Four couples in Kent were targeted by a telephone banking fraud where the perpetrator knew exactly how much money was in their bank accounts, down to the last penny. This scamming trend, known as “vishing”, breaks bank fraud regulations and is increasingly popular in the UK. It is so convincing that even financial professionals, including a NatWest manager, insurance broker and commercial property agent were conned.
How Does it Work?
The fraudster phones the victim, claiming to be from their bank, and urges them to move their money using an online bank transfer to avoid being defrauded. Data from Action Fraud shows that ‘vishing’ bank fraud cases caused about £24m of losses, up from £7m in the previous year.
To gain false credibility, the scammers use computer software to manipulate the number from which they are calling, so the number displayed on the victim’s phone matches the number of their bank — this is the one that typically appears on the back of debit or credit cards.
The fraudsters may also have access to details such as the victim’s exact bank balance and the number of accounts they have with their bank, such as current accounts and Isas.
Bank Fraud Solutions
Because the victims authorise the transfers, banks and building societies have refused to issue refunds. The Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells, Greg Clark, has tried to help victims recover funds and described the plight of constituents as “a very serious matter”.
One Santander customer who was targeted was fully refunded, but only after obtaining a transcript of a conversation with the bank’s customer services team. While she was on her mobile phone to the fraudster, she used her landline to call the bank to ask for advice, and claims she was told it was “probably OK”.
The victims were targeted between October 27 and November 11 2014. In each case, they were initially contacted on their landlines by a fraudster calling himself Stephen Montgomery, and claiming to be from their bank’s fraud department. Action Fraud reported 20 cases around the country where a fraudster has used a similar name.