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Impersonation scams: How to protect yourself

Isobel Lawrance 28th Sep 2021 One Comment

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Impersonation scams are when a criminal pretends to be someone from a trusted organisation or authority. This may include pretending to be someone from a bank, the police, a service provider, and even from a department within the government. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, scammers have even impersonated public health officials in order to pinch your hard-earned pennies.

The scammer will then trick individuals into transferring money by using various fake cover stories. Such stories include claiming your bank account needs to be protected from fraud, a fine or tax must be paid, or a refund that was given in error needs to be paid back.

With new research suggesting nearly a fifth of people find it difficult to say ‘no’ to the requests of strangers on the phone, the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign urges the public to challenge anyone who asks for financial information via the telephone.


Take Five to Stop Fraud

The Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign urges people to follow three steps to keep their personal information and money safe. These steps are Stop, Challenge and Protect, and will be discussed further on in this article.

The campaign also warns the public about the vast number of fraudulent calls, texts and emails across the UK, as numbers have increased greatly. New figures from UK Finance show the number of impersonation scam cases more than doubled in the first half of 2021, to a staggering 33,115 cases.

Shockingly, these scams resulted in criminals pocketing £129.4 million through impersonation fraud alone. In comparison, during the same period in 2020, there were only 14,947 impersonation scam cases, which resulted in £57.9 million stolen.

This highlights the huge increase in this type of scam, and how rapidly scammers are targeting the unsuspecting public.


Being too polite to say no

Research for the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign has found that 19% of the public feel uncomfortable saying ‘no’, when a stranger requests personal information via email or text. This statistic rises to almost a quarter of people (23%) when it comes to phone calls. This means almost a quarter of the population are open to falling victim to an impersonation scam.

But why do people feel they can’t say no?

Overall, 92% of people admit they say ‘yes’, because they don’t want to come across as rude. Instead of saying ‘no’, people prefer to use other phrases. These include ‘I’m not sure’, used by 37% of people, and ‘I don’t think so’, used by 34% of people. ‘Let me think about it’ and ‘I can’t at the moment’ were both also commonly used phrases.

However, phrases such as these can allow criminals a way in to manipulate and persuade their victims.


Three steps to stay safe


As mentioned previously, the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign urges the public to stay safe and keep their personal and financial information protected from scammers.

This includes following three important steps:

  1. STOP – Stop and think before parting with your money or information. Taking a moment before you do anything may keep you safe from a scam.
  2. CHALLENGE – If something doesn’t feel right, challenge the caller. Remember, it is always okay to reject or refuse any requests made. You can even totally ignore them, if you want to. Don’t feel pressured into anything. Legitimate callers, such as your bank or a government department, will understand your concerns, and be happy to answer any questions or worries you may have. Scammers are likely to either rush you or add pressure. They may even try to panic you into making a rash decision. It is better to be safe than sorry, so don’t be afraid to ask questions, or hang up if you get a bad feeling.
  3. PROTECT – If you think you or someone you know may have fallen victim to a scam, contact your bank immediately. You are also advised to report it to Action Fraud. Your help may prevent further scams from taking place.

Even if you think you know how to protect yourself from scammers, it is always important to remain alert and up to date with the latest scams. Even the savviest of people can become victims. Not to mention, criminals are finding new and clever ways to trick you out of your money, both online and in person.


Comment from a fraud expert

Tony Blake, Take Five fraud expert, said:

“Criminals are experts at pretending to be someone they are not – and can fool even the savviest of people, who don’t want to seem rude.

“If someone contacts you unprompted and asks for personal or financial information, stop and take a moment to think – even if they claim to be from an organisation you trust. Only criminals will put pressure on you to act quickly. Remember it’s ok to say no and contact the organisation through a route you know to be genuine.

“The banking and finance industry works to tackle fraud on every front, through investing millions in advanced technology and working closely with the government and law enforcement to stop the criminal gangs responsible.”

You can read the full 2021 Half Year Fraud Report by UK Finance here. For more information and tips, check out our FREE to download eBook, ‘Top Scams and How to Protect Yourself from Them’.


Disclaimer: MoneyMagpie is not a licensed financial advisor and therefore information found here including opinions, commentary, suggestions or strategies are for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only. This should not be considered as financial advice. Anyone thinking of investing should conduct their own due diligence.

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2 years ago

Some good advice.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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