Aviva backs calls for Government crackdown on financial fraud

Pension giant Aviva backs calls for Government crackdown on financial fraud after its brand is hijacked by criminals

  • At least 27 fake websites were set up in Aviva’s name to dupe unsuspecting victims into handing over cash 
  • The pension giant warned that shutting down the scammer websites is like playing ‘whack-a-mole’ under the current rules 
  • Our Stamp Out Investment Fraud campaign demands web giants are made legally responsible for removing scams from their platforms

Aviva has backed calls for a Government crackdown on financial fraud after its brand was hijacked by criminals. 

At least 27 fake websites were set up in Aviva’s name to dupe unsuspecting victims into handing over cash. 

The £16billion pension giant warned that shutting down the scammer websites is like playing ‘whack-a-mole’ under the current rules. 

Finger on the pulse: Aviva is demanding internet companies be held to account as part of the forthcoming Online Safety Bill

It demanded internet companies be held to account as part of the forthcoming Online Safety Bill. There is widespread anger that financial fraud has been left out of the flagship legislation. 

The Mail’s Stamp Out Investment Fraud campaign, launched last week, demands web giants are made legally responsible for removing scams from their platforms. 

Aviva UK financial crime risk director Paul Pisano said: ‘We believe the Online Safety Bill presents an opportunity to protect financial services consumers. 

‘That would mean the online publisher would have to ensure that any financial promotion which they communicate has first been approved by an authorised person. Our concern is centred on the sharp practices employed by the advertisers, which can mislead consumers and put them at risk of financial harm.’ 

Last year Aviva’s Peter Hazelwood told MPs that web giants were acting as both ‘enablers’ and ‘accelerants’ of online investment fraud. 

Platforms profit from hosting ads while letting criminals ‘slip through the net’, he said, adding that it usually took three weeks to get scams removed. 

‘It is like a whack-a-mole approach,’ Hazelwood told the Commons work and pensions committee. 

Natwest has also backed the Mail’s campaign. Retail banking chief David Lindberg said: ‘Scammers commit crimes that impact across the UK. 

‘We need to bring a full range of tools to bear on them – including tougher legislation.’

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Fraud refunds ‘under threat’ after rule change

Refunds for scam victims ‘under threat’ following changes to vital scheme that makes banks cough up

Scam victims could find it harder to get their money back from their bank following changes to a vital fraud refund scheme.

Under rules set out by a voluntary code of conduct launched in May 2019, banks must reimburse blameless customers tricked into transferring money to crooks. 

Firms which fail to prevent the customer’s losses are responsible for providing the refund. 

Under rules set out by a voluntary code of conduct launched in May 2019, banks must reimburse blameless customers tricked into transferring money to crooks

If both the customer’s and fraudster’s provider fail to meet the standard, they split the cost of reimbursing the customer.

In a ‘no-blame’ scenario, when all parties did all they could, the refund was paid from a central pot of money. 

But as of last Friday, the nine providers who signed up to the code will be responsible for repaying their own defrauded customers. 

Experts warn it could lead to more innocent fraud victims being denied refunds. 

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Richard Emery, from fraud consultancy 4Keys International, says: ‘If banks are footing the bill for no-blame cases, there is a real risk of them pushing the responsibility on to customers.’ 

Trade body UK Finance denies the changes will impact customer reimbursement.

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Scam warning over Post Office shipping fee scam

New scam warning: Fake Post Office email asks people to pay ‘shipping fees’ to release non-existent deliveries

  • Scammers are sending fraudulent emails pretending to be the Post Office 
  • People are asked to click on a link to pay a shipping fee to release a delivery 
  • However, they could well be conned out of hundreds of pounds 

Scammers are targeting potential victims with emails pretending to be the Post Office asking them to send a payment to release packages.

Screenshots of the email show the fraudsters telling the recipient there is a parcel waiting for them but they must pay a shipping cost before it can be delivered.

A link is then attached which, if clicked on/and or completed, could put consumers at risk of fraud. 

Those who are expecting packages are most likely to be tricked while in appears scammers have wised up to the fact some delivery firms do ask for extra fees to be paid in order to release items. 

The scam emails show the fraudsters asking people to click on a link and make a payment – it was posted by the social media account of campaign Take Five

Experts are urging people to avoid clicking on any suspicious links and check with Royal Mail before paying anything. 

There has been a rise in package scams since the lockdown with more people shopping online and receiving deliveries.

However, if anyone does click on the link, it will take them to a fraudulent website which asks for personal and payment details.

Anyone affected can report a scam to Action Fraud or for email scams contact the National Cyber Security Centre. 

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: ‘Criminals have been capitalising on the pandemic to commit fraud. 

‘With many people still working and shopping from home, fraudsters are sending scam emails and texts that impersonate trusted organisations such as Royal Mail and parcel delivery companies. 

‘Often these scams will claim a parcel hasn’t been delivered as a way to trick people into giving away their personal and financial details, which are then used to commit fraud.

‘We would always urge the public to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and remain vigilant against these scams. 

‘If you receive a text message, phone call or email claiming to be from a trusted organisation like a parcel delivery company, stop and think before you part with your money or information and don’t click on any links or attachments in case it’s a scam.’

People are being urged to check with Royal Mail before paying any unrecognised charges

People are being urged to check with Royal Mail before paying any unrecognised charges

Many may believe the emails are legitimate as there has been a rise in consumers being charged ‘unknown’ shipping fees by courier firms.

This is Money has recently reported that UPS has been wrongly charging some customers hundreds of pounds in shipping charges.

Many have been asked to pay in cash or by card to an unknown driver on their doorstep and have been concerned about doing so, especially as the extra fee often cannot be explained. 

Others have said they found it difficult to contact their courier company to find out whether the charges they were faced with were correct or not. 

Confusion has also arisen since Brexit as more people will now have to pay VAT and customs duty when ordering from abroad.

However, these fees are not always clearly laid out, leaving some with a shock charge.  

Customers are now urged check before ordering something what the extra fees might be and how much this will cost. 

There has been a rise in scammers targeting customers after a surge in online shopping of late

There has been a rise in scammers targeting customers after a surge in online shopping of late

How to avoid being scammed 

People are encouraged to follow the advice of UK Finance’s the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign:

1. Remember that criminals will send out phishing emails with links leading to fake websites used to steal personal and financial information. 

These emails may appear to be from trusted organisations and may use official branding to convince you they’re genuine. 

Always access websites by typing them into the web browser and avoid clicking on links in emails.

2. Remain vigilant and check delivery notifications very carefully to ensure they are genuine. 

Emails, texts or cards through your letterbox may look very similar to those that are genuine but may use generic greetings, such as Dear Sir/Madam, or include spelling errors.

3. Always question claims that you are due goods or services that you haven’t ordered or are unaware of, especially if you have to pay any fees upfront. 

Consider whether you’re expecting a delivery from the company named on the card.

4. If you receive a delivery card through your letterbox which you do not believe is genuine and which asks you to dial a premium rate number, contact the company direct, using a number you know to be genuine. 

5. Criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. They spend hours researching you for their scams, hoping you’ll let your guard down for just a moment. 

Stop and think – avoid clicking on links in an email or text message as they might be scams.

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Banks MUST do more to help victims of fraud

Banks are STILL blaming the victims of sophisticated transfer scams in the majority of cases – we need an urgent overhaul of the refund rules, warns GARETH SHAW of Which?

Given that we rely on banks to keep our money safe, it’s reasonable to expect they would be on your side in the event a fraudster runs off with your savings. 

But if you find yourself the victim of a bank transfer scam, there’s no industry less likely to stick to the old adage that ‘the customer is always right’. Instead, the customer is – the majority of the time – wrong. 

Some banks are blaming customers for the consequences of this crime in a startlingly high proportion of decisions, including two firms that have held scam victims fully responsible for their losses on more than nine in ten occasions. 

Breaking the chain: Some banks are blaming customers for the consequences in a startlingly high proportion of decisions

This is despite these banks being signed up to an industry code designed to ensure that victims of bank transfer scams are reimbursed for their losses when they are not at fault. 

Reimbursement rates are too low and Which? believes this is because firms are acting unfairly by regularly pointing the finger of blame at customers – even though many of the crimes are highly sophisticated. 

This means that for many, the shock and dismay of realising they have been scammed is just the start of their ordeal. 

They find that when they go to their bank for help – perhaps a firm they have banked with for decades – they are the ones given a grilling and made to feel like they are to blame for their misfortune. 

Scammers often come armed with a wealth of stolen personal information, sometimes including a record of recent bank transactions. 

They can insert themselves into a legitimate chain of text messages from their victim’s bank or impersonate a solicitor at exactly the time the victim is expecting to transfer the deposit for their new house. 

All the evidence suggests that some of the same banks that helped create the industry code are now choosing to wrongly interpret it 

They pay to place enticing and convincing adverts for fake or dodgy products on search engines and social media platforms we use every day. 

Banks know all this, but they then dismiss it, arguing that customers should always do more to check that the payment they are making is to a legitimate company. 

All the evidence suggests that some of the same banks that helped create the industry code are now choosing to wrongly interpret it. 

As cases investigated by the Financial Ombudsman Service and Which? show, the arguments put forward by banks are often deeply flawed and lacking in evidence – and lead to unfair and inconsistent decisions. 

The body responsible for monitoring the code has found that fraud warnings put in place by the banks are often inadequate, and the Financial Ombudsman Service frequently upholds decisions on this type of crime in the customer’s favour. 

As a result, just £147million of losses totalling £311.8million were reimbursed last year, a level which the payments regulator says is too low. 

To make matters worse, consumers don’t know which firms are wriggling out of their responsibilities by blaming their customers – and which are treating their customers with more understanding. 

This is because banks signed up to the code are not required to publish the figures that will show how each of them is dealing with the problem. 

Major improvements are needed urgently. 

We need a mandatory set of protections that all banks and payment providers must adhere to, and tough enforcement measures for firms that don’t follow the rules that will ensure more victims get their money back. 

Banks must be ordered to publish regular data on their prevention and reimbursement rates. 

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Let the customer decide if they want to have their account with a bank that won’t be there for them should the worst happen. 

These changes can’t afford to wait. With every day of delay, criminals are making off with millions of bank customers’ pounds. 

The result? More lives destroyed as lifetimes of hard work and careful saving vanish at the panicked click of a button.

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