The year 2020 was tough, but what makes it even tougher is the financial ramification it brought. 2020 started one of the worst recessions to happen in history with hundreds of thousands of jobs lost at the end of 2020 and more expected in 2021. What generally happens in a society that is facing financial austerity is an increase in the crime rate; especially financial crimes as people become more desperate. This is why we decided to do a post on fraud, as many people (both individuals and businesses) are now experiencing some form of fraud. Businesses experience the most fraud (reporting 65% of fraud) and the rest of the victims are individuals.
What is Fraud?
Fraud is a deceitful act where individual/s tries to gain financial advantages dishonestly over another person or business.
Fraud cost the UK around £130bn to £190bn a year, according to the Action Fraud Police website.
What are the most common Frauds?
Phishing; This is when fraudsters attempt to access an individual’s sensitive data (such as bank details, user name, password, card payment details, etc.). They pretend to be part of a trustworthy and respective organisation, through any communication method such as text, email, phone call, etc. This fraud requires the data entry of sensitive data by clicking or visiting a fake link.
- Most Common Impersonated Companies
Banks and Building Society: Fraudsters love to disguise themselves as a Bank or Building Society, especially via email communication.
Governmental Departments: The most governmental department fraudsters impersonate is HMRC (Her Majesty Revenue and Custom), aka the Tax Man. Now DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) is on fraudsters list for car tax fraud. NHS (National Health Service) is also on the list for fraudsters but it is mostly aimed at NHS staff members.
Investment Scam; This is when fraudsters use pressurised, extremely intensive and persuasive sales techniques to lure their victims to invest in non-existing, worthless or cloned products such as gold, properties, lands, wines, painting, cryptocurrencies and carbon credits.
Invoice Scam; This is fraud is aimed at businesses. It is when fraudsters email a fraudulent invoice for a transaction (such as products or services) that did not take place.
Insurance; In the UK the most common insurance fraud in the UK is car insurance, where fraudsters pretend that their car is stolen or they cause car accident on purpose by pulling out unexpectedly, breaking sharply, reversing or slowing down unnecessarily too. These incidents usually take place at roundabout and junctions but it can also take place at motorways and dual carriageway.
Customer; This involves a wide verity of frauds that consumers can experience such as dodgy tradesmen, call centre cold calls, shopping fraud, online shopping, premium rate call lines, etc. Also, some businesses may illegally charge far more than the set price on items the government issues- This involves a wide variety of frauds that consumers can experience such as dodgy tradesmen, call centre cold calls, shopping fraud, online shopping, premium rate call lines, etc. Also, some businesses may illegally charge far more than the set price on items the government issues- this is an illegal practice and cross-reference with the going rate (this is where it is great to have smartphones). Items that this can be done things like postage stamps.
International Investment Scam; This is when either a Solicitor (Lawyer in the US) or some random family member a deceased person requests financial support, helping them get the inheritance, for a bigger return once the inheritance is released.
How to Spot A Fraud?
- Language: Phishing frauds are usually poorly written and are extremely vague. It also doesn’t usually address the recipient in the correct tone, manner or even name.
- Format: The presentation of phishing is not in the same format the company they are disguising uses. For example, individual banks and building societies follow a format and presentation they use to email their customer. Governmental Departments have a very strict format in how they contact their clients and it doesn’t involve any of the phishing methods. Governmental departments hardly contact customers to voluntarily offer to give them money, such as a refund or overpayment. It is usually the customers who act on this first by filling out a very long, winded-form (that probably requires months to fill and digging Great Great Grandmothers for their inputs) from either their GOV.UK website or the Post Office.
- Legal Source: Check out the source (i.e., email address, telephone number, etc.) of the email and telephone number. Please know that if the email doesn’t end with .gov.uk for example, it is highly unlikely coming from a governmental department, such as HMRC and DVLA as it is illegal for the none governmental body to use this domain. Also, banks, building societies and governmental department rarely use the mobile phone numbers to contact customers.
- Illegal Calls: It’s illegal for anyone to cold call you for potential investment here in the UK and if such call is received, it is highly likely that this is a scam.
- (FCA) Financial Conduct Authority: If the investment company is not listed in the FCA Financial Service Register, then be careful as all legitimate investment and financial companies are listed in this register. The FCA is the UK official financial regulating body.
- Recognition: Ensure you recognised the companies you have done businesses.
- Be Aware: pay close attention to the road and the driver in front and by the side of you.
- Research: Research the companies you want to have some form of consumer/business relationship with. There are different business structures in the UK depending on the type of business; the most common for SME (small or medium-sized enterprise) business structures are Private Limited companies (limited companies) and Sole Traders. Limited companies have to be registered with Companies House; this is a good place to start your research.
- Business Dealing: Phishing fraudsters send large communication hoping someone takes the bait. If you have never done any business with that company, it is a fraud; this tends to be the case with the Banks and Building Societies.
Who is at Risk?
Anyone and everyone is at risk, especially businesses (see the statistic above). With individual, it is reported that young people are now more at risks more than a then older generation.
How to Be Protected?
- Research: Research the company that is contacting you. Research the name, email address and even number (if it is a landline). Research the industry (especially investment) and research any regulating bodies in the industry. Find out if the company is part of that body (Don’t just take the company’s word for it). Remember some professionals has to be part of a regulating body for them to be legally recognised and work (i.e., medical and health industry-such as doctors, nurses, etc.; gas engineers, etc).
- Recommendations and Review: Get recommendations or look at the reviews (many start-ups may not have any reviews, which is why researching the company is very important). For Sole Traders- the recommendation is very important (please remember that this may not always protect you).
- Shop Around/Quotation: Shop around and see what the going rate. Seek more than one quote (rule of thumb tends to be 3) and where possible (especially with sole trader home renovation) go and physically see their work and talk to former customers (if possible).
- Call the Company: This is so important to phishing fraud. Please contact the company directly (research the real company’s number- HMRC, DVLA, your Bank, NHS, etc.). It is time-consuming (waiting 10 years on the phone whilst listening to a piece of repetitive classical music), but this will save you headache, heartache and potential financial troubles in the long run; as they will confirm how legit the contact/communication was.
- Online Protection: Invest in really good online antivirus protection. These antivirus protections are sophisticated and can do more than protect you from virus; it can also protect you from identity theft, allow a safer way to make payment online, secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) and so much more.
Reporting A Fraud
Police/999: First point of contact if you or someone you know may be in immediate danger or at risk of harm.
Action Fraud: This is a section of the police, and they are the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau for fraud and scams. They can be contacted on 0300 123 2040 Monday to Friday 08:00 to 20:00. The number is the same for abroad with the added UK code which is +44. Those who are hard of hearing or deaf can dial 0300 123 2050. To make an online report click here. To find out more visit: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/
National Cyber Security Centre: This government department deals with all types of phishing, fraud and online security. They can stop and/or block the people from sending any more emails. Please note they don’t deal with crimes, Action Fraud is the organisation to contact for victims of fraud and scam crimes. A suspicious email should be forwarded to SERS (Suspicious Email Reporting Service) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Suspicious texts can be forward to this number: 7726
This list of contact was taken from the Department of Justice and this government website list all the different fraud department contact details:
If you are in need of legal advice, please contact your local bar association at www.findlegalhelp.org. The Fraud Section conducts criminal prosecutions and cannot provide legal advice to citizens.
If you would like to report fraud, please contact the appropriate investigative agency as follows:
Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft
Contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP, 1-877-ID-THEFT, or online at www.ftc.gov.
Contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866) 720-5721, by fax at (225) 334-4707 or submit a complaint through the NCDF Web Complaint Form.
Correspondence may be sent to:
National Center for Disaster Fraud
Baton Rouge, LA 70821-4909
General Fraud and Other Criminal Matters
Contact the FBI at (202) 324-3000, or online at www.fbi.gov or tips.fbi.gov.
Health Care Fraud, Medicare/Medicaid Fraud, and Related Matters
Contact the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-HHS-TIPS, or online at www.oig.hhs.gov.
Internet Fraud and Lottery/Sweepstakes Fraud by Internet
Contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) online at www.ic3.gov.
Mail Fraud and Lottery/Sweepstakes Fraud
Contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 1-800-372-8347, or online at postalinspectors.uspis.gov.
Contact the Securities and Exchange Commission at 1-800-SEC-0330, or online at www.sec.gov or www.sec.gov/complaint/select.shtml.
State and Local Fraud
Contact your local Police Department or State Attorney General’s Office
Police/112: First point of contact if you or someone you know may be in immediate danger or at risk of harm.
European Anti-Fraud Office: Fraud can be reported here
This website allows individuals from individual countries to report fraud and cyber-crimes to the official organisation assigned for this.
PS: There are some scams and fraud which are legal, it is rare but they exist. A perfect example is a logo. There are companies out there who will charge about £1000 to register company logos, but the official place to register your logo are Intellectual Property by the .gov.uk website (UK), USPTO website (US) and EUIPO for the rest of Europe, so start-ups beware.
Please note, that there are many more different types of fraud and these lists are not exhausted. One rule of thumb to remember: “If it is too good to be true, it probably is”. Don’t be a victim and be vigilant at all time.
Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash