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UK banks and police proffer anti-phishing advice

Beware of the two-tiered email scam

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The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) and the UK banking industry today issued guidelines to help consumers protect themselves against Internet fraudsters.

The advice was prompted by a two-tiered email scam that has emerged in the past two months.

The first part of the scam involves emails being sent to UK consumers claiming to be from UK banks, asking them to "re-register" or "reactivate" their accounts at a replica bank website.

Typically, the fraudsters behind these "phishing" scams are located outside the UK and, as they are unable to transfer money directly out of their victims' online account overseas, they need a UK intermediary.

That leads to part two of the scam. This involves spam emails being sent to people offering them the chance to make some easy money by acting as a UK agent to a business overseas. They are asked to receive funds into their account and send them on overseas, less a certain commission. If someone agrees to do so, their account is used as part of the scam to send on stolen funds to the fraudsters overseas.

According to the NHCTU, fraudsters have been sending spam emails with fake job offers and advertising dummy jobs on recruitment websites to lure consumers to act as their UK agent in fraudulent money transfer schemes.

Although all the early indications are that very few people have been successfully duped by these scams - and the likelihood of falling victim to any type of Internet fraud is very low – there’s still a need to educate the general public.

"We know that many of these 'funds transfer scams' involve the proceeds of fraud and consumers who participate in these schemes are likely to become embroiled in a police investigation,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Len Hynds, head of the UK’s NHCTU.

“The message is - don't allow yourself to be duped. Remember, if an unsolicited money-making offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is."

David Lennox, director, fraud & physical security at the British Bankers' Association (BBA), comments: "The threats in the online world are the same as in the offline world. While these types of fraud have always been with us, the Internet is now being used as the preferred medium for attempting to carry them out".

Tips for staying safe online

The NHCTU has combined with the BBA and the Association for Payment Clearing Services in compiling a list of tips for staying safe online. The checklist, largely commonsense advice, contains the following pointers:

  • Know who you are dealing with - Always access Internet banking by typing the bank's address into your web browser. Never go to a website from a link in an email and enter personal details. If in doubt, contact the bank separately on an advertised number.
  • Keep passwords and PINS safe - Always be wary of unsolicited emails or calls asking you to disclose any personal details or card numbers. Keep this information secret. Be wary of disclosing any personal information to someone you don't know. Your bank and the police would never contact you to ask you to disclose PINs or all your password information.
  • Keep hold of your cash! - Don't be conned by convincing emails offering you the chance to make some easy money. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is! Be especially wary of unsolicited emails from outside the UK.
  • Keep your PC secure - Use up-to-date anti-virus software, security patches and a personal firewall. Be extra careful if using Internet cafes or any PC which is not your own and over which you have no control.
  • Check your bank's website - If in doubt, a good place to get help and guidance on how to stay safe online is your bank's website.
  • Check your statement - If you notice anything irregular on your account contact your bank immediately.

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