It’s that sinking feeling in your stomach, that moment where your face feels hot but your arms and hands tingle as if they’re freezing cold. Your mind whirrs as you think over conversations and actions. Everyone’s been there. That horrible moment of realisation that you’ve made a terrible mistake.
I experienced this just this week when I managed to lock my car and house keys inside my car. I KNOW. So stupid. But the moment that I realised my mistake, things almost went into slow motion, as I realised that I couldn’t unlock the car to retrieve the keys, and if I left the house, I wouldn’t be able to get back in. How would I take the seven-year-old to school? How would I get to Lakeside Shopping Centre, 20 miles away, to attend the Take Five to Stop Fraud event I was due at?
It’s that exact same feeling of horror that washes over you if you realise you’ve fallen victim to a scam – you feel stupid, you feel embarrassed and you wish you could go back in time to the moment before you made that massive mistake and do things differently.
Take Five, in case you don’t already know, is a hugely important national campaign from Financial Fraud Action UK (part of UK Finance and the UK Government, backed by the banking industry), which is encouraging us all to ‘take five’ and think about that phone call, text message or email claiming to be from a bank or organisation and asking us for personal information. I’m supporting them for a few months to spread the message and hopefully save some of you from being scammed.
Thankfully, I did manage to get to Lakeside Shopping Centre and Take Five’s event – shoppers were invited to have a coffee or tea made by their barista, and get advice on avoiding fraudsters from Tony Blake – Fraud Prevention Lead for Dedicated Card & Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) and the Take Five Team.
So how can you help your friends and family avoid being scammed?
Spread the word – ‘take five’ to talk to them and warn them of the dangers. “It’s really important that we tell family and friends about this,” says Tony. “Fraud and cybercrime is going up and the police aren’t going to arrest their way out of the problem. They arrest some fraudsters and more pop up. So whilst the banks, the police and Trading Standards are all educating people on financial fraud, scams and cybercrime, it’s really important that if we know stuff, that we share it. If you tell five people and they tell five people, it will escalate and eventually millions of people will know. The best way for us to defeat these fraudsters is for us to understand and know how they operate and the methods they use.”
A great way to spread the word is telling an anecdote of an experience you or a friend might have had – perhaps you received a dodgy email or text; a phone call from someone pretending to be your bank; a friend might have fallen victim to a scam and lost money. “Anecdotes are good because people remember stories,” says Tony. “It can be done by word-of-mouth or on social media.”
There is also a key message to repeat to friends and family:
Always contact the bank or organisation via a trusted method. If you get a call, text or email claiming to be an organisation you deal with or are a customer of, don’t reply to the email, don’t click any links in the message and if it’s a phone call, tell them you’re hanging up and will call back. “If someone starts asking for personal or financial information, you need to be 100% sure you know who you’re dealing with,” says Tony. “And the best way to do that, is to contact the organisation via a trusted email address or call the number on the organisation website.”
And contrary to popular belief, it’s not just elderly people who are targets of scams –the banks say that their customers who had been victims are fairly evenly split between the age ranges 16-25, 25-40, 40-60 and over 60. So if you’ve got teenage children who have a mobile phone, educate them on how to recognise a scam and what to do if a message or call comes through. “Younger people perhaps tend to be a bit more reckless,” says Tony, “they often click links in messages or download stuff, whereas older people perhaps are more susceptible over the phone, but everyone needs to know the Take Five messages.”
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Watch this video to hear personal stories from people who have been victims and good advice.
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This post has been commissioned by Take Five and as always, all views are my own. For details of commercial posts on this site, see my Work With Me page.