Do you know who you are ‘phoning?

telephone-call-220x300You pick up your ‘phone. You hear a dialling tone, and dial your bank’s number. When the call is picked up, you go through the same security procedure as you always do with your bank.

Who are you talking to? Probably your bank, but it could be a criminal fraudster who is going to steal all of your money. How do you tell the difference?

You may already know about this scam, but most people that I speak to don’t. What is certain is that your bank will know all about it. Strangely, most banks have decided not to tell their customers how to protect themselves from this danger.

Why have they decided to keep this information secret? Who can guess why banks do anything.

If they are not going to tell you how this scam works and how to avoid it, then I will.

It might not apply everywhere, but in the UK only the person who makes a landline call can end it. This means that if you have been ‘phoned, and hang up at the end of the call, your line is not free until the person at the other end hangs up too. It is normally easy to tell if this has happened. There will be no dialling tone when you lift the handset.

What if someone were to play a recording of a dialling tone down the line? Could you tell the difference?

This is the  basis of the scam. Someone will ‘phone you, claiming to be from Visa Services or some such organisation. They will claim that there has been a problem with your card. They will tell you that, for security reasons, you should not give them any information, but should ‘phone your bank instead.

Because your bank will have told you to report this sort of thing to them immediately, that is what you will do. You will hang up, then call your bank straight away. In this case, of course, you will be talking to the criminals.

They will be able to see the numbers that you dial, so they will know which bank you are calling. They can answer with that bank’s name, and will know which security procedure to use. For some banks, this procedure will involve asking you to confirm the amount of your balance. This tells the crooks whether it will be worth taking the time to carry out the theft.

Once they have lured you into this deception, they have a range of options that they can use to rob you.

All that you have to do in this situation is call your bank from a different ‘phone line or from a mobile. If you don’t have an alternative ‘phone to use, call a friend or relative first. This will confirm that your line is clear.

Of course, there is no need to call your bank at all, but you may want to reassure yourself that everything is OK.

That’s all that you need to do to keep yourself safe.

There are other things that your bank has decided not to tell you, usually because you will be losing out, not them. I will discuss a few of these in future posts.


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