Published On: Thu, Feb 29th, 2024

Lloyds Bank warns of ‘cruel and clever’ scam on rise that can cost victims up to £11,000 | Personal Finance | Finance

Lloyds Bank branch

Lloyds Bank warns of ‘cruel and clever’ scam on rise that can cost victims up to £11,000 (Image: GETTY)

With cases of impersonation  rapidly rising, is warning Britons to be vigilant for the signs, as they risk losing thousands of pounds.

An impersonation scam sees fraudsters convince their victim to make a payment or give away personal or financial details by pretending to be someone else.

Scammers frequently impersonate police officers, bank staff and HMRC, although they may also pretend to be from a large company like Amazon.

Sometimes, criminals pretend to be friends or family members, creating false emergencies like a broken phone or urgent bills to ask for money.

These scams, which have risen 13 percent in the last year, often begin with a phone call, text message or email. They may also get in touch via social media.

Man looking concerned at his phone

Lloyds Bank has issued an urgent warning as these brutal scams can be easy to fall for. (Image: Getty)

Liz Ziegler, fraud prevention director at Lloyds Bank, said: “Impersonation scams are cruel and clever, with fraudsters taking advantage of human nature – whether that be fear, trust or a desire to help someone out.

“While your bank is always working hard to keep your money safe, it’s important people take steps to protect themselves and be really wary of unexpected calls or out-of-the-blue requests for help.

“If something doesn’t seem right, take a step back and verify who you are actually speaking to. Remember, a genuine family member, friend or colleague wouldn’t mind you taking steps to stay safe and your bank will never ask you to move money to a ‘safe account’.”

Fraudsters carrying out bank impersonation scams claim the victim’s bank account is at risk and ask them to move their money to a ‘safe account’. They may ask their victim to download an app to help move the money safely, but the victim is actually handing account access to a criminal.

However, Lloyds Bank data shows that, of the 13 percent overall rise in reported impersonation scams, it was fraudsters pretending to be either police or bank staff which rose the most. Not only was it the fastest-growing impersonation scam, but the data shows it was also the most common.

When masquerading as a police officer, the fraudster will usually tell their victim they need their help with a police investigation involving their bank, then similarly ask for money to be moved to another account, to help “catch” a criminal.

While cases have risen, data shows the average amount lost in police and bank impersonation scams has decreased 31 percent over the past year, with victims losing on average £5,318, compared to over £7,700 in the previous year.

According to Lloyds Bank, ‘CEO fraud’ is a less common impersonation scam but “one to watch out for”, as it has the highest average amount lost.

Victims of CEO fraud lost an average of £10,918 in 2023, more than double the amount lost by those tricked by police or bank staff impersonation scams (£5,318).

CEO fraud sees scammers pretend to be senior staff members at a company. They contact the victim (typically an employee at the same company) and ask them to make an urgent payment.

This could be an invoice they claim needs paying, but they’re unable to make it themselves. Or, they might ask the victim to purchase multiple gift cards for other staff members, under the guise of a ‘bonus’ or ‘treat.’

How to avoid impersonation scams

Lloyds Bank has shared some key tips to help people avoid falling victim to an impersonation scam. It said: “Be wary of any messages from numbers or email addresses which aren’t already stored in your contacts, even if it appears to be from someone you know.

“Always remember that your bank, the police or any genuine organisation or company will never ask you to move money to protect it, under any circumstances. They will also never ask you to download something onto your computer or other device. If in doubt, hang up and call to check on a number you trust, not one you’ve been given over the phone.

“Be very careful if you’re contacted and asked to fill in a form online to process a refund. Contact the organisation, using details verified separately (not details given on any form), so you can check if the request is real.

“Do not download any software to your computer or tablet, if instructed to do so by a cold caller. This often comes in the guise of someone from ‘Microsoft’ saying they are helping fix a problem or safety issue with your computer, but fraudsters can also pretend to be from Amazon, utility companies or banks.”

Finally, it added: “Don’t be rushed into anything – if a message is claiming to be from someone you know, contact them in a different way, to confirm it is them.”

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