Fraudsters targeting up to 6.4m people

Fraudsters targeting up to 6.4m people

Some 12 per cent of consumers have been targeted by fraudsters after revealing personal information, according to research from the Phoenix Group.

This figure represents up to 6.4 million people which have been victims of scams.

The research, which polled 2,000 individuals, suggested nearly three in four people have been cold contacted in some way. Of these, 71 per cent were contacted by phone and 52 per cent by email.

These fraudsters are requesting vital documents proving identify, such as passport numbers and national insurance numbers, with 20 per cent and 10 per cent of the individuals, respectively, releasing this information.

Phoenix said the research results support the company’s view that the “proposed changes to legislation to restrict cold calling in regard to pensions will significantly reduce incidents of pension fraud”.

The government's plan to introduce a ban on cold-callers who try to scam people out of their pension savings, which will include emails and texts, was announced on 21 August.

This proposal was previously dropped in April due to the general election.

According to David Powers, head of financial crime prevention at the Phoenix Group, “information is power for fraudsters”.

He said: “The link between cold contacting and scams is very real, and fraudsters will mine the data that they collect from seemingly harmless calls, social media profiles or emails and text messages to scam their victims at a later date.

“Every piece of data – however big or small – allows the fraudster to build a more complete and accurate profile of their potential victim to make any approach feel genuine.”

Mr Powers added that this is an increasing problem, since figures from Fraud Action UK show that fraud increased by 9 per cent in 2016 to £432.3m compared to £398.2m in 2015.

Of the information that people have freely given away about themselves, the most common is their name, followed by their email address. 

Other information that people give away includes their date of birth, with 35 per cent of people saying they have revealed their date of birth on Facebook.

More and more Phoenix policyholders are reporting that unregulated companies are approaching them, having obtained some of their personal information or details about their pension plan, the company said.

In recent weeks, for example, a cold caller visited a Phoenix policyholder at home to get copies of their driving licence, national insurance number, bank statement and pension paperwork.

There are other instances of cold callers obtaining policyholders’ details through fake online forms and phishing emails.

Darren Cooke, chartered financial planner at West Yorkshire-based Red Circle Financial Planning, who lead the movement within financial services to get pension cold calling banned, agreed with the survey findings.

He said: “For scammers to be convincing, when they call a potential victim they have often already done their homework and obtained a large amount of information about the target by the very methods Phoenix highlight.