Could scammers be listening in on calls to your bank?

Chris Torney / 10 June 2016

In a clever phone scam, criminals are tricking victims into calling their banks so they can listen in on the calls and steal their bank details.

Bank customers are being warned to watch out for a new type of phone scam that could result in criminals stealing money from their accounts.

The police-backed watchdog Action Fraud says that it has recently become aware of a new kind of “vishing” fraud, where victims are tricked into divulging personal and banking details over the phone.

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How does this new con work?

Action Fraud has uncovered evidence that shows criminals are sending letters, emails or text messages to people, asking them to contact their bank about an administrative or security issue. These communications provide a phone number to call which is run by the criminals. The call is then forwarded on to a genuine bank number.

However, because the call has been forwarded, the criminals are able to listen in and record the details shared by the customer with their bank. This could include the likes of their address, date of birth, passwords and answers to any security questions.

The victim’s suspicions are less likely to be aroused due to the fact that they are talking to an actual member of bank staff who will be able to give accurate account information, for example.

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What happens next?

Armed with the victim’s personal and security information, the criminals will later place their own call to the bank in question and impersonate the victim. In turn, they may be able to move money out of their accounts, as well as change address details and take out credit cards or loans in their victim’s name.

Even if the fraudsters are unable to access someone’s accounts, their failed attempts to do so could result in the customer being locked out of telephone banking until their identity can be confirmed in another way.

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How do I protect myself from this scam?

Action Fraud says it is not yet clear how the criminals are choosing their victims or how there are obtaining their address, email or phone details before making initial contact.

However, the organisation says that no one should provide their personal or financial details to an unsolicited caller.

If you are asked to contact your bank or any other financial organisation, you should do so directly using a number you trust or which you have taken from the company’s website or correspondence that you are sure is genuine – for example, a bank statement or a letter accompanying a new bank card.

Finally, Action Fraud says that when you phone your bank, you should ask for confirmation that any recent correspondence is genuine.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.