Financial fraud is a growing problem around the world thanks to advances in communications technology. We outline what you can do to try to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of fraud, and what Barclays International Banking is doing to help strengthen your security and its own.

Advances in communications technology have transformed the financial services industry in recent years. The internet and the mobile phone have, in particular, made banking much more convenient and easy for people around the world. Yet criminals have also learned how to turn such technologies to their own advantage and they are becoming more active – and creative – in their attempts to commit fraud.

A recent survey by the Russian internet security company Kaspersky found that the number of so-called “phishing” attacks on internet users rose by 87 per cent worldwide in the year to April 2013. Phishing is a type of online fraud in which criminals create a fake copy of a popular website (e.g. an online banking website) and then attempt to lure people to it, for the purpose of acquiring their passwords, card numbers and other personal details.

What’s more, the number of types of online and phone-based fraud is increasing. Phishing has recently been joined by “vishing” and “smishing”, which use voice calls and text messages respectively to play the same tricks. And entirely new types of fraud continue to appear. The so-called “courier scam”, for example, has recently become widespread: its aim is to trick you into handing over bank cards and personal identification numbers (PINs) to a courier on your doorstep.

The courier scam begins with a phone call that claims to be from your bank or the police, stating that your card needs to be replaced urgently and that a courier will be sent to your home to collect it. To reassure you that the call is genuine, the fraudster will suggest that you hang up and ring your bank or the police straight away. However, they won’t disconnect the call at their end. As a result, you’ll end up talking to the fraudster no matter which number you dial next.

The UK’s state-run fraud and internet crime reporting centre, ActionFraud, now lists 30 different types of online fraud on its website, including:

  • loan scams, in which a fake lender offers to provide the victim with a loan regardless of their credit history and then demands an up-front payment for fake “loan insurance”;
  • “money muling”, in which the victim is persuaded to break the law by transferring stolen money from one country to another; and
  • account takeovers, in which the fraudster acquires enough information about the victim to take control of an online account and make unauthorised transactions.

Communications advances are also giving criminals new ways to play old tricks. Consider, for example, the so-called “boiler room” scam, in which fraudsters telephone their victims and attempt to sell them poor-quality or worthless investments using high-pressure selling techniques.

Boiler rooms have been around for decades, but have become more widespread in recent years as telecommunications costs have fallen worldwide. In particular, they have taken advantage of lower international call costs to work across borders – targeting investors in developed countries from other jurisdictions where the legal systems are weaker and they are at less risk of prosecution.

In the UK, share fraud alone accounts for £200m a year, according to the Financial Conduct Authority. This includes the sale of overpriced, fake and non-existent shares via boiler rooms and other methods.

How simple habits can help protect your wealth

Despite the creativity shown by today’s criminals, it is possible to help prevent yourself falling victim to such scams by following some simple guidance. Most importantly, you should never give away any personal information without first checking you are talking to a genuine representative, or accessing the genuine website, of a reputable organisation.

Telltale signs of a fake website can include an incorrect URL (web address), poor spelling and grammar, and bad artwork. It’s also a good idea to check that the security settings on your web browser are enabled – most browsers will alert you if they think you are viewing a fake site, although you should never rely solely on this.

You should also ensure that you have adequate anti-virus software on your computer and check regularly that it is up-to-date – the same should go for your web browser and all your software, including your computer’s operating system.

If you’re entering personal information, such as a password or bank account details, onto any website, you should always check the address begins with “https” – the “s” signifies that the data you enter will be encrypted (a padlock symbol should also appear in your browser’s address bar).

You should also be vigilant where e-mail is concerned. A fraudster with access to your personal e-mail accounts could pretend to be you, in order to gain further information about you or to request things from other organisations without your knowledge. For each of your e-mail accounts, you should use a different password that contains at least eight characters with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and keyboard symbols (for example $ecurePassword1).

If you believe one of your e-mail accounts has been compromised, you should sign in to that account and change the password immediately. If you cannot access the account, you should contact your e-mail service provider immediately, as the password may have been changed by someone else.

E-mail can be used in all sorts of other ways by fraudsters: for example, to infect your computer with viruses that steal your personal information without you realising. Banks and other financial institutions would never send you an e-mail asking you to click on a link and confirm your details, or to give away your PIN or passwords. And if you receive an attachment via e-mail then you should be especially cautious – even if it looks like the message in question has come from a trusted source.

If you’re suspicious about an e-mail that claims to be from Barclays, please forward it to internetsecurity@barclays.co.uk and then delete it. This will help us to make sure nobody falls victim to the same trick and to improve our security. There’s no need to call us unless you believe you’ve disclosed your personal details or suffered a fraud, but if you have any concerns at all then please speak to one of our Service Executives on +44 (0)20 7574 3212*.

We also recommend that you do the following:

  • Always check your statements carefully for any unexpected transactions.
  • If you notice something odd about any financial transaction, call us as soon as possible on +44 (0)20 7574 3212*.
  •  Check credit ratings and records regularly to ensure your ratings have not been compromised by identity theft.
  • Shred any personal documents that you no longer need.
  • Do not use the same password for multiple online accounts.
  • Use anti-virus software and a personal firewall to guard against online threats.
  • Beware of opening attachments sent via e-mail if you don’t recognise the sender.
  • Configure your privacy settings on social networks and public forums so that you do not give away personal information that fraudsters could use to impersonate you.

You can find out more about how to protect yourself from financial fraudsters by visiting our website, where you will also find useful links to fraud prevention websites.

What Barclays International Banking is doing to help protect you and us

Barclays International Banking is continually looking for new ways to strengthen client security, and has pioneered the use of new technologies in this area. For example, our voice biometric technology enables you to identify yourself over the telephone without the need for PINS or passwords. Everyone’s voice is unique, so our technology uses the sound of each client’s voice as a “biometric signature”. Whenever you call, you can therefore start doing everyday things such as checking your balance, arranging payments and setting up standing orders without getting slowed down by security.

Meanwhile, our Text Message Service enables you to set up alerts so that, whenever a new payment instruction is set up on your account, a text message is sent to your mobile phone. It also enables you to change your passcode and memorable word (please note you will then need to log into online banking to reset these). This is useful if you are concerned that your details may have been compromised and you wish to ensure that no one else can access your account.

What to do if you have any security concerns

If you spot any transactions on your account that you do not recognise, make sure you call us straight away on +44 (0) 20 7574 3212* so we can investigate the transaction in question and go through any security concerns you may have.

If anyone contacts you offering investments or unsolicited advice, be very cautious.