Don’t fall for the account switch scam
Published 23 April 2016
Fraudsters are always looking for new ways to get their hands on your money – the account switch scam is their latest trick.
Fraudsters use a number of tricks to scam their victims and phishing is a common one. In recent months, an email scam dubbed the ‘account switch scam’ has seen a rise in victims.
According to the BBC, more than 5,000 people were conned into unknowingly sending payments to fraudsters’ bank accounts last year. With this scam currently on the rise, we’re going to take you through what to look out for.
The scam – also known as ‘mandate scam’ or ‘invoice scam’ – involves fraudsters using email to fool their victims into sending a payment into a criminal’s account. This means the person they were actually trying to send money to doesn’t get anything.
In general, this scam tends to happen when a computer (or company’s IT system) is infected with malware – often by email – that allows criminals to spy on emails and contact customers. They send an email to a victim claiming to be from the company and explain that an upcoming payment now has to be made to a different bank account.
There are numerous causes for this but common excuses include recently switching accounts or the auditing of an old account. As the email comes from the same address, the victim has little to be suspicious of and transfers the money over swiftly using the details given. The victims often don’t realise anything is wrong until they hear from the real business owner.
The homebuyer deposit scam is a perfect example of this type of con. Another form of this scam sees a criminal pretend to be someone senior in a company and email a junior staff member asking them to make a business payment – this is known as CEO fraud.
In 2015, the police recorded a total of 5,480 cases of this type of scam. To make sure you’re not the next victim of a phishing scam like this, remember the following.
• Be suspicious of any emails that include a new set of bank account details. Speak to the business you’re dealing with on a number you’ve used before, if you’re unsure.
• Look at all emails closely, if it contains unusual language or a different format from before you should be suspicious.
• Never transfer all of the money requested in one go. Do a test run first, by transferring a small amount – for example, £1 – and then get in touch with the company to see whether they received it.
• Make sure you have up-to-date antivirus software installed on your computer. There are a number of free programmes available including AVG, Avast and Panda Security.
• Be sure that all email passwords are robust and unique. A strong password should include upper and lower case letters, symbols and numbers. For more tips on how to choose a strong password, check out our blog.
If you think you’ve already fallen for a scam like this, get in touch with your bank immediately. Then report the scam to Action Fraud.