Don’t fall victim to financial fraudsters like TV’s Helen Skelton did! Hang up if in doubt

PUBLISHED: 20:17 12 September 2019 | UPDATED: 20:17 12 September 2019

Helen Skelton, who has revealed she was conned out of £70,000 by fraudsters

Helen Skelton, who has revealed she was conned out of £70,000 by fraudsters


Online fraudsters are getting cleverer in how they target victims. Nick Conrad says be extra vigilent, even if you think the call is from your real bank

Beware, you could be 'spoofed' or 'cloned.' Although this might sound like a plot from a sci-fi horror movie, sadly it is reality. It's happening every day here in Norfolk.

So, what's going on? Scammers can do what's called 'spoofing', where the number you see on your phone isn't the real one. Con-artists do it to pretend to be from organisations like banks and HMRC. Unsuspecting victims answer the phone, lulled into a false sense of security. After all, if the call wasn't genuine how can they call from a recognised business number?

This 'spoofing' has led to a businessman in The Broads being bombarded with calls. This week on my BBC Radio Norfolk Breakfast Show I heard from David Wall. He runs a vintage car restoration garage on the outskirts of Wroxham. His number has been hijacked by scammers who targeted would-be victims in the UK. Clearly the 01603 number makes the scam look more plausible. The whole experience has had a huge impact on David's business, as irritated callers ring his number back.

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These odious criminals are getting even more sophisticated when it comes to trying to trick you over the phone. With the emergence of new technology comes greater opportunity for these thieves to target the public. Sadly, the tsunami of these calls won't abate. According to the fraud watchdog, Financial Action UK, the number of cases reported has doubled. This is, in part, down to a crackdown on another form of telephone scam, known as vishing. This is where scammers call someone and tell them to call them back on the helpline number for the bank.

However, they keep the line open when the victim hangs up, so they are still connected. Previously calls could remain connected in this way for up to two minutes, but a crackdown has seen this reduced to seconds. As a result, scammers are turning to the easier alternative of phone spoofing.

To suggest that only the elderly and vulnerable are targeted would be false. This week TV presenter Helen Skelton revealed that she was conned out of £70,000. The huge, hard-earned sum was snatched away from Helen after she was asked just a few questions about her account. She's now gone public with her story in the hope of promoting a culture of suspicion when you receive a call.

But last week this attitude led to a rather irritating problem for me. I received a call from 'my bank' claiming they wanted to talk to me about suspicious activity on my account. Although the call seemed quite plausible, I thought I'd ask a few probing questions. I asked for a number to contact this particular bank department on and once checking it out online realised that the call was legitimate. Sadly, I left it more than 24 hours before returning the call and subsequently they froze my account.

Trying to unlock the funds was a frustratingly painful process. On the one hand I'm delighted the bank are putting these safeguards in place, on the other sorting out the issue was irritating.

Please do treat any communication with a degree of suspicion. It's impossible to know who to trust and what is malicious and what's genuine. 
If in doubt hang up, find the number and call them back. Check all emails carefully. A real company will never mind you being cautious!

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