Cifas warns consumers not to fall victim of ‘festive fraud’ following sharp rise in facility takeover scams

The latest statistics from Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention organisation, show a worrying increase in the number of victims of facility takeover in the telecommunications and retail sector.

Cases recorded to the National Fraud Database for facility takeover, where an existing facility such as a retail account or phone contract is hijacked by a fraudster for their benefit, increased by 19% during the first nine months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. The majority of these cases indicated that the telecommunications and retail organisations were the main sectors targeted by this fraudulent conduct.

The most common way that accounts are taken over is through social engineering, where victims believe they are dealing with legitimate companies and individuals and reveal personal or financial information. Criminals then use this information to conduct fraudulent conduct, such as ordering mobile phones on a customer’s account – an activity which increased by 145% in this period. The retail industry has also seen rises, with cases of this fraudulent conduct increasing by 215%.

Techniques used by criminals are becoming more sophisticated as they find new ways to circumvent security measures put in place by companies. Some criminal organisations now offer subscription services to assist others looking to perpetrate these attacks.

Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, said: ‘The rising trend of facility takeover comes as no surprise. We often notice a spike in this activity over the festive period, and so I would urge everyone to remain vigilant if contacted by anyone claiming to be from an organisation they trust, such as a bank, mobile phone company or even the police.

‘With Christmas approaching, we have also seen a spike in criminals impersonating delivery companies, often claiming homeowners have missed a delivery and need to provide details to pay for redelivery. Victims are often duped into sharing their bank details which are then used fraudulently.

‘If you are suspicious of anybody contacting you, take a minute and think before parting with your money or information. Challenge the person contacting you and remember you can reject, refuse or ignore any requests you receive – only criminals would try to rush or panic you. If you do believe you have fallen for a scam, contact your bank and any affected accounts to let them know and report it to Action Fraud.’