Brits open doors for tech-enabled fraudsters because they 'don't want to seem rude'

Impersonation scams and smishing rocket, say UK Finance and Which?


Brits are too polite to tell phone scammers to "get stuffed", "take a hike" or "sling yer 'ook" when they impersonate so-called "trusted organisations" such as banks.

That's according to the trade association UK Finance, which found that the number of "impersonation scam cases" more than doubled in the first half of 2021 to 33,115 – up from 14,947 during the same period last year.

The industry body reckons these particular frauds – whether by text, email, or voice calls – have duped "even the savviest" punters out of almost £200m over the last year or so and all because people "don't want to seem rude."

Its "Take Five" national campaign is designed to raise awareness amid warnings that fraudsters target people's emotional weaknesses to trick them.

The call for Brits to toughen up comes as consumer champion Which? warned its own research found that SMS phishing (smishing) attacks in the UK grew by nearly 700 per cent in the first half of 2021 compared to the previous six months.

It found that fake parcel delivery scams trump banking-related smishing frauds by a ratio of three to one. But it also reports that voicemail smishing – where scammers send an SMS pretending to have a link to a voicemail – is also on the rise.

In a statement, Rocio Concha, Which? director of Policy and Advocacy, warned smishing attempts "have risen dramatically – with fraudsters taking advantage of the pandemic to trick consumers into giving away personal details and transferring their hard-earned cash."

Unveiling a new SMS Best Practice guide for businesses – backed by organisations including Mobile UK, the trade association for the UK's mobile network operators, Concha said that businesses "must play their part to protect people from scams."

Last year, Three UK – a member of Mobile UK – was left red-faced after some customers received an SMS message urging them to click on an embedded shortlink to find out more about "smishing texts".

The advice included how to spot scams – and this belter of a top-tip, which read: "Don't click on any links… if you've received a suspicious message."

Last month, a London student was sentenced at Inner London Crown Court to 22 months in prison for sending scam text messages purporting to be from a range of organisations including Royal Mail, HMRC, banks and mobile phone providers.

UK Finance reported that Abdisalaam Dahir, 20, a computer science student from Enfield, North London, "pleaded guilty to committing fraud by false representation, for being in possession of articles for use in fraud, and money laundering offences."

The case – which heard how Dahir was involved in smishing campaigns to defraud the public out of over £185,000 – followed an investigation by the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), a specialist City of London and Metropolitan police unit. ®

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