What is APP fraud?

APP stands for Authorised Push Payment. APP fraud is essentially a fancy name for a type of scam. It’s where a criminal tricks someone into willingly making a bank transfer to them.

UK Finance, a banking and financial services trade association representing more than 300 firms, has estimated that in 2022 APP fraud was around £500,000 million across their membership, impacting people of all ages and backgrounds. This is why it’s important to be aware of different scams and how you can protect yourself.

What types of APP fraud are there?

Online shopping scams
These scams are typically seen on social media and marketplace sites, where scammers ask for a bank transfer for non-existent items such as event tickets, clothing or even vehicles.

Fraudsters advertise fake investment opportunities, often with unrealistic returns and little risk, on social media or professional looking websites. They may even reach out to you with a phone call or in person. Scammers may impersonate real investment groups or make it appear that celebrities are endorsing the company.

Romance scams
This occurs when a victim is persuaded into making payments for the benefit of someone they think they’re in a relationship with, however the relationship is fake. These scams often originate on dating sites or social media using fake profiles created with stolen images.

There are different types of impersonation scam, but all involve criminals pretending to be an individual or a business that they are not.

Safe account scams are when a victim gets a call from their ‘bank’, ‘law enforcement’ or ‘internet provider’, and are told to move money because their bank account is compromised or help is needed to investigate a crime.

HMRC and the criminal courts are frequently impersonated, with scammers demanding an immediate payment for ‘missed tax payments’ or a ‘fine’. Victims are threatened with arrest or deportation if they don’t pay.

Family and friends can also be impersonated, with fraudsters hacking social media accounts or sending texts or WhatsApp messages from new numbers, asking for urgent payments for ‘medical emergencies’ or ‘urgent bills’.

Invoice redirection scams
Criminals will hack into email inboxes owned by genuine firms and then contact their customers, asking for payments to be made to fraudulent accounts.

Advance Fee
This is when a scammer asks for an upfront fee for a service they ultimately won’t provide. This could be for things like loans, lottery wins or jobs.

CEO fraud
Scammers will impersonate a senior person in a business to trick employees into executing urgent payments.

How can I protect myself?

There are several ways you can help avoid APP fraud:

  • If someone is pressuring you to make a payment quickly, stop and think. A genuine company would never have an issue with you talking to a trusted friend or family member about a payment and taking your time.
  • Question unexpected contact regarding payment requests - is the request genuine? There’s never any harm in calling a company or individual on a contact number you find independently to check the legitimacy of a request.
  • Remember that phone calls and texts can be made to look like they’re from a real company - don’t take a phone number at face value.
  • Had an unexpected call from your bank? Call 159 to verify the call is genuine.
  • If someone is making you an offer that seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Always do your research before parting with your money - check independent reviews of a company and ensure they’re part of the relevant regulatory body. For example, anyone providing a financial service should be FCA registered.
  • Visit our friends at Take Five for more scam advice.

What does Starling do to protect me?

At Starling, there are a number of ways we help protect you from APP fraud:

  • You may see warnings pop up in the app when making some payments. These are designed to help highlight when a transfer might be part of a scam.
  • We regularly share news of scam trends on our social media, blogs and by email to ensure customers are kept up to date on what to look out for.
  • We keep an eye on your account and will contact you if we spot any payments that look like they might be part of a scam.
  • Confirmation of Payee (CoP) is a name checking process which allows you to verify the name of an account you’re making certain payments to. We’ll let you know if the name isn’t what you think it is, so you can complete extra checks to validate the payment.
  • We’re signed up to the Contingent Reimbursement Model (CRM code) which is a voluntary code focussing on preventing scams and supporting customers who become victims. It sets out the circumstances when victims are entitled to refunds.
  • We’re signed up to both Take Five, which is a national scam education campaign led by UK Finance, and Stop Scams, a collaboration of banking, telecom and technology companies working together to help prevent scams.
  • We’re connected to 159, the phone number you can call to be put directly through to your bank if you think someone is trying to scam you.
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