Banks need to do more to protect customers - but you have to do your bit too

Never log into bank accounts via public wi-fi networks.
Never log into bank accounts via public wi-fi networks.

Fraud and how to protect people from it is one of the things which gets me - and the rest of the Which? team - out of bed in the morning.

We know the impact a scam can have on people’s lives - and their bank balances - so we go out of our way to show you how to stop fraudsters getting accessing to your current and savings accounts.

But not all fraudsters want your money - too often all they’re after is a clean bank account through which they can funnel illicit funds.

Indeed a recent report from fraud prevention body Cifas highlighted a ‘growing concern’ that fraudsters are opening accounts using stolen identities in order to deposit the proceeds of scams, or as a ‘link within a mule network’.

Couldn’t happen to you? Well just remember that you no longer need proof of ID to open a bank account in a branch - you can do it online and 94 per cent of imposter accounts are opened that way.

You might not even realise you’re a victim. Fraudsters use various methods to get the information they need to open accounts, from stealing mail to hacking, obtaining data on the dark web, or persuading people to give up personal information by pretending to be from a bank, the police or a trusted retailer.

So we recruited 10 volunteers to see whether we could gather enough information about them from social media and other online sources to open “imposter bank accounts” in their name.

The good news is that we failed in five cases. The bad news is in the other five we were able to obtain enough information to allow us to open accounts with a number of banks.

Of course banks need to do more to protect their customers, but without doubt we all must make sure we’re not unwittingly giving the fraudsters everything they need by being too lax about our personal information.

DON’T BE A VICTIM

* Never log into bank accounts via public wi-fi networks.

* Regularly check your credit report to ensure you spot any products you haven’t applied for.

* If you receive documents for an account you don’t recognise, look up the provider’s number independently and call it immediately.

* Opt out of the electoral roll open register, set your social media profiles to private and don’t add people you don’t know.

* Opt to receive bank statements and utility bills online if you’re concerned about the security of your post box and always redirect mail if you move house.

Send me your consumer queries at askalex@which.co.uk