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Banking industry warns of growing card fraud phone scam targeting the over-60s

01 November 2011

  • Fraud can be easily prevented as long as cardholders follow common sense advice
  • Three-quarters of a million pounds conned from over-60s this year already

The UK Cards Association today (1 November 2011) advises about an old-style phone scam that is increasingly being used by fraudsters across the UK. The scam involves unsuspecting cardholders being called and duped into handing over their debit or credit card, and revealing their PIN, by a fraudster pretending to be from their bank, card company or the police. Just this year more than £750,000 has been lost to this type of fraud, with the criminals responsible stealing an average of £10,000 per incident.

The scam begins with the fraudster phoning up, typically claiming to be from the prospective victim’s bank, and saying either that their systems have flagged up a fraudulent transaction on their card or that their card is due to expire and needs replacing. By seeming to offer assistance, the fraudster tries to gain the victim’s trust. In most cases the victim is then asked to ‘activate’ or ‘authorise’ the replacement card in advance by keying their PIN into their phone’s handset.

The fraudster or an accomplice then poses as a bank representative or a courier to pick up the customer’s card from them at their home, sometimes also giving the victim a replacement card (which is a fake). In some cases a genuine courier company is hired to pick up the card, which the victim has been asked to place in an envelope. Once they have the victim’s card and the PIN the fraudster uses them to withdraw cash and go on a spending spree.

Top tips to avoid this scam:

  • Your bank will never ring you and tell you that they are coming around to pick up your card, so never hand it over to anyone who comes to ‘collect it’.
  • Your bank will never ask you to ‘authorise’ anything by entering your PIN into the telephone.
  • Never share your PIN with anyone – the only times you should use your PIN is at a cash machine or when you use a shop’s chip and PIN machine.

If you think you may have been the victim of a fraud or a scam of this nature you should call your bank or card company immediately.

DCI Paul Barnard, Head of the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU), the special police unit established by the banking industry to fight fraud, said:

“You should never hand over your bank card to someone who turns up on your doorstep, however convinced you are that they are genuine. Likewise, you should never give anyone your PIN or punch the number into your phone as a result of someone contacting you out-of-the-blue – wherever they claim to be from. If you have any doubts when approached in this way you should hang up the phone and call the organisation back on a number that you know is correct. If you think you have already been a victim of this scam, contact your bank or card company immediately. If you are the innocent victim of card fraud you will not suffer any financial loss.”

More information for consumers about fraud prevention is available at www.financialfraudaction.org.uk.

DCI Paul Barnard, Head of the DCPCU, is available for interview on request.

The experience of Mrs Badi, a real-life victim of this type of scam is detailed below.

For further information contact the press office on 020 3217 8251.

Case study – Mrs Badi

Mrs Badi, who lives in south London, was phoned out-of-the-blue one afternoon by a gentleman claiming to be from the fraud investigation department of her bank. The caller claimed that Mrs Badi’s debit and credit cards had been used fraudulently - but that he could help her get her money back. The fact that he was offering help convinced Mrs Badi that the call was genuine.

The caller said he would send a courier to Mrs Badi’s house to pick up her debit and credit cards and that, by doing so, her bank would be able to reimburse the stolen money back to her account.

The fraudster then instructed Mrs Badi to put her cards in an envelope and hand it over to the courier when he arrived. When the fraudster received the envelope from the courier he phoned Mrs Badi again to say he had the cards but, to help deactivate them from being used anymore, Mrs Badi needed to key the PIN for each card into her phone’s keypad, which she did.

The fraudsters then had Mrs Badi’s debit and credit cards and PINs, which they used to make almost £1,800 worth of fraudulent purchases and cash withdrawals.

Notes to editors:

The UK Cards Association is the leading trade association for the cards industry in the UK. With a membership that includes all major credit, debit and charge card issuers, and card acquiring banks, the role of the Association is both to unify and represent the UK card payments industry. It is responsible for formulating and implementing policy on non-competitive aspects of card payments including codes of practice, fraud prevention, major infrastructural changes, development of standards and other matters where cross-industry benefits are identified. More information about The UK Cards Association is available here.

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