Lockdown fraud leads to tighter security

Marlene Outrim

Marlene Outrim

Recently, one of the team received an email from a client requesting a withdrawal of £20,000. 

All seemed fine, even when I was told it was not possible to ring him.

Having worked out a recommendation, I duly sent off my reply and subsequently the necessary forms for the client to return.

Then he asked to change his bank account for the withdrawal, so another form was emailed, but this one needed a wet signature. So far so good.

That was until the client emailed me a day or so later as if we had not communicated at all and stating he had not changed his bank account.

Expressing my surprise, he replied that he just wanted me to acknowledge the email. Later, a copy of the form to change his account arrived in the post, with a bank statement.

Alarm bells started to ring, so despite the instruction not to, I telephoned the client, only to discover that he had not made the original request!

It seems that someone had been able to take over his account and had managed to glean plenty of information about him, even to the extent that his signature could be copied. On closer inspection, the bank statement had been doctored with the name and address in different font.

When we first went into lockdown, I was surprised that platforms like Transact did not move swiftly enough to allow documents to be emailed rather than posted.

There were terrible delays and those early weeks were frustrating.

However, it soon sorted out its act and introduced an ‘Upload’ tool for its site, but insisted on original forms to be posted for new applications and the likes of changing a bank account.

The latter matter prevented my client from being defrauded of £20,000 and platforms have focused on tightening up security on this even further.

(Apparently, there have been several frauds, real and attempted). This means that even the most sophisticated criminal will have difficulty extracting funds this way, in the future, even if they get so far.

The whole episode was a great learning one for us and our client. For Uniq, it now means tightening our security, how we deal with clients with these types of requests and reliance on a portal that is safe but manageable.

Marlene Outrim is managing director of Uniq Family Wealth