Phishing for clues

It’s good news to see that the police in central London have arrested two men over a £1m phishing scam involving students with loans from the government.

If you are not familiar with the term phishing, it refers to the use of fake information requests to obtain private details. In this case, they were sending emails to students that looked like they had come from a bank and were asking the students to verify their personal details.

Of course, some people are taken in by these frauds, because the messages look official, and give their personal details believing they are just verifying them with their bank. Then the crooks take those details and use them to access the bank account – so the victim ends up losing their cash.

These days many banks will refuse to refund your lost money if you confess to giving away personal details, such as your PIN number, even if you were fooled by a phishing attack, so it can be a double blow for the victims when they sometimes find the bank does not want to help.

Crimes like phishing are really the scourge of customer services. Sometimes a company does have a genuine need to reach out to a customer to verify some details, but customers are now very suspicious of outbound call activity that requires an exchange of personal information.

In many cases it is easier to just call, or send a message, asking the customer to call the company direct. Then at least they are confident it’s a genuine representative of the company.

But the reality is, you need to be on your guard about personal data requests all the time now. Some major websites have been hit by fraudsters using a technique called pharming, meaning they redirect a genuine website to a bogus one. So even if you type in a trusted web address, if could be redirected to a fraudsters site that looks and feels very similar and where they are just waiting for you to punch in your bank details…

Almost nothing is safe these days. Let’s hope the police deal with these latest fraudsters in a way that sends out a message about how damaging these crimes are to customer service teams all over the world.

Hook, Line, Sinker (How I fell for a phishing scam)

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