42% of Brits have been targeted by payment scams since March

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In October 2019, structural engineer Danny Smith received a call from HMRC saying that he had outstanding tax to pay. They knew his name, national insurance number, and a lot of specific private information. The number they called from was the one listed by HMRC on their website, and he could even hear an office hum in the background. Smith paid £937 via bank transfer to cover his tax bill. After receiving more official calls from the police & HMRC he paid a further £9,000 from his Monzo account. They weren’t from HMRC or the police. In a single day, he lost almost £10,000!

Unfortunately, Danny is not alone. In 2019, the UK saw a 50% increase in losses from bank transfer fraud, topping almost half a billion pounds and affecting hundreds of thousands of people. These individuals lost an average of £2800. Worryingly, the lockdown has accelerated this trend with 42% of Brits reporting to have been targeted during this period and 1 in 10 people aware of someone who has been defrauded. Only 25% of the stolen money was returned to its rightful owner in 2019.

Bank transfer scams are also known as ‘authorised push payment’ fraud, where you are tricked into sending money to a criminal, posing as someone legitimate, directly from your own bank or payment providers like Paypal or Pingit. Whilst the scams are becoming more sophisticated day by day they often follow a similar path, posing as official authorities, like HMRC, law firms, or your bank.

Historically, banks have given refunds when payments are fraudulently made without customers’ authorisation, but not when someone has been tricked into making a payment themselves. However, banks are beginning to sign up a voluntary code of practice to help reimburse victims, unless they ignored their bank’s warnings about the scam. Banks are also doing more to increase the visibility of whether payments are going to the person they should be. Although this is a step in the right direction, it hasn’t solved the problem. Since the introduction of the voluntary code, only 41% of defrauded payments were reimbursed.

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you keep your money safe:

  • Never disclose your pin or full password to anyone. Official organisations don’t ask for these details or request money transfers to other accounts.
  • If you get an unexpected call from an organisation, even if it looks like the correct number, contact the company directly using a trusted email or phone number listed on their website, to check the request is genuine.
  • Always question uninvited approaches asking for information — they could be scams.
  • Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected email or text.

With billx, you make secure payments using open banking. No info for hackers to swipe, secure bank verification and no card details to input. We also use a ‘request to pay’ process to validate legitimate payment requests, help verify identities with a few instant checks and make sure you know that your money is going to a legitimate party.

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