They say you can't trick a trickster, but with the right tips and some good advice, you can at least stay one step ahead of the mobile fraudsters...

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Nobody likes being tricked and when it comes to mobile phones, and having the wrong people pull the wool over your eyes can lead to serious loss. That’s why we’re working harder than ever to try and stop all kinds of mobile phone fraud, and why we’ve been catching up with Claire Caddy in Vodafone UK’s security team.

Claire’s been telling Vodafone Social everything there is to know about mobile fraud, and what we can all do to stay on our toes when it comes to sniffing out potential cons…

Gone phishin’

“One of the most important things to remember,” says Claire first of all, “is that we will not contact our customers and ask for personal details such as user name, password, or even bank details, or direct to a website that asks for this information. If customers are concerned they should ring off and contact us directly by calling 191 from their mobile, or by going online to use our Webchat service.

“One of the biggest and most common types of scam we see is impersonation fraud,” says Claire. “That’s where the fraudster will gather customer information in order to access the customer’s account. They can use that information to impersonate people, which they’ll do to order upgrades or additional connections from their accounts, before intercepting those orders – even on the doorstep of your property. Or they will try and get the courier company to rearrange delivery to another address.

“We work closely with our delivery partner to stop that from happening, but the effects of that kind of trickery can be nasty: “They end up with the device in their hands, and you end up with a massive bill for something you haven’t received.”

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So how do these thieves get hold of customer data? Claire explains that it’s almost always done through texts, calls or emails that pretend to be something they’re not:

“We see customers who have been victims of phishing scams where they might have received an email or a text that isn’t legitimate,” she says. “So they might have received something that looks like it’s come from Vodafone, for instance, saying something like ‘you need to increase the security on your account.’

“Wrongdoers will throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.”

“The link will claim to take you through to a series of security questions, and it may look like the Vodafone website, but it’ll actually take you to a spoof website that’s controlled by the fraudster. Effectively you’d be handing all your details over to them. If they’ve got that information, they’ve got enough to impersonate you.”

The nature of these attacks, in which the wrongdoers throw everything at the wall and see what sticks, means they’re completely random: “We’ve had people complain to us that they’ve been targeted with emails claiming to be from Vodafone even if they’re not a Vodafone customer. So we know that it’s random, and everyone is targeted evenly.

“This kind of thing has grown considerably over the last few years,” Claire adds. While it’s true that fraud and scams are certainly nothing new, the type that focusses on the device in your pocket is, and Claire tells us it’s for a simple reason: they’re worth much more than they ever have been in the past. “Smartphones are pretty expensive now,” she says, “and there’s a high demand for them.

“But, unfortunately some people will always want to get things the cheapest way – even if it’s not through genuine means – and that means there’s a market for people claiming these handsets fraudulently and selling them on for less than their market value. Smartphones can cost up to £700, so if people can get them for £200 they will.”

How to spot a spoofer

So how can you keep from being hoodwinked? Claire’s got some simple rules to help you stay safe:

“Companies will never contact you and ask you to part with personal information,” she says, “either over the phone, via email or by text. So be wary of emails that ask you to click on links. If you hover your mouse over the link in an email (on your computer), you’ll be able to see the URL address that it’ll take you to. That means you’ll be able to see if it leads to a genuine website or a fraudulent variation. For example: ‘vodaphone.co.uk’ spelt with a ‘ph’ instead of an ‘f’.

“If a company called you and claims to be your mobile phone provider and asks for your personal information, you need to be sure you’re talking to the genuine company. That might mean hanging up, calling us up and asking to speak to that specific person. Never part with your personal information if someone contacts you out of the blue. You can also report spam texts by forwarding them to 87726 which spells VSPAM on your alpha-numeric keypad.”

get started

That’s all handy advice, but it’s not just customers who need to keep on top of things. As Claire explains, we’re working hard to make sure scams don’t stand a chance on our end, too:

“We educate our staff about social engineering,” she tells us. “So we’re prepared for people calling through trying to illicit information about staff or customer accounts. We will highlight known fraudsters to our staff, letting people know what they sound like and what they ask for.

“As well as this, we teach our staff to help customers increase security on their accounts with the use of PIN codes, passcodes and restricting access on their accounts. We have to be security aware, and if we are then we’ll be able to share that knowledge with our customers.

“And there’s always lots of useful information, help, and tips from trusted organisations, like Get Safe Online, which is the UK government’s security service to help protect computers, mobile phones and other devices from malicious attack that you can easily get access to”, Claire says in closing. “It’s important to know the risks, be able to identify them, and protect yourself against them.”

More info… You can find out more about what to do in the event of fraud here. Any questions or comments? Let us know in the comments section below!