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Data theft and financial fraud

In my last article I looked at how criminal actors use fictitious investment schemes with enticing returns to lure the unsuspecting to invest and ultimately lose their savings.

This time I will move on and look beyond the financial services landscape in which my colleagues and I sit, to see how we all, as consumers, can suffer loss.  While inevitably fraudsters will be most attracted to those with wealth, there is no prerequisite to have an investment, a pension or a mortgage to suffer financial fraud.

Data flows through the modern world like water through plumbing.  Water can be diverted…and so can data… Of course where data is discussed, mention of social media cannot be far away.

I touched on social media last time and how the unsuspecting are increasingly being lured to fraudulent investments.  This time I will consider how we are increasingly giving up our data voluntarily and what this can mean for us.

The information we post or include in our profiles can be a goldmine for criminals.  The personal details requested by some platforms to set up an account such as; date of birth, address or mother’s maiden name, are all of great value if your aim is to steal someone’s identity.  How many of us use family, pets or perhaps sports team names in our passwords and happily post and share pictures of those family members, pets and our hobbies?  Piece by piece the jigsaw can be put together by those incentivised to do so.  Add to this the data breaches that have hit the news and we have put our information fully in reach of the unscrupulous.

Going on holiday?  As much as you might want the people you know to see what a great time you are having, your actions could unwittingly serve to announce that you are away from home for a week or two.  In cases of burglary, insurers are increasingly checking Facebook and other sites and could refuse to meet a claim if you are deemed to have advertised your absence.

Phishing is a term denoting the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information and is most commonly carried out by email.  However, social media platforms are also fertile territory for phishing scams.  Links that draw users to seemingly innocuous websites where they are invited to enter confidential details or where malware, software designed to cause damage to your computer, is waiting for them.  There are various kinds including ransomware, spyware, a trojan horse or a bot.  The numbers using Facebook and the like regularly are so vast that the chances of success for the determined fraudster are high.  All of this from just clicking an innocent looking link.

Another increasingly common scam centres on Twitter.  Many companies have launched customer service accounts on the platform as a way of reaching out to customers online.  By setting up a fake customer service account for a bank or other financial service company, mimicking the company’s  name and branding, fraudsters position themselves to hijack a customer query when there is a tweet for assistance.  A fraudulent support link takes the customer to a convincing but fake login page, designed to capture those confidential details.

In truth the techniques and ruses fraudsters have at their disposal are too numerous for them all to be mentioned here.  So, perhaps it is best to conclude with a visual illustration of how simply and swiftly our data can be harvested from social media and suggest we all need to reappraise how we keep this precious commodity safe.

Click here to watch (it’s OK this one is safe*).

*the video was produced by CIFAS, a UK non-profit organisation dedicated to fighting financial fraud providing members of the public with information on how to protect their personal data.

If you would like to discuss the areas outlined in this note in greater detail, please contact your usual Partners Wealth Management adviser, or call us on 020 7444 4030 for an initial conversation.

Daniel Clarke
Partner & Chartered Financial Planner
020 7444 4064




The contents of the article have been prepared solely for information purposes. The article contains information on financial products and services and such information is designed for and addressed solely to individuals seeking generic industry information.