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Fraud: Stopping the Scammers? - Tonight

Adam Shaw investigates how scamming is now the most prolific crime in Britain. Photo: ITV / Tonight

CONCERNS have been raised after ITV’s Tonight Programme found people’s credit card details being given away for free on a mobile phone app.

The programme contacted one individual who expressed his horror that his full credit card details were available - leaving him potentially exposed.

Grandad of five Melvin Barrett had no inkling that his ID was being handed out as a loss leader by hackers on the “Telegram” phone app, in order to attract scammers.

Reporter Adam Shaw shows the gobsmacked householder his birth date, his secret password and all the other details required to rip him off.

Adam Shaw points out all of Melvin's bank details and passwords that were easily available online. Credit: ITV / Tonight

Fortunately the credit card firm had smelled a rat when a scammer tried to buy an airline ticket - and froze the account.

Melvin tells Adam: “If that could happen to me, it could happen to anybody.”

Criminologist Dr Mike McGuire fears it marks a new phase in cyber crime as criminals gravitate off the dark web to sell their wares.

“The kind of in clear sight way now that cybercrime is conducted whether it’s across social media platforms or on the clear web itself, that looks like it’s just something that’s going to continue to grow.”

– Dr Michael McGuire, University of Surrey

Experts in the programme are critical of officialdom.

Bank Fraud Consultant Richard Emery believes that the banks will eventually have to pay a billion pounds to customers - or risk another PPI scandal.

He cites the case of Agi Gamski who helps run a family firm MJC Construction in South London.

Her company email got hacked and a payment of £73,000 meant to be sent to a supplier, ended up in the hands of a fraudster.

She’d sent it to a roofing supplier but it was funnelled into the faked account of a Bangladeshi student whose visa had expired.

So the name of Agi’s payee was totally different from the name of the bank account it went into.

Some social media apps are easily abused by criminals to obtain illegal information and data. Credit: ITV / Tonight

Most people still do not realise that they can set up a payee name of Mickey Mouse and then if the sort code and the account number actually links to an account named Donald Duck, the bank will not notice that. It is a serious failure on the part of the whole of the banking system.

– Richard Emery, Bank Fraud Consultant

Banks are planning to introduce “Confirmation of Payee” next year which should resolve this particular issue. But they will not backdate compensation.

One man who did receive compensation is Gulberg Sidhu, who found that a scammer had stolen his identity to empty his account of all his savings.

He has audio of the scammer brazenly clearing his bank account.

When the bank wouldn’t refund him, Gulberg appealed to the Financial Ombudsman who judged he deserved a full refund.

Martin Lewis famously filed a lawsuit against Facebook after scams appeared using his name and face to trick people out of their money. Credit: ITV / Tonight

Scamming is now the most prolific crime in Britain. Millions of us are potential sitting ducks for the fraudsters.

Life changing sums of money are being stolen as the tricks of the trade get ever more sophisticated.

And Gareth Shaw of Which? believes the authorities are losing the battle.

“It's a huge issue that's not just the challenge for the banks to try and fix. It's a challenge for police, for government, for trading standards.

“There are so many different agencies involved in this. It's kind of like catching smoke and unfortunately they're losing the war at the moment.”

– Gareth Shaw, Which?

A Home Office Spokesperson said:

We are working with industry, law enforcement and regulators to reduce the number of fraud victims and to ensure they get support and advice on practical steps they can take to protect themselves.

– Home Office

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