Martin Rickett/PA Wire/Press Association Images
The con artists operating email scams are the lowest of the low. They wait until you are at your lowest ebb, struggling for cash or desperate for help, and then they strike.
So as NatWest customers face their seventh day of trials and tribulations, they have become the targets of a cruel email scam.
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The emails claim to have come from Stephen Hester, the head of RBS, and begins with an apology. This is cashing in on the public apologies he has issued - and the apologetic emails he has sent around to customers during the process, explaining how the problem arose and what they can do.
The bogus email goes on to say that in order to put the systems right, the bank needs to perform a 'security upgrade' which will require all customers to update their security information.
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If you click on the link in the email it will take you to a convincing copy of the NatWest site, and asks you to enter your account details - at which point the criminals swoop and extract the cash from your account.
Graham Cluley, Senior Technology Consultant at Sophos says there is nothing new about this sort of phishing, but adds that this attack is dangerous for two reasons. Firstly it is catching people at their most desperate. He explains: "Most people are cynical about these sorts of emails, simply because they get so many of them, but many are in a different situation this week. They may be waiting for a message from their bank, so when they get one they assume it is genuine and click on the link without thinking."
Secondly, the site it directs people to is very convincing. He adds: "It is so easy to create a convincing copy, because you can steal the code and make it look identical."
Given that NatWest has sent personal emails to customers, it's easy to see how people could be convinced this is something similar. However, NatWest highlights: "We never send emails asking customers to verify, confirm or update their online banking details. We never ask customers to enter their full PIN and password when logging into online banking – you will only ever be asked for random portions of your security details. We never ask customers for additional information, such as account number, card number or address, when logging into online banking."
Cluley says the usual rules apply when it comes to phishing: be suspicious of all unsolicited emails, be suspicious of anything that asks you to confirm your password, never click on a link in an email (type in the web address you know to be accurate yourself), and keep your spam and anti-virus software up to date as an extra level of security.
- 1. Mid-contract price hikes
<p>It is reasonable to assume that if you take out a mobile phone contract at £30 a month for 24 months that's exactly what you'll pay unless you exceed the tariff. Yet mobile phone providers have come under fire for a snag buried in the small print – a clause to allow mid-contract price rises.</p>
<p>Prices are rising by a median of 81p a month and 70% of consumers are completely unaware off this sneaky move, according to Tesco Mobile, so be sure to check any new contracts before you sign the dotted line.</p>
- 1. Land banking
Land banking involves plots of land offered for sale, often online, with the promise of sizable returns when planning permission is approved for housing or other development. Yet often the land is located in areas protected from development by planning law.</p>
The companies involved soon disappear with investors' money and as the firms are not protected by the Financial Services Authority, their funds are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme</p>
- 2. Money mule
Fraudsters recruit unknowing accomplices through email under the guise of offering employment, seeking a personal favour, or through internet shopping sites. The recruits are persuaded into receiving what are essentially fraudulent payments and then passing funds on.</p>
The 'mules' are frequently offered a small financial incentive to encourage involvement and face difficulties in proving their innocence when the fraud is discovered.</p>
- 3. Carbon credit fraud
The scams claim to offer people the chance to profit from carbon credits. Under regulations that permit businesses to emit a tonne of CO2 – the companies claim to offer investment in green projects like a forestry scheme or a solar panel project, which generates carbon credits that are then sold on to heavy industry.</p>
A flashy brochure or website tells of a reliable 'government-backed' scheme which provides reliable returns for investors. Such a scheme doesn't exist however – a reality investors only discovered when they have parted with their cash and the company is untraceable. As with land banking, fraudulent companies are not covered by the FSA so victims have no course for recompense</p>
- 4. HMRC phishing scam
Receiving an email from the taxman saying you are owed a payment may seem like a nice surprise, but it is actually from fraudsters trying to relieve you of your cash instead.</p>
The emails provide a "click-through link" to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is then asked to provide their credit or debit card details - all the information the criminals need to clear your account, and sell on your personal details.</p>
- 6. Crash for cash scams
Insurer Direct Line reported a hike in the number of 'crash for cash' scams last year – where fraudsters fake accidents by making unnecessary emergency stops at busy roundabouts or slip roads, forcing motorists to crash into them.</p>
They then make bogus claims to the innocent motorist's insurer, often including fictitious injuries and passengers.</p>
- 7. Driving school scams
Learner drivers have been taken for ride by being unknowingly taught by trainee instructors. An investigation by the AA found up to 27,000 extra driving tests have been failed in the last year because one in 10 learner drivers are unwittingly taught by an instructor they do not know is learning on the job.</p>
- 8. One man mail scam
July saw the arrest of a Leicester postman who stole £46,686 worth of mail over two-and-a-half years. Yogeshbhai Patel, 38, was jailed for two years for stealing mail including 2,000 DVDs and 2,250 games along with CDs and other electrical equipment. He intercepting the valuable packages and spent the money on living a luxury lifestyle including helicopter rides and a trip to Las Vegas.</p>
- 9. Smart meter scam
The Trading Standards Institute reported over 200 cases where elderly homeowners have been targeted by telephone cold callers, purporting to be from their energy supplier and offering energy saving devices which could cut their bills by 40%.</p>
The TSI tested the devices in homes where owners had fallen for the scam, only to find they both failed to satisfy electrical safety standards or deliver any tangible energy savings.</p>
- 10. Thermal camera fraud
Thermal cameras that track ATM pin numbers are the latest weapon in their arsenal and US scientists have warned it is the next threat for this form of crime. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that up to 45 seconds after a person types their pin code into an ATM machine or door entry pad the numbers and even the sequence are still readable by thermal cameras.</p>