Scammers are always looking for a metaphorical open window to slide through and burgle the house.
Much of it is opportunistic, that text from HMRC or DVLA asking you to click the link, or that Nigerian prince with £80 million for you if you just provide your bank details (don’t as he doesn’t).
But another form is targeted scams. Hackers can get into an email account and monitor it, waiting for the right moment. An email sent with bank details will automatically be flagged up and the account details changed before it reaches the destination. If the unwitting recipient sends money to this account without checking, then it can be really difficult to get the money back.
I know of a house purchase where the deposit of £100,000 was sent to a scam bank account. In this scenario, the buyer’s father had a spare £100,000 lying around and gave it to her, but most people are not that lucky.
When scams occur, they result in the dealer losing the money sent to a customer and having to pay it again, or the customer losing the money and deciding that they can no longer afford the vehicle they had their heart set on, the loss of a sale. There is evidence that the bank system is being duped too. The system whereby unless the name, account number, and sort code all match, payment cannot be made, is not foolproof and payments have been allowed regardless.
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There are some simple steps you can take to avoid this type of scam though:
- Provide your bank details in writing when the sale is made and make it clear to the customer that you will not be emailing with a change of bank details under any circumstances. Maybe even make this point on your email footer.
- Transfer £1 to begin with and then call the customer to make sure they have it before sending the remainder.
- Call any customer who sends you bank details and check them over the phone, on the number they gave you at the beginning of the transaction, not on their “new number” that is with the email.
So, be aware of the potential scams out there and stay online safe.