The National Crime Agency has warned citizens about a highly proficient group of fraudsters who are posing as NCA officers to con innocent citizens, especially elderly and vulnerable ones, out of their life savings.
NCA warned that the fraudsters are contacting elderly and vulnerable people over the phone, identifying themselves as NCA officers by using fake NCA identity numbers and are adding to the bluff by citing the real NCA Control Centre phone number.
After identifying themselves as NCA officers and winning the trust of the victims, the fraudsters inform victims that they have been hacked and instruct them to move their savings to a safe account or to provide the officers remote access to their computers.
Impersonation fraud rose by over five times in the past year
Using this tactic, the fraudsters have been able to steal hundreds of thousands of pounds belonging to innocent victims. NCA states that the number of such reported fraud cases has risen from 75 in the 2017-18 financial year to 393 reports since April 2018.
"One case involved a 70-year-old man from London who transferred his life savings of £350,000 out of his account after crooks pretended to be NCA officers and staff from an IT security company. The victim allowed the men remote access to his computer after they said he had been hacked and needed to move his money to safe account," NCA said.
"NCA officers will never telephone anyone and ask for remote access to their computer, or ask for any personal or financial information. These fraudsters may sound very plausible or put pressure on you. Don’t let them," said Chris Hogben, Head of Security at the National Crime Agency.
"Even if you have the smallest doubt hang up, and use a different phone to call our Control Centre on 0370 496 7622. If the call was real we will be able to tell you. Elderly and vulnerable people are being specifically targeted. Tell your family and friends and help share this message," he added.
Impersonation attacks rose by 70% worldwide in 2019
Such impersonation attacks are quite common and are used extensively by online fraudsters and cyber criminals to con businesses and charities out of vast sums of money. Mimecast's State of Email Security report for 2019 revealed that impersonation attacks targeting businesses of all sizes across the world rose by almost 70 percent in 2019 compared to the previous year and 73 percent of organisations targeted by such attacks suffered financial losses, loss of sensitive data, and loss of customers.
While 40 percent of organisations targeted using impersonation attacks (that involve criminals impersonating C-Suite executives or trusted vendors to lure employees into sharing data, credentials, or transferring money) suffered data loss, 29 percent of those targeted suffered financial losses, and 28 percent of them suffered the loss of customers.
Last year, a survey carried out by Lloyds Bank and Get Safe Online revealed that between 2017 and 2018, the number of reported impersonation fraud cases rose by 58 percent, costing UK-based SMEs an average of £27,000 and impacting nearly half a million of them. Law firms bore the brunt of impersonation fraud scams, suffering 19 percent of all attacks, followed by HR professionals, IT workers and finance companies.