Can you spot the difference? Few can! Fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated. In their efforts to try and convince members of the public that they are running a ‘legit’ business they are cloning the names of authorized and recognised financial services business in an effort to fleece people out of their money.
The latest attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the public is the cloning of price comparison and financial services website, moneysupermarket.com. The clone website is similarly named themoneysupermarket.com.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) last week issued a statement that this is a ‘clone firm’. They say fraudsters usually use this tactic of referring people to the fake website when simultaneously contacting people out of the blue via cold calling.
The FCA explains: ‘They may use the name of the genuine firm, the ‘firm reference number’ (FRN) we have given the authorized firm or other details.’
But companies like moneysupermarket.com, which are authorized by the FCA, are often not initially aware of the fact that their site has been cloned by a fraudster/s. It’s perhaps just after a few cases have been reported that the cloned site gets reported or taken down. By then it may be too late as the fraudsters would have conned people out of thousands of pounds.
What’s more, consumers are not always protected if they give money to these firms. The FCA points out that they will not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
Moneysupermarket.com is not the only company that has been fraudulently cloned in this way. It’s been reported that others that have had their websites cloned include UK General, Wentworth Insurance Brokers, Delta Car Insurance and managing general agent Insure4Sport was also targeted.
Earlier this year fraudsters were also claiming to work for ETF specialist asset manager, Vanguard Group and a few loan firms have also had their details cloned. In fact, if you want to scare yourself just search the subject of 'cloning' on the FCA's website and there will be a whole list of financial services institutions that have become a victim of this practice.
But it’s not just websites that are being cloned. It’s phone numbers too. Victims are being called by fraudsters using legitimate numbers from financial institutions and the HMRC.
Victims are even challenged by the fraudsters to Google the numbers they are calling from, and this action is in some cases enough to convince people that they are calling from legitimate sources. They are then convinced or threatened to transfer over money electronically to the fraudsters' account and this is often referred to as push payment fraud.
So what can you do if your business has been cloned?
The FCA is urging consumers to contact them if they come across an entity or individuals that are claiming to work for a legitimate firm or imitating a legitimate firm (when they are in fact not).
Numbers to dial include: 0800 111 6768 (freephone) or 0300 500 8082 from the UK or + 44 207 066 1000 from abroad.
If you think your firm has had its website cloned or scammers are using your company’s details fraudulently then you must contact the FCA’s Firm Helpline on 0300 500 0597.
If you’re concerned about cyber security, contact SchemeServe to see how we can help you.