The Office of Fair Trading is urging people not give bank details out to cold callers after a new telephone scam came to light.
The watchdog said a number of consumers had been telephoned by people claiming to be from the OFT, who asked them for their personal and financial information so that they could reclaim bank charges on their behalf.
But the OFT warned that the callers had no connection with them, and they were trying to get people’s details in order to commit identity theft or run up debt in their name.
The scam is cashing in on the highly topical issue of bank charges, and comes just weeks after it was announced that the OFT and several high street banks were jointly launching a test case in the High Court to establish if the current level of unauthorised overdraft charges were fair.
The case was sparked after large numbers of consumers started taking their banks to court to have the fees refunded.
But the banks have been given permission to put refunding the charges on hold until after the test case, which is due to start in January.
An OFT spokeswoman said: ‘The OFT has been made aware of a scam involving consumers being telephoned by people, alleging to be from the OFT, asking for personal and financial information including their bank account details in order for the OFT to reclaim bank charges on their behalf.
‘These callers have no connection with the OFT, and their intention is to use the information for identity theft or to run up bills or commit crimes using stolen details. The OFT will never contact consumers asking them for personal bank details.’
She warned people not to pass on personal or financial information to cold callers either over the phone or by email, and urged anyone who had already done so to contact their bank as soon as possible.
Mark Dungworth, a case manager in the OFT’s ScamBusters department, said in cases like this fraudsters who obtained people’s account details tended to act very quickly and could take thousands of pounds out of people’s accounts in a very short time.
He said: ‘These people are opportunistic and they will use anything they can find in the news to try to make their story more plausible.’
He added that fraudsters often told people things they wanted to believe, such as pretending they would be refunded bank charges, in order to get them to part with their details.
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