We were interested to see two recent news items in the trade press which detailed the latest approaches that fraudsters are taking to remove hard-earned cash from the pockets of the innocent public. Fundamentally, nothing has changed since the Dickensian portrayal of the Artful Dodger, the modern day equivalent merely using a different technique to catch the victim unawares and pick their virtual pocket rather than a physical one. The technological advances of recent years mean that fraudsters can hide behind either a cloak of invisibility or, as is increasingly the case, impersonate a trusted connection. You have all probably received e-mails claiming that you can share the spoils of a multi-million dollar balance stashed in a faraway bank, all you need to do is to send some money to facilitate the payment to you. These methods are still being used although they do now seem somewhat dated in style given the rapid evolution of fraud techniques.
The first press item centred on a trusted wealth manager’s e-mail account being compromised with a client being requested to click on links and provide the necessary information for a fraudster to commit their crime, namely usernames and passwords for online accounts. The e-mail adviser’s address and name were valid and therefore it is conceivable that a recipient would have clicked on the link; however, applying a healthy degree of cynicism would have rung alarm bells at the nature of the information being requested and would hopefully have stopped the vast majority of recipients being sucked in.
The second example was an IFA firm which had been contacted by the victim of a fraud, where a fraudster had cloned the IFA firm’s website (using different names for the advisers, but the correct photographs) and proceeded to target victims with the age-old approach of promising to assist the victim receive large sums of money, as long as they sent them money to facilitate the process – in this case $275,000! The fake website had no connection whatsoever with the real IFA firm which would not have known anything about the scam had the victim not used a little known Google ‘Search by Image’ function that found the adviser’s image on the real IFA firm’s website in the UK and then made contact to raise the alarm.
Having never heard of this ‘Search by Image’ function, we immediately checked our website images were not being used in any nefarious activity. This was reassuringly confirmed, though the search function did report that the Chairman’s image was similar to a photo found online of Daniel Craig dressed as James Bond.
Neither shaken nor stirred, we remain vigilant to the risks in cyber-space and encourage all our clients to do likewise in respect of all approaches and especially requests for any personal information. A good source of information and guidance is the FCA’s dedicated website on investment fraud (ScamSmart) at http://scamsmart.fca.org.uk/ , but should you have any concerns generally or about specific contacts made, then do let us know.