stepping back can give you the clarity and space to check thoroughly and think things through.

2. Confirm the person’s identity

If someone is contacting you claiming to be a trusted person, make sure you verify their identity.

You can do this by ending the conversation and then contacting that person or organisation directly using an official, verified email or phone number.

3. Think twice before clicking a link

Similarly, always double check any links sent to you via email or text.

Before clicking a link hover over it (on desk top) or press and hold it (on mobile) so you can look at the URL (the web address) to make sure it is correct. Some scammers use small variations on spelling or punctuation to make a site seem legitimate, such as web.site.com versus website.com.

As with confirming someone’s identity, its best to make your own way to the website by typing in the URL yourself. That way you can be confident you’re in the right place.

Likewise, never let anyone take remote access of your computer following an unsolicited call or email.

4. Be suspicious if payment details change

One major red flag to look out for is any details being changed.

If someone who you’ve paid before provides you with new bank details, alarm bells should be ringing. Before sending any money, verify their identity and check that the bank details are correct and officially registered to the person or organisation you want to pay.

5. Be suspicious if someone pressures you

As mentioned above, scammers will try to pressure you emotionally to act without thinking things through. They might try to create a sense of urgency, danger or panic to spur you into action.

Some common tactics are making an urgent request, perhaps to pay an invoice or to help a friend who’s stranded overseas, or by saying that your money is at risk and needs to be moved to a ‘safe account’.

If anyone ever says you need to move money into a ‘safe account’ it’s a sure sign of a scam.

What to do if someone targets you

If you think you’ve been targeted for impersonation fraud, report it to the organisation concerned. Let them know as soon as possible that someone is pretending to be them and targeting their customers.

You should also report the incident to Action Fraud, the centre for reporting fraud and cybercrime in the UK, or the relevant police body in the country you’re in.

More information on impersonation fraud

You can find more information about impersonation fraud on Take Five, an anti-fraud campaign run by the trade association UK Finance.

The Action Fraud website, linked above, also has lots of useful advice, guidance, and free tools to help you protect yourself.

Victim Support can help you if you’ve been a victim of impersonation fraud. They also have a wealth of resources and tips on their website.

Finally, if you’re transferring money with us and have any security concerns, or if something doesn’t seem quite right, get in touch with us immediately and we’ll be happy to help.

Written by
Sophie Grosvenor

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