How to dodge phishing scams and push payment fraud

Female Estate Agent On Phone Outside Residential Property For Sale © iStockphotos
Don’t transfer the payment for your house to fraudsters

Phishing and push payment fraud are two of the most common financial scams. Here’s show to protect yourself.

Financial scamming is becoming increasingly sophisticated. One of the most common ploys to look out for is “phishing”. This usually involves an email from what appears to be a legitimate source, such as HM Revenue & Customs or payments processor PayPal.

These emails will usually tell you that your account has been locked or that you are entitled to a refund of some sort, and will prompt you to click on a link. It will direct you to a page asking for your details to correct the problem or process the refund. But this will be a fake website in the guise of the organisation the email professes to be from, and will use the data provided to steal your identity or your money.

Alternatively, the email will ask you to open an attachment, which will then install a virus on your computer to collect your information. You might also receive messages of this type via text or phone call.

To avoid falling victim to phishing, be very suspicious of emails promising an unexpected refund or requesting login or personal details. Look at the sender’s email. The name will look legitimate, but the associated email address may well be off in some way. It could contain a string of letters or have a strange suffix instead of “co.uk”. While some messages may look obviously fake –  the logo may look amateurish, for instance – others will be deceptively realistic. If you think there may really be a problem with an account you hold, check by logging in or looking up a phone number yourself .

Push payment fraud

Another common scam is known as “authorising push payment fraud”. This again involves people posing as a legitimate business, but this time getting you to transfer money to their account. This sounds avoidable, but the crooks will often target people expecting to make a significant payment, such as those buying a house or having building work done. They will often have hacked your or the company’s email account, and will know when you’ll be expecting an email requesting payment. Typically, you’ll then receive an email that seems to be from your solicitor or building company, providing you with the scammer’s bank details for payment.

As it can be so difficult to spot this kind of fraud, it can be a good idea to ring your solicitor, for instance, (again via a number you haven’t sourced from the email) to check the account details.

Or you could do a test payment of £1 and then ring the solicitor to confirm they received it. Push-payment fraud can be especially troubling: it can be hard for people to claim a refund from their bank given they made the transfer voluntarily. Still, several banks have pledged to refund victims of this type of fraud.