Apologies for the recent lack of posts, I was very nearly the victim of a banking scam. My Mac had to be taken away to be checked out and cleaned of any viruses or malware – unsettlingly, none were found.
HOW IT BEGAN
I received a text from NatWest. I knew it was them because it was the same number they always texted from, and I kept two messages from them on my mobile just to remind me it was the right number. You can’t fool me.
The format of the text was standard, a ‘suspicious’ transaction on my debit card to John Lewis for £1280 and a number for me to call. I went through my previous texts just to check, and the numbers I had to call were always different. You can’t fool me.
Being cautious though, I wrote the number down. I NEVER click a link on a text, not even to track deliveries. You can’t fool me.
I spoke to a man on the Fraud Prevention team and verified my name and customer number (which has my date of birth) and address. I heard the usual background noises of an office – nothing that sounded like a fake recording, I read the news. You can’t fool me.
He wasn’t overly nice, or overly curt, just normal, as if this was a routine he went through a lot. He said that particular transaction was blocked, but there were 3 ‘European’ transactions totalling over £7,000 that couldn’t be stopped and would leave my account that night.
I was in full on panic mode by now, but he reassured me NatWest could do something about it and asked if I had my card reader with me. I don’t use my card reader much, but did have it to hand.
As I was reaching for it, he said Nat West would create a special ‘holding account’ for me and transfer my money into it on a temporary basis.
I froze. It seems you CAN fool me.
‘Holding account’ is the key phrase to be aware of. NatWest, and I assume, other banking and building society institutions will not set up any such accounts to “keep your money safe.”
I hung up, blocked the number and rang the NatWest fraud team on a number I’d previously stored in my phone and which I knew was genuine – so why didn’t I do this in the first place?
All our accounts were frozen, including online banking.
I was told, in quite strong terms, never to use my Card Reader unless advised online by my bank when setting up a payment to someone I know. I was also advised to have my computer checked for viruses and malware immediately.
My bank card is protected by a RFID blocker (you can buy these on Amazon). They stop your bank card from being cloned if someone ‘bumps’ into you.
My eldest son showed me how it works. He downloaded an app, and brushed past my bag holding his phone, as if he’d knocked into me. My bank card was in a purse, in my bag. On his mobile was an exact copy of the front of my card.
So, my online security wasn’t compromised and neither was my bank card or my mobile (that was checked out too), yet they still managed to hack into and send a text from NatWest to my phone. Worrying isn’t it?
I’d like to say the number was unusual and had a strange prefix, but it was a common one sometimes used by my bank.
Mark rang this ‘scam’ number after I had told him what happened and of course, the line was dead. Next victim please!
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PROTECT YOURSELF?
DON’T rely on texts from your bank, they can be compromised.
STORE a number you know for certain is the bank’s fraud line and call them if you receive a text.
NEVER click a link in a text. Even when I’m sent a courier link to track delivery, or to confirm something, I don’t click on it, I’d rather type it out in full, or look it up online.
DO NOT use your card reader for anything other than an online payment via your bank’s website.
DON’T save your card details online, or with a retailer. Suck it up and re-enter details ‘fresh’ every time you make a purchase.
PASSWORDS – It’s a pain, but don’t have a password that’s an actual word, scammers run computer programmes specifically to sniff these out. Make it a jumble of letters (upper and lower case), numbers and symbols. Change it frequently.
Don’t be complacent. I’ve seen the tv adverts and read articles about scammers and scoffed at their victims. I thought how could anyone be so gullible, it was blindingly obvious they were being scammed. The thing is, it’s not like that in real life, banking fraud is a sophisticated business, they know exactly what they’re doing. Imagine if they used their brains to make their own money, instead of trying to steal ours?
We’ve told a lot of people about this experience, it’s always useful to share important information. People have suggested digital banking apps, such as Monzo, Starling and Revolut, which I will be researching. I didn’t have a banking app – I thought it would be too easy to hack…
We also learned that someone’s dad was a victim of the same fraud. Unfortunately, he did allow them to set up a holding account and he lost a substantial amount of money.
It’s a tough old world out there, stay alert.