The Financial Ombudsman Service says people are being contacted by scammers pretending to be from the service in a bid to access their financial information.
The ombudsman says that it will never call or email anyone to ask for such details unless it was connected with an ongoing case, nor would it ever ask for money or pay out compensation directly.
If the ombudsman rules in the customer’s favour it’ll tell the defending business to pay out compensation, rather than the ombudsman itself paying out. Correspondence from the ombudsman telling you that it owes you money should be treated with caution.
To check if it's a genuine call you can ring the ombudsman helpline on 0300 123 9 123.
The ombudsman said that it is not investigating any particular scammers, but is keeping track of the situation through its security team.
Cybercrime is rife
Last year the police fraud and cybercrime reporting centre received 8,000 reports a month on average, with 96,699 people reporting that they had received a phishing scam.
More than 68% said they’d received it in the form of an email, compared to just 12.5% of people who were contacted by phone. A slightly smaller 8.9% said they received text messages and the rest said that they were contacted in another way.
According to a report by Verizon, it takes scammers just 82 seconds to trap the average victim in a phishing scam and in most cases 23% of people will open a phishing email.
In December the most common phishing scammers claimed to be from a bank or from HMRC, followed by online payment merchants and utility companies.
Over the course of a month, 31% of all phishing scams reported to Action Fraud contained a potentially malicious hyperlink. If clicked, it could install malware onto the victim’s device or trick them into providing personal information.
Action Fraud reveals that phishing emails used specific subject headings to ensure recipients would open them. For phishing emails, the most common message title is ‘Attention’ followed by others such as ‘Your account has been revoked’, ‘Hello’ and ‘Important Notification’.
You can report any suspicious emails to Action Fraud.
Keep an eye out for number spoofers too. Some scammers have the ability to intercept your caller ID to make it look like they’re calling from a legitimate organisation.
This also goes for spoofing email addresses.
Contact the sender directly through a number or email address you trust to make sure that it’s them. Similarly, you should go directly to the website if there’s a link in an email that you don’t trust.
But before you do, hover over the link with the mouse to see where it’ll really take you.
Of course, the same general advice applies to all scams. Don’t give out any personal information or open any emails unless you are absolutely sure of who the sender is.
Companies won't send you unsolicited emails or phone you up to collect your personal or banking details.