Client Affairs

Weatherbys Steps Up Fraud Awareness

Jackie Bennion Deputy Editor 29 January 2021

Weatherbys Steps Up Fraud Awareness

The pandemic has arguably created an open season for cyber criminals. UK consumers have higher than average susceptibility and more sophisticated investors are being caught in cloning scams.

Following grim UK cybercrime figures, Weatherbys Private Bank has launched a new anti-fraud campaign to alert clients to the mounting sophistication of online fraudsters.

PwC’s latest report found that 56 per cent of UK individuals have experienced economic crime over the last two years, higher than the global average of 47 per cent. Other reports have shown that breaches exploiting pandemic constraints are on the rise, with the Royal Mail, Amazon and the NHS all recent high-profile targets.

Weatherbys says it has run instructive webinars with a police fraud and cyber unit to heighten vigilance. Virtually all the attendees reported receiving at least one fraudulent call and a third said that they were nervous about communicating or transacting online, the private bank said.

“Fraudsters have changed tactics towards more online scams, such as fake investments promoted on search engines. In the first half of 2020 the banking and finance industry prevented £853 million ($1.172 billion) of attempted unauthorised fraud,” Quentin Marshall, head of Weatherbys, said.

The FCA warned yesterday about the pernicious rise of cloned sites that are tripping up even more sophisticated investors. The watchdog said that scams involving these fake sites rose by 30 per cent in the first month of lockdowns.

Action Fraud estimates that the practice lost consumers around £80 million last year. It is where fraudsters set up fake firms using the name, address and Firm Reference Number (FRN) of real companies authorised by the FCA to lure investors.

The FCA updates a list of “rogue" firms daily and advises investors to check it.

“Clone investment scams can look real and sophisticated but anyone can spot them by following our advice,” Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA said.

“Fraudsters use literature and websites that mirror those of legitimate firms as well as encouraging investors to check the FRN on the FCA register to sound as convincing as possible,” Steward explained.

Last year the City watchdog issued alerts on more than 1,100 firms, more than double from the year before.

“If you’re considering an investment, visit the FCA register to make sure the firm you’re dealing with is authorised. Check our warning list of firms you should avoid, use the contact details on our FCA Register, not the details the firm gives you, and check for subtle differences to avoid ‘clone firm’ scams,” Stewart said.

“I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to double check every detail,” he added.

Broad range
Weatherbys told this service that the fraud team is seeing a broad spectrum of issues across ages. “Many people on our last webinar assumed that the over 75s would be more vulnerable, but this is not the case. Calls and emails tend to be the main direct source and this has increased over the past year. In the last six months, there has been an increase in text phishing scams and ongoing fraud attempts via cheque and invoice," fraud investigation manager Heidi Symonds, said.

"One thing we have noticed is that many people do not always know who to report fraud to personally in addition to their bank,” she added.

The private bank, with investment roots dating back to the 1770s, launched the campaign to raise awareness of current scams but also to help clients detect fraud before it happens. This involves sharing ongoing scams, hosting webinars with fraud specialists and resources into training staff to spot if a client is a potential victim. It issued a new cheque book service in December with a unique identifier code as an additional measure for clients who still prefer to transact in that way.

“Banks and financial institutions have a moral duty to help educate and protect their clients from fraud.  I am pleased to report we have a high success rate in stopping such crimes, but prevention is better than a cure and the best weapon to defend yourself with is knowledge,” Marshall, head of Weatherbys, said.

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