Scamwatch: phishing fraud warning

Some 8,000 phishing scams reported each month last year.

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Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, we expose a new phishing fraud involving bogus messages purporting to be from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

How does it work?

Phishing fraud is one of the most common types of scam in the UK today.

According to a new report from Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, an average of 8,000 phishing scams were reported each month last year.

Steve Proffitt at Action Fraud said: "The new figures show that phishing is a problem which is not going away; it is a means for fraudsters to test the water with potential victims and see how many people they can hook into a scam."

The latest phishing fraud doing the rounds is one involving emails and phone calls made by scammers claiming to be from the FOS.

The aim of the messages and calls is to access people's financial and personal details to be sold on to spammers or used for fraud.

How can I avoid being caught out?

Phishing messages generally come in one of three forms: an email, a phone call or a text message.

More than 68% of people who reported a phishing scam last year said it came in an email, according to the Action Fraud report.

Ways to avoid being taken in include never sharing personal information with companies or people if you haven't verified their credentials and keeping your computer up to date with anti-virus software.

It also makes sense to always treat messages asking for such details with caution.

Banks and financial institutions, for example, will never email you asking you to share your account details or click on a link.

Finally, look out for suspicious email addresses that are like, but not quite the same as, those for big companies.

The researchers working on the Action Fraud report found that "Do-Not-reply@amazon.co.uk", "bt.athome@ecomm.bt.com" and "PQ8MPY@m.apple.com" were the most common addresses from which scam emails were sent last year.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

If you receive a suspicious call or email from someone at the FOS you can call the organisation on 0300 123 9123 to check if it is genuine.

If it is a scam, you can also report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

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