Many of us like to think we’re pretty astute when it comes to looking after our money – we protect our pin at the cash point, choose difficult passwords and shred any documents containing personal information.
But, as cyber criminals become more sophisticated in their attempts to get hold of our money, they’ll try every trick in the book, as Alex Finch found out.
‘It was December 2016 and I was in a bit of a frenzy. Having planned a much-needed trip to Paris for my two children and I, there was still a lot to do. Apart from last-minute packing and a few bits of work to finish off, our dog got sick… But, knowing what lay ahead, I forged on, anticipating it would all be worth it.
‘It was the day before we were due to go, and as I frantically rushed around tying up all the loose ends, I received a phone call. It was BT. Apparently there were a few issues with some of their customers’ bank accounts and they had to run checks. The lady at the end of the line was quite insistent and said I could be at risk of losing all my money. She even named the bank I hold my business account with. As a single mum and a businesswoman who had worked hard to save for my family’s future, I panicked. I couldn’t possibly lose all that money. Little did I realise that this is exactly the kind of fear the scammers play on.
‘Asking what I should do next she referred me to a ‘senior fraud investigator.’ I could hear agents in the background calling other ‘victims,’ so as soon as I was asked to log on to my computer, I did just that. Looking back, clearly this was the moment alarm bells should have started ringing. Asked to enter various codes, I did what I was told, and as instructed left my computer on overnight.
‘I even spoke to him again the next morning, entering a few more codes. What I didn’t realise was that I was actually giving this criminal complete access to my computer. I feel foolish thinking about what I did. I run a successful business consultancy firm and thought I was pretty savvy about such tactics.
‘It was only when we returned from what was a truly wonderful trip and I logged into my account that I realised what had happened. It was completely empty. The scammers had taken every last penny of my £180,000 savings. I went into shock. Ringing my bank, I completely broke down as the reality of what had happened set in. My 16 year-old son took over reassuring me we could deal with this. I tried to pull myself together, knowing I had to be strong for my children.
‘Eventually the bank managed to recover £34,000 of my savings, which I am grateful for. I’m a hard worker and will do my best to rebuild what I had, but it’s a bitter pill to swallow. I just hope that by talking about it I can help to put an end to such scams for others.’
• A genuine bank or organisation will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, full password or to move money to another account. Only give out your personal or financial details to use a service that you have given your consent to, that you trust and that you are expecting to be contacted by.
• If something doesn’t seem right, take five to remind yourself of this simple phrase: ‘My money? My Info?I don’t think so!
• Criminals can make any telephone number appear on your handset, or make texts and emails look as if they’re on an existing thread. Don’t take this as proof that they are genuine.
• Never click on a link in an unsolicited email or text, or agree to tap your card PIN into a phone keypad. If you’re buying online, type the website address directly into your browser, rather than clicking on links from pop-ups or emails.
• Update your security and install the latest software and app updates – they contain vital security updates to help protect your devices from cyber criminals.