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Santander Bank has reported an 11% increase in fraud through impersonation scams, and admitted that its own head of fraud was impersonated as part of a £60,000 theft from a customer.
According to the bank’s figures, impersonation scams in the first three months of this year were worth £10.2m, with an average of £6,906 lost to victims.
Impersonation fraud is when fraudsters pretend to be a trusted organisation or individual to trick people into making payments to them via a telephone call or email.
These frauds bypass bank security systems because it is genuine customers who are making the transactions.
Criminals use spoof calls or texts to appear genuine by cloning the number or sender ID, meaning it looks identical to the genuine contact details customers would expect to see from their bank.
In fact, Santander admitted that one customer lost £60,000 to a fraudster impersonating its own head of fraud risk, Chris Ainsley.
Santander said the victim received a text message asking her to confirm a £500 payment and she responded immediately to confirm “no”. The customer then received a call from a spoofed caller ID appearing as a Santander number. The fraudster introduced himself as Ainsley.
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The fraudster claimed further payments were being attempted and advised the victim to move funds to a new, “safe account” urgently. She transferred £60,000 in funds to the fraudster’s account.
“In this case, due to the individual circumstances, Santander was able to refund the customer, but this may not always be possible,” Santander said. “This is why customers should be alert on how to protect themselves from becoming the victim of a scam.”
Ainsley said:“Scammers leave no stone unturned in tricking victims, and as somebody working with colleagues across Santander to protect customers from fraud, it was quite a surprise to discover scammers impersonating me. Imitation is certainly not a form of flattery in this case, but instead a timely reminder that nobody from a bank or legitimate organisation would ever attempt to rush you into transferring funds into another account.
“People should not hesitate to cut contact with anyone they are suspicious of and refer to trusted sources of information such as their bank’s website or by phoning 159, where they can be put through to customer support,” he said.