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Alarming increase in deception phone scams

Surge in losses ramps up concern over impact of scams

Deception scam 1

Losses to online and telephone banking scams totalled £168.6m in 2015, a staggering 72% increase compared with the year before.

The figures, published earlier this year by Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK), highlight the growing threat posed by impersonation and deception scams. 

They also highlight the role sophisticated online attacks such as data breaches and malware play in consumers losing money to fraud.

These scams often involve a phone call, text message or email claiming there has been suspicious activity on your bank account, or that your account details need to be ‘updated’ or ‘verified’.

Criminals can also attempt to convince you to transfer money directly to them. Scams like these can be incredibly convincing, but we’ve identified practical ways to help protect yourself from deception phone scams.

How does a deception scam work?

Last year, Dorset Police released a recording of an attempted deception scam carried out over the phone in the hope of warning potential victims and exposing the tactics of the scammers.

In the video you can hear a remorseless criminal attempt to convince a vulnerable older woman that her account has been hacked.


The caller pretends to be a detective by the name of David Taylor, and gives his badge number. He then claims to be from New Scotland Yard and stresses the seriousness of the phone call.

This particular scam works by convincing you that you’ve had money stolen and you need to call 999 and report the crime immediately. 

Once you put the phone down, the fraudster will keep the line open and pass the phone to his accomplice, who will pretend to be a police operator.

And scams are a growing menace, earlier this week a report from the UK Fraud Costs Measurement Committee (UKFCMC) found we could be losing as much as £6,000 per second to scams.

Avoid deception scams: keep your data safe

Impersonation and deception scams in which criminals claim to be from a trusted organisation – such as a bank, the police, a utility company or a government department – are an increasingly common problem.

Criminals are also known to use information gained through data breaches, with several high-profile data breaches being reported in recent years, as well as many smaller-scale attacks.

The stolen data can be used to commit fraud directly, for example by using stolen payment card details online to commit remote-purchase fraud.

Other information obtained through a data breach may be used in impersonation scams, while the publicity around the incident itself can be used to add authenticity to the scammers’ approach.

While there are sensible steps we can all take to protect ourselves, we believe an unfair burden has been placed on the public to protect themselves from fraud. 

Join our campaign urging the government to take the lead and ensure companies safeguard us all from scams.

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