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Make it a new year’s resolution to be more careful with what’s in your wallet

Digital enthusiasts commonly portray a future in which technology has eradicated crime. Indeed, one of the most loved arguments for a cashless society is that without physical money criminals will be unable to operate, surveillance will protect good citizens that have nothing to hide, and people will be less likely to lose, misplace or be conned out of their hard earned pay. 

In our journey towards a more digital world things have not gone according to plan. Criminals are clever and their methods to deceive have evolved inline with our preference for digital and online transactions. New ways of doing things present new opportunities for crime. 

According to the UK Finance 2020 Half year fraud update, fraudsters have “changed tactics towards more online scams, such as fake investments promoted on search engines, fake goods such as hot tubs listed on auction websites and criminals posing as would-be partners on online dating platforms.” In the first half of 2020, a total of £207.8 million was lost to authorised push payment (APP) fraud. In 2019 the total reached £455.8 million.

The number of impersonation scams, when the victim is convinced to make a payment to a criminal claiming to be from a trusted organisation such as the police, a bank or a government department, have nearly doubled in the first six months of 2020, with almost 150,000 cases reported. As Katy Worobec, UK Finance’s Managing Director, Economic Crime, states in her introduction to their latest report, there have been some notable cases recently where fraudsters have tricked victims by pretending to offer government grants to help with Covid-19. 

Experience of this new type of fraud is prevalent. Most people know of, or have had, a phone call from their bank, internet or phone provider asking for an immediate payment or to talk about fraudulent activity on their account. Speaking from personal experience, even if you put the phone down straight away, it can be nerve-racking. If they catch you out, the consequences will be much worse and can be devastating. 

Education and vigilance is important to combat this new wave of fraud. However we must also take care of the basics. The contents of our wallet reveal a lot about us, but if they fall into the wrong hands they can also tell fraudsters a lot about our personal financial position. Personal information such as name, address, age, mobile phone numbers and bank account details give potential fraudsters important information.

Research commissioned by Enryo in December last year found that almost half of us (44%) carry our driver’s licence around with us, whilst a rather worrying statistic shows that 5% of us still carry such things as PIN numbers, passwords for online banking and even our 2FA devices around with us. All of these things effectively hand fraudsters the ‘keys’ to our finances.

If a fraudster has all the relevant personal details then they can very easily use your plastic or online banking to make purchases or empty your bank account. Having all this information written down is also likely to invalidate any subsequent claims for reimbursement for fraud you might make from your bank or building society.

Men (7%) are more likely than women to write down their passwords and PIN numbers and keep them in their wallet, with the biggest ‘culprits’ being 18-34 year olds.  Writing down passwords for their online banking seems to be a common occurrence with 8% of those doing it being aged under 54.  Encouragingly, those aged over 54 are less likely to write passwords or PIN numbers down and carry them with them – perhaps evidence of previous good practice campaigns undertaken by the banks with this age group.

The new year brings the customary resolutions. Eat less, exercise more etc etc. Perhaps for 2021 we should think about the information we carry in our wallets and what we can do to make sure that our finances and identity remain safe.

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