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ALISTAIR MCGOWAN: Making the right impression and avoiding impersonation scammers

ALISTAIR MCGOWAN: Making the right impression and avoiding impersonation scammers


ALISTAIR MCGOWAN: We are being urged to be more vigilant when someone contacts us by phone or email claiming to be from our bank, building society or another such trusted organisation amid soaring incidents of fraud and scams, as opportunistic criminals have preyed on our vulnerabilities during the pandemic.


It only takes letting your guard down for a few seconds for you to fall victim to a scam, with UK Finance reporting £355.3 million1 was lost to Authorised Push Payment scams alone in the first half of this year, while Ofcom found that in the last three months 45 million of us have received at least one scam text or call2.


About 26% of us admit we have fallen victim to an impersonation scam at some stage. This is when a criminal pretends to be a trusted organisation, such as a bank, building society, the police, government provider (i.e. HMRC) or a service provider in order to obtain your private details. Sadly, more than one in ten of us (11%) have been scammed more than once in this way.


Impersonation scams are clearly a massive problem, with 38% of us knowing someone besides ourselves who have been the victim of one. But incredibly, 15% of us admit we do not know what an impersonation scam is. They rank number seven in the scams to which we feel most susceptible, behind online purchase scams and email hack scams, which come out on top.


Whilst most of us (58%) expect older people (60+) to be at the highest risk of falling victim to such a scam, it is the younger age groups who are most at risk, as they have higher engagement in online activities, such as using torrent sites and sharing email addresses in exchange for content.


About 48% of those aged 16-24 have succumbed to a criminal impersonating a trusted institution, compared with only one in ten of those aged 55+. Whilst only 26% of the younger age group would put the phone down if they were contacted and told their account had been compromised and that they would need to open a new one or move the money to protect themselves, compared with 48% of older people.


Thankfully, 40% of us would hang up and tell our bank/building society directly about the call, while 8% would contact the police. But another 8% would ask questions to try and verify the person at the other end of the phone is who they say they are, and the same percentage would say they would go online/into a branch and open a new account themselves.


We need to be judicious when we answer the phone, but how many of us are? About 67% answer calls from a withheld number or a number they don’t know, with almost a fifth (18%) doing so all the time and 30% always believing the person calling from a number they recognise is who they say they are. We need to be careful, as 63% of us have received an unsolicited call, text or email supposedly from HMRC about an unpaid tax bill that proves to be a scam.


When it comes to receiving texts and emails out of the blue that appear as if they are from companies we use, 9% of us receive such messages every day and 15% get one every week. But 16% do not check the email address very closely and another 4% do not bother to do so at all.


Alistair McGowan has made a career out of impersonating celebrities, the rich and famous, and stars from the world of sport, music, and the big screen. In fact, sometimes his impressions are so good that he could quite easily pass for the genuine person.


Alistair McGowan explains how easy it is for someone to pose as someone else and, in the wrong hands, exploit unexpected members of the public. His impression of Harry Kane is so accurate that not many of us would be able to distinguish between the England captain or one of the world’s great comedy impressionists if he called on the phone.


Ed Fisher, Head of Fraud at Nationwide Building Society, explains what scams are out there, how to spot and report them, and what you can do to protect yourself and your personal and financial information online.

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