How to protect yourself from fraud

Fraud is rising faster than ever – but you don’t have to make it easy for the criminals, says Paul Lewis

Close up of a senior couple doing home finances

The latest official figures show that fraud is rising faster than ever. A major survey by the Office for National Statistics found that in the year to the end of September 2021, incidents of fraud totalled 5.1 million, a rise of nearly 40 per cent from two years previously (the survey omitted 2019–20 because of the pandemic). That means almost one in every ten adults was defrauded in that 12-month period.

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Fraud makes up 40 per cent of all crime, though only one per cent of police resources are devoted to it.  People are advised to report frauds
to a police body called Action Fraud. But around 90 per cent of reports are just “filed”; fewer than one in 50 leads to anyone being charged/cautioned.

Many frauds start on social media, yet little action is taken by these multibillion-pound firms to stop the thieves. Google has at last begun to refuse adverts for financial products that are not from firms registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. But others have not done that, which is why one bank, Starling, pulled its own adverts from Facebook and Instagram last December. Starling chief executive Anne Boden told me: “We’ve stopped paid advertising until Meta, which now owns Facebook and Instagram, stops allowing criminals to advertise financial scams.

At the moment criminals pay Facebook to run ads for money scams, investment scams and all sorts of scams to entice people to give their money away to fraudsters.” With most media firms doing nothing to prevent these crimes and the police doing little to catch the thieves, we must protect ourselves.

Never respond to a cold call or text or email. Assume they are from thieves. If you think the call might be genuine, find the correct number on a bank card or letter and call the bank. Never respond to any financial invitation or advice on social media such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok.  Assume that that, too, is a fraud.

Many people out there are no different from someone who tries to sell you a watch on the street while his mate picks your pocket.

 

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