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Financial fraud: a ris...

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Financial fraud: a risk you can't afford to ignore

Financial Fraud

Tackling the threat to these vulnerable people and reduce the possibility of fraud

We all try hard to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe from danger. But what support exists for the most vulnerable in society?

Cognitive impairment following brain injury can make it hard for people to come to sound financial decisions or to identify when they are at risk of falling prey to financial scammers.

We asked Cifas, the UK fraud prevention service with over 30 years’ experience, to tell us how they help people to stay safe from financial fraud and scams.

Financial crime is a serious threat to the UK. Some people can lose their life savings or businesses, which not only leaves them financially devastated but can cause lasting damage to their wellbeing and that of their family.

Even those who recover their money often report varying degrees of emotional and psychological harm as a result of being targeted.

Many people might consider themselves unlikely targets, but fraudsters don’t discriminate,
attacking all walks of life – rich and poor, young and old – and the increasing sophistication of the methods used mean that even those confident in their ability to ‘spot a scam’ are falling victim.

Bank cards in a wallet

People who are considered vulnerable due to age, disability, or illness, for example, are particularly at risk from unscrupulous criminals and sometimes even family and friends.

The Protecting the Vulnerable service, provided for free by Cifas, puts extra checks and protection in place for people who are cared for under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, Adults with
Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 or Mental Capacity Act (Northern Ireland) 2016. If you act as someone’s deputy or hold power of attorney this service may be of interest to you.

“It is important to recognise the epidemic nature of fraud and the impact of the crime on society,” said Kirstie Brookman, Protecting the Vulnerable lead at Cifas.

“Cifas works with hundreds of UK organisations to protect them and the people who use their services from financial crime.

Our members range from the largest UK banks such as HSBC and Santander, to charities and government bodies. Together, their customers and service users include some of the most
vulnerable people in society – including people living with brain injuries."

Assistance with finance

“We are leading the way in tackling the threat to these vulnerable people by creating effective services that protect the individual and reduce the possibility of fraud – including a key service for vulnerable people.

“These individuals are recorded to our system with a warning about their vulnerable status. Then, if any of our member organisations – which also include all the retail banks and credit card issuers – receive an application for credit, goods or finance in their name, they know to reject it and Cifas will report the incident to the relevant authorities.”

Kirstie told us about a recent case where Protecting the Vulnerable stopped an attempted fraud. An attempt to open a bank account in the name of a person registered with Protecting the Vulnerable was rejected and reported after the first failed application listed a different address to that of the vulnerable individual.

This was followed by a second attempt that listed the correct address, prompting an investigation that revealed the ‘applicant’ was being impersonated.

This important service from Cifas currently protects more than 5,000 vulnerable people identified by organisations including law firms and local authorities, as well as individuals.

“We are always looking at other ways to protect vulnerable people from financial crime,” said Kirstie. “Last year Cifas helped launch the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on
Financial Crime and Scamming.

“This group of cross-party MPs looks at the response to fraud by law enforcement, government, and the public, private and charity sectors, and seeks to improve it – as well as support and protect society from the criminals who perpetrate financial crimes.”

The APPG has launched an inquiry into what more could, and should, be done to protect vulnerable people from fraudsters. Headway has submitted evidence about the effects of ABI on cognitive reasoning, lack of insight and vulnerability which will be considered as part of the inquiry.

To find out more about Cifas, you can get in touch at or visit

Five ways to reduce your risk of being a victim of fraud:

  1. If you receive a call from someone saying they are from your bank, tell them you will return their call later in the day. Then call your bank on one of its official numbers. Don’t call back straight away, and don’t dial a number given to you during the call – it could be a hotline direct to the fraudsters.

  2. Keep a list of your bank, building society and credit card company’s phone numbers in a safe place, so you don’t have to spend time looking them up if you are under stress or worried about something.

  3. Never share personal or financial information, such as your mother’s maiden name, your place of birth, your password, or your bank account details with someone who calls you.

  4. If you haven’t entered a competition, you haven’t won a prize! Don’t share any personal details with people contacting you to say you are a winner unless you are sure you entered the competition. This is a really common scam.

  5. People you meet online – for friendship, looking for romance, or through shared interests – may not be who they seem to be, especially if you never meet them in real life. Never share personal information with someone you don’t know or trust.

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