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How to avoid the scam that cost TV presenter £70k

Written by: Tom Clementson
Just a few questions. That’s all it takes to lose your entire life savings, as former Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton recently discovered when she was defrauded out of £70,000 with one phone call.

The TV presenter revealed she fell victim to an all too common phone scam: she was contacted by a fraudster posing as “her bank” getting in touch as there were signs of unusual activity on her account. Confirming her name, address and account details was all it took for the fraudsters to be able to access her savings and drain her account of tens of thousands of pounds.

It’s not a new scam, but it’s incredibly easy to fall victim to. A phone number which is the same as your bank’s, a convincing voice at the other end of the phone, and a moment of distraction is all it takes.

Fraudsters have had it their own way for too long and technology holds the key to protecting people’s hard-earned money. As the industry attempts to stay one step ahead, there are some red flags to look out for which help keep your money safe.

Verify the caller

The bank calling you out of the blue can be a tell-tale sign of fraudulent activity. If in doubt, hang up the phone and call your bank to check whether it was legitimate or not. Don’t be tempted to answer if you get a call back from the number after you’ve hung up.

Some scammers can mask their phone number to make it appear as if they are calling from your bank. So, don’t just call the number back, find your bank’s number online via the app or from a paper statement and dial the number that is listed.

If possible, call from a different phone as fraudsters have been known to take over phone lines and either listen in on the next conversation or redirect your call to their line.

Fraudsters will often try to catch people at busy times of the day i.e. school pick up time, as you are rushing out to work or at dinner time. Stress levels can be high and concentration low. Taking a minute to stop and think can make all the difference.

During the call

There are a few things you can look out for while on a call to your “bank” which should raise suspicions. Fraudsters will often push you to answer questions quickly and may show a lack of empathy.

Your bank will never ask you to provide your security information in full such as your 4-digit card PIN or online banking password so a request to state for this over the phone or using the keypad is a red flag.

Another giveaway is the environment in which a fraudster is calling you from. Listen out for anything that doesn’t sound like its common place in a call centre, such as outside noise like cars beeping or children playing.

If you’ve given too much away

If you suspect you’ve given too much information away, contact your bank immediately. The bank can put a watch on your account so that if any suspicious activity crops up, they catch it immediately.

Report fraudulent calls to the relevant authorities and don’t be embarrassed – it can happen to anyone.

Tom Clementson is director of consumer at secure payments solution Shieldpay

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