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Beat the Scammers with 159

30th April 2023

Metro Bank is warning consumers about scammers posing as trusted organisations as criminal gangs have stolen over £470m in just 12 months by pretending to be banks and other trusted service providers.

If anyone receives an unsolicited call supposedly from their bank, they should simply hang up and dial 159 to be connected to their genuine bank safely and securely. 159 is designed to break the scam ‘journey’ at the critical moment when consumers are at most risk of being manipulated into making a payment. Since its launch last September 159 has received over 325,000 calls.

How it works:
• 159 works in the same way as 101 for the police or 111 for the NHS. It’s the number you can trust to get you through to your bank, every time.
• If you think someone is trying to trick you into handing over money or personal details… stop, hang up and call 159 to be directly diverted to your bank.
• Criminals rely on forcing people into heat-of-the-moment decisions. 159 is a memorable, secure number that connects directly to your bank if you think you might be being scammed or just want to ensure you’re genuinely speaking to your bank.
• 159 will never call you. Only a fraudster will object to you calling 159.

To help educate consumers, Metro Bank looks at how this scam works:
Tom received a call from his bank advising his account had been hacked, the call had come from what looked like his bank’s genuine number, but the number had been spoofed and little did he know, he was speaking to a fraudster. They were very professional and convincing.

Naturally hearing his account was at risk Tom was concerned - enabling the fraudster to persuade Tom his funds needed to be quickly transferred to a “safe account” so he facilitated the fraudsters in making over £5,000 worth of payments to ‘his new account’.

These type of scams are facilitated by either spoofing where a criminal disguises a phone number, email address, display name, text message, or website URL to convince a target that they are interacting with a known, trusted source or social engineering. Social engineering uses manipulation techniques that exploit human error to gain access to private information such as PIN numbers, passwords, security information or personal details. Typical tactics include cold calls to obtain information and spoofing, fake websites/emails, SMS texts requesting customers to click on links or to call a number controlled by fraudsters.

“Never be pressured to act quickly,” warns Metro Bank’s Head of Fraud & Investigations, Baz Thompson. “Follow the simple steps below to help protect your finances and defeat the scammers.”

How to stay safe:
• Always remember your bank or the police will never request you transfer money to a safe account, or request you provide your full PIN, security numbers or passcodes.
• Don’t be fooled if you’re asked for cash or a payment as part of a police investigation or told money in your account needs to be analysed as part of an ongoing investigation - this is a scam.
• Don’t give anyone remote access to your computer following a cold call or unsolicited message.
• Only criminals will ask you to lie to your bank.
• Remember criminals use spoofing and other social engineering tactics to convince you they are a genuine company.
• Your bank cannot open an account on your behalf without your authorisation.

Baz Thompson concludes: “Fraud is the most common crime in the UK and there are simply not enough resources to fight it. Despite accounting for 40% of recorded crime, only 2% of police funding is dedicated to tackling fraud . Consumers need to do more to protect themselves – so if you are being pressured to act quickly, or give money, please be aware that this is likely to be a scam. Stop, Challenge and Protect yourself from becoming a scam victim.”

[1] Source National Crime Agency

[2] Source ABI