The UK’s financial regulator has warned of an increasing number of scammers pretending to be the watchdog.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said its impersonators aim to get people to hand over money or sensitive information, such as bank account PINs and passwords.
The public reported more than 7,700 instances of this type of scam to the FCA’s contact centre so far this year.
Reports of this type of scam have more than doubled since 2021, the FCA said.
It added that a common tactic used by fraudsters was to tell people they were owed compensation, and then ask for bank details or a processing fee to arrange “payment”.
The FCA said it did not contact people in this way, and that anyone asked for personal information should hang up the phone or ignore the email.
Steve Smart, an executive director of enforcement at the FCA, urged anyone concerned that they had been contacted by a scammer should check the FCA website.
What should I do if I suspect I’ve been contacted by a fraudster?
The FCA gave the following advice:
- If you’re suspicious about a call, just hang up. You can check to make sure a call is genuine by contacting the FCA on 0800 111 6768
- Check the sender’s email address. If you’re not sure the email is from the FCA, then you should ignore it and contact the FCA directly.
- You should check the spelling and grammar of an email. If it doesn’t look right, ignore the email and report it to the organisation being impersonated or Action Fraud
- Scammers can make an organisation’s switchboard numbers appear in your caller ID. To protect yourself, don’t give out any personal information following an incoming call and don’t call back using the contact details the callers provide.
The FCA said it had been “ramping up” its scrutiny of scams as household budgets are squeezed from the rising cost of living.
It comes after industry group UK Finance found £1.2bn was lost to fraud in the UK in 2022.
That is the equivalent of £2,300 every minute with frauds involving payment cards being the most common.
The government this year released a new fraud strategy, which will include allowing banks to delay payments from being processed for longer, to allow for suspect payments to be investigated.
The FCA said it was working with the government to ban cold calling for all consumer financial services and products. That would mean, for example, a salesperson could not call you to sell you any type of insurance, such as accident or home insurance.
The regulator said it was being contacted about different types of financial scams, such as “boiler room” scams, where fraudsters cold-call investors offering them worthless, overpriced or even non-existent shares or bonds.
Callers to the regulator also reported being persuaded to invest in non-existent digital currencies, or cryptocurrencies, which the regulator said was a widely unregulated and high-risk sector.