6.4 million consumers have been targeted by fraudsters

17 Oct 2017   New research commissioned by pension provider Phoenix shows consumers release personal data that may leave them vulnerable to fraudsters.  As a result of providing this personal data, the research found that 12% of consumers – up to 6.4 million people – have been targeted by fraudsters.

Looking at how fraudsters obtain this information, the research revealed that nearly three in four people (71%) have been cold contacted in some way – 71% of those who have been cold contacted were called by phone and 52% contacted by email.

Phoenix’s internal data also evidences that some people are even approached at their home.

It is not only the volume of approaches that are a concern but the types of data that are being requested. Vital documents proving identify, such as passport numbers and National Insurance numbers, are being requested and provided. 10% of people contacted have provided their National Insurance number and 20% have divulged their passport number to organisations that they do not know.

This research supports Phoenix’s view that the proposed changes to legislation to restrict cold calling in regard to pensions will significantly reduce incidents of pension fraud.  We are especially pleased to see the proposal to extend prohibition of cold calling to electronic forms of communication.

David Powers, Head of Financial Crime Prevention at the Phoenix Group, warns: “Information is power for fraudsters. The link between cold contacting and scams is very real, and fraudsters will mine the data that they collect from seemingly harmless calls, social media profiles or emails and text messages to scam their victims at a later date. Every piece of data – however big or small – allows the fraudster to build a more complete and accurate profile of their potential victim to make any approach feel genuine.”

He continued: “It’s an increasing problem.  Figures from Financial Fraud Action UK show that fraud via internet, telephone and mail order increased by nine per cent in 2016 to £432.3m compared to £398.2m in 2015.”

Phoenix’s research shows, however, that people are clearly worried about their data – 82% of people are concerned about who has their personal data, 90% say that they are very vigilant about who has their data, 71% of people say that they are worried about the consequences of giving their details out and 21% of people admit that they have, at times, provided personal data without really thinking about it.  However, a surprising 13% said they were not at all concerned about giving any personal data.

Of the information that people have freely given away about themselves, the most common is their name, followed by their email address.  Other information that people give away includes their date of birth, with 35% of people saying they have revealed their date of birth on Facebook.

More and more, the firm’s policyholders are reporting that unregulated companies are approaching them, having obtained some of their personal information or details about their pension plan. In recent weeks, for example, a cold caller visited a Phoenix policyholder at home to get copies of their driving licence, national insurance number, bank statement and pension paperwork. There are other instances of cold callers obtaining policyholders’ details through fake online forms and phishing emails.

People are right to be concerned as responders who have given away their data have said that it has been used in other ways in regard to financial services:

  • 2% have seen someone set up another credit/debit card in their name
  • 10% said someone gained accessed to their bank account and withdrew money
  • 52% said they have been contacted or spammed by third parties via email
  • 6% said that someone they don’t know has ordered something on one of their online accounts (e.g. Amazon)
  • 8% have contracted malicious spyware (programs that secretly record what you do on your computer)
  • A mere 14% said that they had seen no adverse effects at all.
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