The UK’s financial watchdog has issued a warning about a growing number of fraudsters who are posing as the regulatory authority. According to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), these impostors have the intention of convincing individuals to surrender money or sensitive personal information, such as bank account PINs and passwords. So far this year, the FCA’s contact center has received over 7,700 reports of this type of fraudulent activity from the public.
The FCA noted that reports of these fraudulent schemes have more than doubled since 2021. One common tactic employed by scammers is to claim that individuals are entitled to compensation and then request bank details or a processing fee in order to facilitate the supposed “payment.”
The FCA emphasized that it never communicates with individuals in this manner and advised anyone who asked for personal information to immediately disconnect the call or disregard the email. Steve Smart, an executive director of enforcement at the FCA, urged individuals who suspect they have been contacted by a scammer to verify the FCA’s legitimacy by visiting their official website.
The FCA provided the following guidance for individuals who suspect they may have been contacted by a fraudster:
- If you have doubts about a phone call, simply hang up. You can confirm the authenticity of a call by contacting the FCA at 0800 111 6768.
- Examine the sender’s email address. If you are uncertain about the email’s source, ignore it and get in touch with the FCA directly.
- Pay attention to the spelling and grammar in emails. If something seems off, disregard the email and report it to the organization being impersonated or Action Fraud.
- Be aware that scammers can manipulate caller ID to display an organization’s switchboard numbers. To safeguard yourself, refrain from sharing personal information after receiving a call, and do not call back using the contact details provided by the caller.
The FCA disclosed that it has intensified its efforts to combat scams as household budgets are strained due to rising living costs. This comes after UK Finance, an industry group, reported that £1.2 billion was lost to fraud in the UK in 2022, equivalent to £2,300 per minute, with payment card-related fraud being the most prevalent.
The government has introduced a new fraud strategy this year, which includes allowing banks to delay payment processing to allow for investigation of suspicious transactions. Additionally, the FCA is collaborating with the government to prohibit cold calling for all consumer financial services and products, preventing salespersons from contacting individuals to sell various types of insurance, such as accident or home insurance.
The regulator also mentioned that it has been receiving reports of different financial scams, including “boiler room” scams where fraudsters cold-call investors with offers of worthless, overpriced, or non-existent shares or bonds. Callers to the regulator have also reported being lured into investing in non-existent digital currencies or cryptocurrencies, which the FCA highlighted as a largely unregulated and high-risk sector.