People under 35 are more likely than older age groups to have been targeted in an impersonation scam and be swayed to provide personal or financial information, according to a new survey by UK Finance’s Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign.
An impersonation scam is where a criminal contacts you pretending to be a person or organisation you trust. These scams can be very sophisticated and often start with attempts to get you to disclose personal and financial information. They then use this information to impersonate someone you trust, making it seem more believable, but their ultimate aim is to try to steal your money.
71 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed said they had been contacted by an impersonation scammer, with 73 per cent of those targeted saying they had subsequently been persuaded to either send money or share personal information.
Under 35’s were more likely to be approached in a variety of ways (over the phone, email, text and WhatsApp). A recent and growing impersonation scam involves fraudsters sending WhatsApp messages that appear to be from a friend or family member with a seemingly genuine request for money, such as being stranded overseas or urgently needing to pay a debt or a bill.
Risk of misplaced confidence
Across all age groups, significantly more people rated themselves as being difficult to trick rather than easy to trick, but this level of confidence could put them at risk, as fewer than half said they will always take steps to check if the organisation or person can be trusted when asked for personal information out of the blue.
Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said: “An alarming number of people fall for impersonation scams and whilst our findings show that younger people are the ones who are often targeted, it’s important to remember that anyone can be caught out by these criminals and that you should always stay alert.
“Given the level of sophistication of some of these scams, we urge the public to be wary of unexpected requests for personal or financial information. Often these criminals will take their time to gather as much information about you as possible, so it’s important that people follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign – always be cautious of any messages or calls you receive out of the blue and avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails or text messages.”
Impressionist and former Britain’s Got Talent contestant Francine Lewis from Blackpool knows only too well how convincing criminal scammers can be. Francine and her family fell for a scam which cost them tens of thousands of pounds. Francine says: “I always thought that if I was targeted by a criminal I’d see straight through their scam, but these people are incredibly persuasive. They do their research on you and know what to say to pressure you into handing over information. I love using my impersonations to make people laugh but these scams are no laughing matter. Always stop and think before parting with your money or personal. If someone is pressing you to act immediately, remember only criminals will try to rush or panic you.”
Kathryn Harnett, Policy Manager at WhatsApp, commented: “WhatsApp protects our users’ personal messages with end-to-end encryption, but we want to remind people of the other ways they can keep their accounts safe and remain vigilant to the threat of scammers. We advise all users never to share their six-digit PIN code with others, not even friends or family, and recommend that all users set up two-step verification for added security. And, if you receive a suspicious message (even if you think you know who it’s from), calling or requesting a voice note is the fastest and simplest way to check someone is who they say they are. A friend in need is a friend worth calling.”
To help people stay safe, the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign advice is to:
- STOP: Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
- CHALLENGE: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
- PROTECT: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.