They seem a picture of innocence, with tea, biscuits and knitting on the table – but these five grandmothers are the ‘Scammer Nanas’ and are on a mission to hoodwink relatives.
They were recruited to highlight how email scams affect all age groups and are easy to commit – and fall victim to.
The five were shown how to set up a fake email address and use it to persuade relatives to click on a link – which four in five of their victims did.
Gran theft: The volunteers sent such convincing emails that four out of five recipients fell victim
Sue Parker-Nutley, 66, pictured centre, from Biggin Hill, South London, sent her rugby-playing son an email purporting to be from Kent Rugby Football Union. ‘It said he had been talent spotted and invited to play in a selection day at Twickenham. It asked him to click on the link for more information, which he did. He saw the funny side when he realised it was from me.’
But more sobering is the fact that real scammers often have access to the same personal information as the grandmothers, because their victims reveal so much about their lives online and through social media.
A plague of email scams is threatening financial security like never before, costing Britons more than £800 million to date, new figures show. Even this may be a conservative estimate, given the widespread under-reporting of the crime due to embarrassment.
Figures from Government-backed GetSafeOnline, which sponsored the ‘Scammer Nanas’, suggest that four million British adults have had accounts ‘phished’, losing on average more than £200 each after revealing financial details.
Phishing is when criminals trick people into revealing their financial details – enabling the scammer to plunder their bank accounts.
If customers are deemed to have been careless, banks are unlikely to pay the money back.
SPOT THE TRENDS
Sarah Martinez, campaign director at GetSafeOnline, says: ‘The landscape is constantly changing, but, despite different guises, phishing trends remain the same.’
A typical one is an email supposedly from a bank or financial organisation – such as the taxman – asking customers to change or verify log-in details. Legitimate companies would never ask this of customers.
Some purport to be from shops, saying vouchers can be claimed or delivery details need to be checked.
Others urge people to act quickly, by saying ‘tickets are selling fast’ or – ironically – suggesting an account has been hacked and needs repair.
Hackers intercepting email conversations have also been known to persuade victims to send payments for building work or legal help to a different account to the usual one.
Emails may appear to come from a friend or relative suggesting we click on a link that is ‘funny’ or ‘interesting’. The aim is always to get us to click on a link.
FIGHT THE PHISHERS
- Check in person or over the phone if an email from someone you know says you need to pay cash into a different account from the usual one.
- Chat with a friend or relative before acting on an email. Martinez says: ‘If you are not sure, take five minutes and talk to someone.’
- Check email and website addresses for mis-spellings (a sure sign of fraud).
- Set up banking alerts that warn of suspicious transactions or if balances fall below a certain level.
- Save your bank’s fraud hotline to your mobile.
- Report fraud at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. Suspicious emails can also be forwarded to your bank. See the security sections of their websites.
- Avoid ticking ‘remember my password’ boxes.
- Set different passwords for different accounts.
- Find free advice and expert tips at getsafeonline.org.
IF YOU HAVE ALREADY BEEN SCAMMED
- Contact your bank immediately to stop a transfer or trace where the money has gone. Time is of the essence when recovering funds.
- Change passwords using a different device. If your computer has been hacked the criminals may have downloaded spyware to watch you type in passwords for online banking. For help in choosing passwords visit cyberaware.gov.uk/passwords.
- Take your computer to an expert to remove viruses and malware. Team Knowhow, in some Currys PC World stores, can do this for £60.