Don’t get caught out by cyber criminals

Lubbock Fine, 29 March 2019

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There is an HMRC scam currently doing the rounds. In a new development, an automated voice call will pretend to be HMRC. A message will tell the person receiving the call that HMRC is filing a lawsuit against them for alleged unpaid tax bills. Having duly scared the person on the line, the automated message then instructs the call recipient to “press 1 to speak to a caseworker and make a payment” and of course, it’s not an HMRC representative but a fraudster ready to divest you of your hard earned cash. What’s more, these people seem to be able to spoof it so that it appears the call is coming from HMRC’s actual number.

HMRC will never call you to demand money so do not pay. They have confirmed their  awareness of this scam and advise anyone receiving a call to end it immediately. This particular rip-off activity has been widely reported and often, targets elderly and vulnerable people. Alternative scam calls may offer a tax refund, requesting you to provide your bank or credit card information. If you cannot verify the identity of the caller, we recommend that you end the call. Never give personal details out over the phone unless you are completely sure of who you are speaking with.

Staying one step ahead of the criminals

The last 18 months have seen a sharp rise in this particular type of cybercrime, with more than £145m stolen from unsuspecting victims in the first half of last year alone. With UK police forces unable or unwilling to help, and banks reluctant to provide compensation, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself against the fraudsters. Here are a few things you can do to safeguard your hard-earned cash:

  • Always double-check. If you get a call, text, email or a message on social media asking you to disclose personal data or transfer funds, check to make sure the request is genuine. Contact the person or organisation, using details from their official website, a bill or a statement.
  • Trust your instincts. If something seems out of the ordinary, it may be a con. So use your common sense; if something seems out of place, think twice before parting with your money.
  • Never rush a payment. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They may harass, cajole and even threaten you. If you receive an urgent transfer request out of the blue, stop and take a moment to think. A genuine organisation won’t mind waiting while you verify their credentials.
  • Do some research. Fraudsters have been known to masquerade as trusted professionals, popular retailers, even the police. So do your homework. If you get an unusual request, type the company name or product into Google alongside words like ‘scam’ or ‘fraud’. If you’re targeted by phone, enter the number into your search engine to see if anyone else has been affected.
  • Speak to someone you can trust. You’ll be less vulnerable to fraud if you engage an expert to manage your funds. A professional accountancy service will help you safeguard your assets, and arm you with the tools and the knowledge you need to keep your finances secure.
  • Don’t disclose personal information. Your bank or building society will never call or send you an email asking for sensitive data, such as passwords or pin numbers. If you receive a request of this nature, hang up the phone, block the email, and contact your bank.
  • Revise your payment method. Unlike cash transfers, credit cards provide significant protection against fraud, allowing you to recover funds if something goes wrong. So, wherever possible, use your flexible friend when paying for goods and services.
  • Hire a professional. If the worst happens, and you fall prey to the fraudsters, it pays to have a financial specialist fighting your corner. A skilled accountant can mediate on your behalf, solve disputes and take steps to retrieve your money.

Stay alert

The most important thing is to remain vigilant. Fraudsters will try every trick in the book to get their hands on your money, and even the shrewdest individual can be taken in. So stay alert, keep your eyes peeled for suspicious emails and telephone calls, and make sure you stay one step ahead of the criminals.

For further advice please speak to your usual Lubbock Fine advisor or contact us.