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Scams, do you really know who you’re talking to?

Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to this Barclays virtual event.

Scams, do you really know who you're talking to?

Impersonation scams is a really hot topic, and we could all be a target.

So a little bit of context before we get started.

Criminals or experts impersonating people and organisations we trust, such as the police, your bank, a delivery or utility company.

They take advantage of current affairs and the economic climate and maximise the opportunity to target you, hoping you'll let your guard down for just a moment.

Today you'll learn from our experts about the latest trends in impersonation scams and how to help protect yourself and your money.

So just some introductions.

Firstly, I'm Ross Martin, head of Digital Safety for the Barclays Digital Equals Programme.

And I'm really pleased to say I'm joined today by our guest speakers, Samantha Cooper, head of Fraud Prevention at Barclays.

Samantha will be providing an insight into what Barclays are doing to proactively support our customers to protect themselves through education and awareness and give you some examples of scams we have seen to bring them to life.

I'm also really pleased to say I'm joined by Catriona Still, head of fraud prevention at the dedicated card and payment crime unit.

Catriona will be sharing her knowledge and expertise on the tactics techniques used by today's criminals and how changing your mindset, and some behaviours can reduce the risk of losing money to this crime.

And we want this to be a really interactive event.

So please submit any questions you have throughout the event using the option in the top right corner of your screen.

I would then look to share as many of these questions with our speakers towards the end of today's event.

So without further ado, I'm now going to hand over to Catriona Still amazing.

Thanks very much, Ross.

Thanks for the update and the intro and good afternoon.

Thank you all for taking the time out of your busy days in order to come and hear what we have to say when really here to try and change your mindset and try and prevent you being the next victim of a scam.

I've been in fraud now for 20 years, and it's fair to say I've seen a lot change in that time.

The criminals are getting very sophisticated.

They're very clever, very, very good at what they do.

And so I genuinely and I'm saying this from the bottom my heart, I genuinely believe any one of us can be the victim of a scam if caught at the wrong time for us and the right time for criminals That's something we call situational vulnerability.

It might be that you're busy arranging, I don't know, a meal for your elder parents or your parent responsibilities.

And if you're caught at the wrong time and they're putting pressure on you, I genuinely, genuinely believe that each one of us can be the victim.

So don't think this can't happen to you.

I genuinely think it can.

And I've seen it happen to everyone ranging from barristers, law enforcement, and anyone of us can be caught at the wrong time.

So the first thing I want to concentrate on today is I just want to give you a little bit of an idea about what we're talking about.

So give you a little bit of context.

Have a look at some of the industry stats.

Just have a bit of an idea about what that looks like to us.

So when we look at how much fraud and scams are costing the industry, that's not just the Barclays customers that to all financial industry.

The UK finance statistics are showing us that £609.

8 million £609.

8 million was lost to authorised and unauthorised fraud and scams in the first half of 2022.

That is absolutely staggering when you think how much money that is, that is a significant amount of money.

The point I want to make on that when I talk about authorised and unauthorised, just so you have a bit of an understanding about what that is, an authorised payment is one where the criminal will coach you into making that transfer.

So for example, you might receive a phone call telling you that phoning from the police and that they need to move your money to to a safe account or phoning from your bank and needing to move money to a safe account.

If they get you to do that transaction themselves, that's called authorised because it's you doing it from your own device.

Unauthorised will be where criminals are doing that transaction themselves.

Just so you got a bit of an understanding about that.

Now interestingly, if we look at how much was actually prevented in the first half of last year, £584 million was actually stopped.

That's using the advanced security systems of the banks.

That again is a significant amount of money.

And on average we're preventing about 67.

3 pence in every pound.

It's roughly around that that amount.

So we're not doing a bad job.

But the truth of the matter is this always that more can be done, always more that can be done.

And I can give you my guarantee that together we are doing what we can to try and prevent the scammers.

Now let's have a look at one of the scam types.

This is something I want to concentrate on today impersonation scams.

Okay, Now impersonation is split into two different types.

One is impersonation of bank staff and police, and then the other is impersonation of utility companies, Something like that.

Impersonation scams are a major problem for us at the moment.

This is where somebody will be claiming they are someone when they're not so let's use the example of impersonation of bank staff or of police staff.

I want to again give you a little bit of an idea about what statistics are looking like this just so you can get a flavour of how much this is costing the industry.

Again, we're going to look at the first half of last year because we've got this, that's for this at the moment, the first half of 2022 industry figures from UK Finance are showing a loss of £59.

6 million on impersonation of bank staff or of police.

Okay, impersonation of utilities, mobile phone companies, etc.

We're looking at £30.

9 million and then romance frauds.

Again, I see that as a type of impersonation that is £16.

6 million.

Okay, This is how much it is costing us.

These are the cases that we know about that have been reported in in the first six months of last year.

Now, we do have some up to date statistics which UK Finance just released earlier this week.

This week because it is this week take five to stop fraud week.

This is where we do planned action to try and reduce people becoming the victim of scams and we've got some up to date industry stats, which I'm pleased to be able to share with you today.

The the whole of 2022 impersonation scams have cost 177.

6 million.

Look how much that's jumped from the first half of last year up to £177.

6 million.

That's around about 45,000 cases reported in to us.

And like I said, that's only what we know about.

That's not the cases where people haven't actually reported it to their bank.

Some people feel embarrassed or ashamed or guilt and don't report it.

Please do not feel ashamed or embarrassed.

As I said, I genuinely believe anybody can be a victim of a scam if caught at the wrong time for you and the right time for the criminals.

I talk about five different pillars that will cause this effect.

This is what the criminals use in order to target you.

So if you receive a phone call out of the blue, you'll always have they'll provide a bit of context for you.

They'll use authority.

So they'll say, Hi, it's Cat calling from the dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit.

I need to talk to you today.

We've arrested somebody that's got so-and- so they've got this and they've got cards or whatever it might be in your name.

And I need to speak to you today about it.

They'll use urgency.

They'll say something along the lines of You must act now, because if you don't, all your money will be gone.

So they'll really pile that pressure on you.

They might use scarcity, they might say, but if you don't act now, you're going to miss out on this or you're going to lose more money.

This we often see this with investment scams where they will use scarcity.

You know, we've got a great offer for you today, but if you don't take this now, then this carbon credits, for example, they're going to rocket through or the Bitcoin are going to rocket through the costs an awful lot more.

Take that now, you know, take that opportunity now.

And the biggest one I concentrate on is that emotion.

They will turn this into something where you feel even nervous, scared they'll put you into that fight or flight mode you may have heard people talk about before.

They are just piling on that pressure in order to try and take advantage of you during those those moments where you might otherwise be really quite busy.

So what you'll see is that the stats are really quite frightening.

What we've seen over COVID certainly is we saw a slight increase from 2020 when it went up quite significantly and then it slightly dropped.

But as it happens, romance fraud has really, really taken hold.

And this is this is an area that certainly within the policing and within the banking industry that we're concentrating our efforts on try and prevent people becoming victims.

So if you receive unsolicited phone calls or emails that the tactics the criminals will use is they'll either be phoning you, they'll be sending you text messages, emails.

They may well even have fake websites or social media, social media posts, because the truth is their aim is to trick you into handing over your personal details, your passwords.

So what they'll then use with that data, they'll use that information to then target you and then to convince you to authorise those payments.

So it is certainly an area that we are genuinely concerned about and we want you as the customers to take back the autonomy to make the decision to say, you know what, stop, stop what you're doing, don't go any further.

It's okay to say no to the criminals.

If you receive an unsolicited phone call or an email or text message, you do not have to respond.


The second thing we talk about in the Take Five campaign is to protect yourself and to protect your data.

If you've accepted a call, you've started passing some information over.

Don't worry, just stop.

Don't go any further and then phone your bank.

That's the first piece of advice I want to give you.

Make sure that you speak to your and speak to your bank and then also report it to action fraud.

We talk within the police world that within our police unit we look at organised criminal gangs that are responsible for these types of crimes.

And if we didn't have each of the jigsaw piece puzzles to build that picture, to go after the criminal gangs, it would make our lives an awful lot harder.

Every piece of that jigsaw will make that picture.

And so what I'm also going to be today is if you have been the victim of a fraud or a scam, report it to your bank or your financial institution, but also make sure that you're reporting it to action fraud.

Because if we don't have all of those pieces to that jigsaw puzzle, it does make it a very, very difficult landscape, a very difficult picture to get after those criminal gangs.

Now, when it comes to some of the work that we're doing in our police unit, we are targeting those criminal gangs that are going after you and after your data.

We deal with all sorts of different cases, and I know Sam will give you some examples of this in a little while, but I just wanted to give you a few that I'm hearing about a lot within our police department at the moment, within our police unit at the moment.

One of those is people calling, claiming to be from the police.

Now very clever how they do this because you automatically think, i’d know if it was the police that not hang up or put the phone down, I wouldn't speak to them.

If they call you and say hi, it's Cat calling from the Serious Fraud Office.

I believe somebody has got your data and I really want to make sure that they don't steal any more of your money.


I spoke about that cause it puts you into that kind of that they grab your emotion, they make you feel nervous.

Already, you're feeling like something's got to happen quickly.

They'll be putting the urgency on you.

They're really clever in what they do because what they will say is they'll say something like, But before I go any further, you need to check who I am.

Don't give out any of your data.

You must never give your data out over the phone.

What they'll ask you to do is to dial nine, nine, nine and ask to speak to the police to check who I am.

Now, what they'll ask you to do is to do that immediately so that the phone line is not disconnected.

Now, as far as you're concerned, you'll think you've put phone down and that the phone will be disconnected, but actually what they'll be doing you’ll phone through thinking you’re dialling nine, nine, nine and you'll hear somebody say which service you require today.

Was it the police, fire or ambulance.

So you think you've gone through to a call centre?

They might even have the background noise of a call centre.

Very, very clever in how they do it.

Then they'll have a different voice answer and then they'll put through to police.

When you've asked the police and they'll say, Oh yes, what was the warrant number of that officer that called 991325.

Let me just check.

Yes, I can confirm Catriona Still works for the Serious Fraud Office and that is her warrant number.

So you can continue that call in faith.

Now they automatically then when they go back to the criminal, think that they're speaking to a police officer.

So they will think they're involved in a police investigation, maybe looking at somebody working within the branch.

They might claim that it's to do with counterfeit notes being handed out.

And what they'll ask you to do is go into the branch and do a withdrawal.

Now, what you'll notice with this, they won't let you put the phone down.

They'll be on the phone with you all the way, coaching you, getting you to say the right things to the branch counter staff because the branch counter staff are wise to this and they will try and stop you in your tracks from doing those withdrawals.

It's a really good system that the banks have introduced right across the whole of the UK.

It's called banking protocol and it's trying to safeguard you from the scammers.

It's trying to prevent you from taking the money out and handing it over to a scammer.

So you might find if you go into your branch to do a genuine withdrawal, you might get a series of questions asked of you.

That is another security measure that the banking industry have introduced to try and prevent these scammers in their tracks and since inception is saved.

I must admit I don't know the exact figure off the top of my head, but I believe it to be around about £600 million.

That's just in the last few years.

That's a significant amount of money that it's blocked.

But that's why the criminals are now diverting their tactics and trying to go to the customers directly to do these withdrawals.

So if you are asked to go into a branch, you're told it's part of a police investigation.

I can guarantee it won't be okay.

I'm reading around about ten reports of this just in the Metropolitan Police area alone per day.

I dread to think what that is countrywide.

Okay, so any unsolicited phone calls?

Please don't go ahead with it.

Please take five.

Stop what you're doing and think about what it is they're asking of you.

It's okay to say no.

It's okay to hang the phone up.

And then what I would ask is that you phone your bank immediately, preferably from another phone, if you can, just in case that that phone line open or give it a few minutes before you then phone out.

What the criminals will do is try and keep that phone line open as long as possible because they don't want you phoning the bank.


That's another tactic they'll use.

So you can see these are quite sophisticated scams and I genuinely believe a lot of people can be victim to the scams.

And like I said, the loss is significant.


6 million on this alone on impersonation frauds in the last 12 months.

That is a significant amount of money to be losing.

And we want you to take back that take back the autonomy.

It's okay to stop.

It's okay to say no.

The other thing I'd like to touch on Ross, is around data.

Criminals have access to data online.

Now they can purchase this.

It's like a business.

If I'm honest.

We've seen a business set up, so they will have an actual call centre.

They'll have people working for them who may not even really understand that they're involved in this.

They might think they've got themselves a part time job phoning out customers, trying to help them.

It's it's crazy that the data that is available online can be easily purchased is a driver of these frauds.


So it's not just people getting the data off social media.

A colleague of mine that works in used to work in counter terrorism.

One of the things he's always said to me and when we do these presentations, he said all the training in the world showed me that I don't actually need all the training in the world in order to trace people.

People easily, readily hand out their data without thinking twice.

I don't know.

Another another way of looking at it is if you're in the in, I don't know, walking down the high street.

I'm in Uxbridge in West London today doing a presentation to branch staff and customers on theft of money and you see somebody with a clipboard.

What's the first thing you'll do?

You're a massive semicircle around them because you don't want to give your personal data out or, you know, you'll avoid eye contact, for example, because you don't want to give your data out.

You're too busy, you're nervous about who they are and what they're asking for of you.

But yet online, if somebody were to say, here's an offer for a £500 gift card to enter that all we need is your name, your email address, and your telephone number.

Would you do it?

I think a lot of us would.

I'm just asking you to challenge the amount of data that you share online on social media with these gift cards, because quite often that gift card is non-existent.

All they're doing is harvesting your data, taking your data.

They've now got your name, they've got your telephone number, and they've got your email address so that you can become their next target, their next victim.

So today, change the way you're working.

If you receive phone calls, it's okay to challenge, it's okay to stop.

And then most importantly, if you do receive one of those phone calls, make sure you protect yourself, phone your bank, let action fraud know any information that you can names that they've given, they might claim to be.

DC John Smith from Hammersmith Police Station.

Any information like that really helps us in our investigation work within the law enforcement unit in which we work.

That is it from me for now, Ross I will be coming back a little bit later just to talk through some of those key takeaways at the end.

But without further ado, I will pass back to you for now.


Thank you.

Thanks so much.


Just those numbers you've shared really show the size of the problem, it is something, isn't it?

And the techniques and tactics just also really bring to life how we can all easily fall into that trap even if we are au fait with technology.

So thank you so much, Caitriona.

So we’re going to hand, straight over to Samantha from Barclays, Head of Fraud Prevention.

Thanks, Ross, and thanks Cat, for providing all that information.

Really, really insightful.

I think challenging the data that we share is really, really key.

So I think it's great that we've been able to talk about that so afternoon everyone.

My name's Sam and I'm head of fraud prevention at Barclays.

I'm really, really happy to be here today taking part in this event and talking to you all about impersonation scams.

So our personal finances are more important than ever at the moment with the rising cost of living.

And many of us are looking at ways to reduce what we pay and to ensure that our money is safe.

Scams in general are on the rise and this is due to many factors when talking specifically about impersonation scams.

If we take the increased cost of living, there'll be many reasons why we could be more susceptible to being the victim of a scam.

For example, lots of us would have received a text message, presuming you’re with an energy provider that you are entitled to a rebate and for you to enter your details in order to get that rebate.

Now, factually, that is correct and that was correct, but we were entitled to that rebate.

However, these were automatically applied and not something that you would have had to have given your personal information for.

So the message would have actually been a scam.

Impersonation scams on the rise.

And this is one of the highest reported scam types which we see at Barclays.

So, Cat’s shared some really good examples.

And I'm just going to bring to life to you what we see within Barclays and how people can be targeted by these criminals.

So the first example that I'd like to talk about is where somebody impersonates your bank.

You may receive a text message or phone call advising you that your money is somehow at risk.

Now, obviously, if we received a message like this, of course, we would be in doubt straight away thinking, oh my God, what what's happening with the money in my account?

We want to make sure that it's safe.

Now, this would be a major, major concern if somebody is telling you this.

So I'd like to stress at this point that the number showing up on your phone might actually show as a Barclays telephone number.

So this is known as spoofing numbers can be easily spoofed to look like the real phone number.

And therefore, if you have any concerns, you should hang up and call the number on the back of your card.

You may also have been told by that person to just simply Google that number so you would have your phone gone to Google, type it in and yes, it will show as potentially being from your bank.

It will show as being from your bank because they have spoofed the incoming number to you.

So just keep that in mind on telephone numbers and calls that you receive.

So you may also be told by that person as well that your money is at risk and they have asked you if you've spent £300, for example, at John Lewis.

They'll ask you if you've spent that money, to which you would say no, and they would then pressure you into moving your money.

A bank would never, ever ask you to move your money to somewhere else.

And in this example, you would have been scammed into believing that you were talking with a member of staff.

Other impersonation cases, unfortunately, are where we see the elderly being targeted with someone pretending to be from the bank or the police will contact you advising that the branch staff cannot be trusted and that you must visit that branch to remove your money.

What would happen then is a courier will be arranged to meet you and to actually hand over that money to you.

Now, I just wanted to let you know about that scam type because as I said, it does target the elderly and people who may be more vulnerable to believing that the police or the bank want you to withdraw your money and to hand it over to somebody.

The next example is where scammers are impersonating children and targeting parents to give them money to help them out of a situation.

So this would be via a messaging service and quite common on WhatsApp.

I myself have received a message.

I have a two year old, my parents have received the message as well.

This is so, so common for people to receive this and to think, Oh, a child needs some money, I'm going to transfer them, transfer them some funds.

So the message will say something along the lines of Hi mum, I hope you're okay, This is my new number or I've lost my phone.

so using the friend’s.

I’ve an urgent bill that I need to pay, can you transfer some money?

We've seen in some instances customers responded and actually asking which child is sending the message.

And the scammers have replied, is your favourite or it's the youngest.

So if you receive a message like this, the easiest thing to do which is what we try to advise customers, is to stop, think and ring.

If you receive a message saying, This is my new number, I need some money, call the old number.

That's the easiest and quickest way to validate that it is your child sending you that that text message.

So I've seen examples of parents responding, asking if they're okay.

And of course, if your child is asking you for money, you're going to try and help them out but this scam is so, so common.

I know so many people have received this message.

My own mum's received this message.

And then later in the day she's asked me if I've sent her a WhatsApp asking for some money, to which I haven't.

The final example I want to talk through is HMRC scams.

So you'll be contacted by someone pretending to be from the HMRC or Ministry of Justice advising that you owe unpaid taxes and that you're going to be arrested if you don't pay.

Now this.

is absolutely not true.

So if you receive a message like this, you'll probably receive a link where they'll ask you to click on that link and fill out some personal information.

So again, stop, think could ring.

Easiest thing for you to do is to find the genuine contact details of HMRC and give them a call yourself.

So from the examples i’ve talked through, many of you may have been thinking how easy it can be to be scammed or you may have been thinking, I wouldn't have done that.

I would have spotted it straightaway.

So scammers are really sophisticated experts in what they do in customer service.

They're absolutely experts and they will make you believe you are speaking to a genuine person from an organisation.

So I'm going to talk through some warning signs now and what to look out for, which will help to prevent you being a victim of a scam.

So as Cat described earlier on, an impersonation scam is where a criminal will pretend to be someone from your bank, the police, a trusted organisation, or even a friend or family.

The sole reason is to convince you to send them money or provide your personal details which they can later use to target you with.

There are some things which I'd like you to be aware of and to look out for going forward.

And so you contacted out the blue by someone claiming to be the bank or the organisation requesting you to transfer money urgently or advise that your account is at risk.

Remember, nobody trustworthy will ever, ever ask you to do this.

So of course I just spoke about the family, children and parents scam type.

You already can have an element of trust if you think it's your child messaging you.

So just be careful if you receive anything out of the blue, just think that doesn't seem right.

I want to have a further look into that.

And as Cat said, it's okay to say no, so please just take that away.

If you've been contacted via suspicious email or text message or even a phone call, please avoid clicking on links that have been sent to you.

Never, ever download software, which somebody said to you that you need to download in order to, for example, move money to a safe account.

If you download that software that can give a scammer access to all of the information that you have on your phone laptop, or any device that you've got, they would have access to it.

Never feel rushed, pressured or forced into making a payment.

Always make sure you're comfortable and are happy with the requests being made.

If in doubt, use a trusted source such as the company's website, or if someone is claiming to be from the bank, simply call the number on the back of your card so that you can make contact yourself in order to avoid an impersonation scam.

One of the things that we say is the easiest thing for you to do is to change the method of communication.

And so if you've received a text message or if you've received a phone call, just go and verify that yourself and make new communication.

So that will stop scammers being able to keep you on the phone.

As Cat said, they want to keep you on the phone so that you don't ring the bank.

So change the method of communication, which will help.

At this point.

I'd like to highlight another growing scam type, which we see and you may have seen this on the news as well, which is romance scams.

Now, romance scams differ to impersonation where the scammer has emotionally manipulated you into believing that they are in a relationship with you in order for you to willingly give them money.

Now, as you can imagine, this is extremely upsetting for customers who have been a victim of a romance scam as emotionally this can be absolutely heartbreaking.

It's shockingly cruel what they do to people and is something that we are working hard to tackle and to break the spell that these scammers are putting people into.

So some top warning signs for romance scams are when you've not physically met the person very often have not actually met them face to face.

Most likely wouldn't have spoken to them even, and the most communication that you would have had would be via a text message or email.

These payments will often be low in value, very high in volume, and the reason for the request will always differ.

So it might be, for example, they need some money for medical bills or they want some money to actually buy a plane ticket so that they can come and see you.

And of course, that will never happen.

Something will come up and they'll ask you for more money so that they can make a fresh attempt to come in, come in to meet you.

If the person you're communicating with is giving you instructions on how to get the payment through our bank systems or coaching you on what to say to us as the reason why you are transferring money, then ask yourself two things.

One, why and how do they know this?

And two, if it's legitimate, why would you actually need to do this?

This is the same for all scams.

So the examples I've gone through are not an exhaustive list, so I'd encourage you all to visit: www.



uk/fraud-and-scams to see more details on how you can protect yourself and for more information on the latest scams.

So i’d next?

Like to talk to you about what Barclays are doing to protect you.

So we have specialist systems in place which will monitor payments 24 by seven.

And we have highly skilled colleagues who will sometimes make contact with you where we feel we need to talk about a payment and understand if it could potentially be a fraud or a scam.

We will have a conversation with you to determine if there are any scam concerns and determine if it is actually a genuine payment.

So we would like to have an in-depth conversation with you about that.

When you make payment for the first time to someone new we’ll ask what the payment is for via your mobile banking and will provide guidance which we encourage you all to follow before making that payment.

It's really, really important that you answer the reason for that payment truthfully as this will help us to prevent you from being a victim of a scam.

If you have already been a victim of a scam, we will provide you with additional support where you can seek guidance and speak to an independent charity that would be able to help people who have been a victim of a crime.

And remember, please be mindful.

This is something Cat suggested earlier as well.

Please be mindful of the information that you share online.

I see a lot of accounts on social media where phone numbers are listed.

For example, in a profile section, it will say that they are a brother or a sister or a mother and going back to the child and parent scam type, this is really easy to use that data to target people with.

So please do your own independent checks as well.

When making payments, we would want you to be comfortable with who you are paying and that you've verified that information yourself.

So I'm going to hand back over to Cat now to talk about Take Five.

Thanks, Sam.

Just a couple of bits I wanted to pick up on because you raised some really valid points there.

One of the things on romance fraud from a police perspective that it's always worth doing, if you've got an image of an individual, you can actually copy and paste that into a Google search or Bing search, whichever one you want to use, and to what's called a reverse image search that will show you if that image is popping up elsewhere.


So from a romance perspective, it's not a bad idea just to give it a go if you're in a relationship.

And as Sam said, that they're so, so good at this.

This is what they do day in, day out.

And with unfortunately, quite a few different people.

And another point on romance fraud.

This is affecting people of all ages and it certainly increased significantly during COVID.

And I think part of that was down to isolation, people being isolated from their friends and family and not necessarily talking to anybody else.

And, you know, people looking for company and friendship.

And the scammers genuinely think that they're doing something, doing you a service by speaking to you.

It's it's insane.

I've been speaking to one of our police officers who's investigating this.

And in a faraway land, I won't say which country is.

And yeah, that their children that are children that are doing this, they I think they're doing nothing wrong.

And that's the way that they make their money.

Unfortunately, it has a devastating impact on people speaking to victims where they, you know, they genuinely lost their independence.

That too embarrassed.

They don't talk to anybody about it.

They won't tell their family because they've you know, they feel shame, guilt.

We've spoken already about this this morning.

And I genuinely just want to make the point that you should feel absolutely no shame, guilt or embarrassment if you're the victim of a romance fraud or any other scam, because like I said right at the beginning, genuinely, this can happen to any one of us.

So please do report it.

Do a reverse image search.

Just another method there just to try and stop them in their tracks.

And the other bit I just wanted to point out you spoke about data as well.

Sam, and I mentioned that in my talk too, because it is if they don't have the data, they can't be phoning you, they can't be making contact with you.

So do you please really think about who you're sharing your data with?

Data is sold online and in a marketplace a bit like eBay.

If any of you have done eBay and people have reviews on how well or how good their data is and if the card is blocked, they bought the criminals bought, they give them a refund.

You know, it is a marketplace.

I just want you to understand that this is happening, day in, day out, online.

Law enforcement do as much as they can to try and prevent it, but it still sneaks through.

It's a bit like with the banking industry.

They'll do as much as they can, but unfortunately, there is always going to be a way round for the criminals.

I'm so sorry, on that point.

Getting back to the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, I did mention already that it is take five to stop fraud week.

This is a whole week of of different campaigns that we're doing to try and educate the public on how they can prevent themselves Being the victim of scam and fraud.

And you can look for this information if you go online on to take five to stop fraud, you can do a search and it will tell you all about it.

We've covered off what those three key parts are here.

And I'm going to say it again because I think it's really, really important.

It's okay to stop.


It's okay if somebody is asking you or you're in a relationship with someone that you're now thinking, is this okay?

It's alright to stop, it's okay to speak to somebody about it.


You don't have to continue.

You can stop.

Is it fake?

It's okay to reject.

It's okay to refuse it.

And it's okay to not answer the phone if you choose not to.

And then finally, it's about making sure that you protect your account and your data.

So if you know, if you've received a phone call, you've received a text message or an email, you can send that on.

Let your bank know immediately.

First point of call is always going to be your bank, your financial institutions, so they can protect your accounts.

And then as I've said before, I need your jigsaw piece puzzles.

I need those pieces of the puzzles so that we can try and put them together to get after the organised criminal gangs that are making an awful lot of money out of this and unfortunately funding some really horrific crimes.

So we need your help.

Everybody on the call today, take heed and do what you can to try and prevent yourself being the victim of a scam.

Thanks, Ross.

Thank you so much, Cat.

And thank you, Sam, for sharing all of your insight.

I think I just want to make the point that impersonation scams are the second highest in terms of all the scam types we see, and that's in terms of the volume.

So there are so many different variations, and this is why we have to not let our guard down.

So what I'd like to do now is move onto the Q&A section.

Thank you so much for your questions.

We have had hundreds of questions, and I'm going do my best to get through as many of those as I can.

So keep your answers fairly brief.

But I will be coming onto some of the resources where you can find answers to the questions that we might not be able to get through today.

So let's move on to these questions.

And Cat, Sam, I’ll pose these to both of you, and it's really good to get your thoughts.

So, Cat, if I could start with you, what should I do If I think I've spoken to a scammer?

Yeah, unfortunately, I think we've just covered this one off.

The first thing you can do is put the phone down.

If you think even halfway through the conversation, I almost think we're too polite as a nation.

If you're feeling uncomfortable, you don't think something's right, or you just having listened to our advice, you now take a call, It's okay to actually hang up on them.

It is okay to put the phone down.

And it's quite interesting when you do that because their language changes.

They go from being this ever so amazing.

Sam spoke about how good they are at customer service.

They go from amazing customer service to the worst customer service you can ever experience.

Just very briefly, I read a report just yesterday that came through the met, of a 92 year old lady who had taken a call.

She didn't believe it was right.

She put the phone down and they called her a horrible horrible word and she's actually quite traumatised by the whole experience.

So we have got some specialist officers that are now supporting her through that.

So it's okay to stop and it's okay to hang up on them.

And then the first thing to do is to contact your bank, make sure that you secure your banking information Thanks, Cat.

And a two part question for you also.

So the first one is I receive a large number of texts claiming to be from Royal Mail or HMRC.

Who should I report these to?

But also who should I report the emails to as well?

Yeah, great.

Great question that one, Ross.

Thank you.

I haven't brought this up yet, but I was going to if it didn’t come in the Q&A.

That's great.

If you receive a text message that you believe to be scam, it could be from HMRC.

DPD Royal Mail.

You probably all have them.

I know I have.

The first point to make is, the banking industry have been working with the mobile network operators to try and stop this.

So actually I'd like to think you've all seen a massive reduction in this, which in a way Sam was speaking earlier about the WhatsApp scams.

It's moved it to WhatsApp.

The bonus is now that you can forward any text messages you get to 7726.

Now it's spells spam on your keyboard.

You know how your numbers have got letters as well.

It spells spam: S-P-A-M.

Okay, so please do forward any text messages that you get to spam.

The thing to do is with emails is to report them to or send them on to report@phishing.

And that's spelt P-H I-S-H-I-N-G .


uk and then the National Cyber Security Centre will make sure that that is investigated too.

That's me.

Did I answer both of those?

Ross, Covered them both?

Yeah, that's great.

And what I do know is that information obviously helps the likes of law enforcement to to take down these sites and to stop other people falling victim.

So yeah, as it happens, our police unit.

Sorry to interrupt you, Ross.

I do apologise.

Cutting over you.

The police unit in which I work, the dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit, doesn't take reports from the public.

We're looking at the organised criminal gangs that we're trying to get up the chain as it happens during COVID times.

I think it was 24 arrests we made of people sending out those text messages, those Royal Mail scams, etc.

And if you want to look that up, you can look it up on its website called UK Finance.

And if you look up DCPCU press statements, you'll be able to see all the great news and all the work we do.

You can also follow us on our Twitter account and our LinkedIn pages too.


Thank you.


So sorry.

No, absolutely.

There's some great, great stories and resources there, I can definitely vouch for that.

Sam, I'm coming over to you if I can.

So when I received a call from the bank, you ask for my personal details, but you've called me.

Why do you do this?

So, yeah, that’s a really good question.

We do get this a lot from customers.

So firstly, I think as I said earlier, if we're suspicious of a payment, we will want to make contact with you so that we can protect you.

So we want to have a conversation about that payment.

So we will need to identify you obviously, so that we can be sure that we are talking to the genuine customer and that your mobile phone number - Your mobile phone hasn't been stolen and we get through to somebody else and it's a fraudster that we then end up talking to.

So the easiest way for us to verify you, and for you to be sure that you're speaking to a member of staff from Barclays is using the Barclays Mobile Banking app and you would be able to authenticate on that application on your phone and confirm that you are speaking to Sam, from Barclays.


Thank you.

Sam, another question for you.

How do I know an email I've received is fake?


So I think we all receive a lot of emails, don't we?

A lot of spam.

So so much that we've got coming through.


If I was to receive an email from HMRC saying that I owed tax and I was going to be arrested if I didn't give them the money and if I double click on that email, it will give you the full email address in there.

So it won't just say HMRC.

If you go into it, you'll see the full address.

And if that email address was from a Hotmail account, I would think straightaway, why would HMRC be using a Hotmail account to email me?

So straightaway I'll think that suspicious.

So if you receive an email, just have a look at the full address, and then have a look online If you think it's suspicious and find out what the actual email address is.


Thanks again, Sam.

I'm actually going to answer a question here myself that's come in.

I think it's a really key question.

So someone's asked what is the most prevalent type of scam?

So in terms of Barclays data research that we've done in the last six months, the most prevalent type of scam by volume would be purchase scams.

So this is things that we buy through potentially fake websites, fake social media adverts.

And then in terms of the actual value and the most prevalent scam types are actually romance scams, which both Cat and Sam have touched on.

And also investments scams.

These really important for people just to know the the most popular type of scams we're seeing both by volume and by value Sam could I also ask you one question we've had is my mobile has the Barclays app and if my mobile is stolen, how do I ring?

So if you have if your mobile is stolen, give us a call on the number on the back of your Barclays debit card.

That would be the easiest way for you to get in contact with us.

And you know that you'll be through to the correct area.

So I think and I'd stress that as well, if you receive the call from us or someone pretending to be us and you're really not sure, call the number on the back of your card.

yeah, definitely.

Over to you Cat.

Is it possible to receive a call showing it's from England, but the original call is from abroad?

Yeah, absolutely.

So Sam picked up on this one earlier, and I'm really glad that she covered it off because it is one of the biggest precursors to fraud.

It's an enabler.

It's happening.

They they will identify a phone number.

They can they can spoof a phone number for it to be whatever they want it to be.

Again, the banking industry have done a lot to try and prevent this.

So actually, these days, somebody can't spoof a bank's telephone number.

I'm saying that with my fingers crossed.

I know there's been a huge amount work done on this.

I'm pretty certain now they cannot now spoof any of the bank numbers, which is great.

Of course, what they can do is try and spoof other numbers that look like it and they can spoof utility companies or they can spoof police, etc.

So there's a huge amount of work being done in the background to try and stop that.

But absolutely, somebody phoning from abroad can make it look like it's a call in Newcastle or Edinburgh or wherever it might be.

I had one.

I was out doing some branch training last week on again, thefts, because this is a big problem in certain parts of London at the moment where people are doing cash withdrawals over the branch counter and then people are being followed and then having their money stolen.

It's pretty awful.

And when I was in that branch doing that training, I had exactly that happen.

I had a phone call supposedly from Nottingham and it wasn't.

You know, I'm kind of fortunate I can pass that on to our cyber gurus to have a look at so they possibly phoned the wrong person.

But absolutely.


Anybody can.

You can phone from a different country and make it appear like it's from any number.

Thanks Cat.

So staying with you, this is the $64,000 question.

Very popular question.

Whenever we run, these events are scammers ever caught?

Can you tell me why it's difficult to identify scammers?


Yeah, absolutely.

So, yes, scammers are caught, but boy, is it difficult.

And as I said, part of this is down to a lack of reporting.

We know that the statistics we've got are probably only the tip of the iceberg is the truth of it.

So it is a is a massive challenge for us within law enforcement.

Fortunately, you do have a dedicated card and payment crime unit, the police unit in which I work, and we are paid for by all the banking industry and our purpose is to go after those organised criminal gangs and we do a pretty sterlingjob of it.

As I mentioned, you can have a look on the website UK finance website under press news releases and you can hear about some of those stories.

But it is a challenge Ross.

I do feel like we're constantly fighting a battle and one of our biggest challenges is indeed the fact that a lot of this is originating abroad.

I would love to have our officers working out from abroad and as I said, I know some that are trying to do work with some of those countries, but politically there's a lot of corruption in some of those countries.

So if we plough some money into trying to prevent it, is the money going to the right place?

There's there's an awful lot of challenges that I won't get into today that we're meant to be keeping these answers quite brief.

So, yes, there is great work being done by organised police units and we have economic crime units, the economic crime units around the whole of the UK that are trying to target some of these organised criminal gangs that are in the UK.

But just for context, I think 46% of all reported crime in the UK is fraud or cyber enabled, 46% of all crime, but yet only 1% of police resources goes on to it.

So we have some massive challenges, really big challenges, and I can only tell you that the officers that I work with, we are dedicated.

We genuinely want to stop them in their tracks and we work with the banking industry very closely.

In order for us to do that.

We're very fortunate that you've got a bank sponsored police unit that are going after these organised criminal gangs and we do a pretty good job of that, but we are only scratching the surface.

I wish we had more resources.

Thank you, Cat.

So this question potentially for both of you, I'll come to you first.

Sam and then Cat, be good to get you your view.

Somebody asked what responsibilities do the receiving banks have so we would make contact with the receiving bank.

If so, for example, if we know that there's been a payment that has been transferred, we would make contact with them to make them aware and they would carry out their own investigation as well.

So there is a responsibility on both parts to ensure that there's checks in place for payments going out and then subsequently the payments coming in.

So we would look at it from both angles, for example, within Barclays fraud operations and similarly, the other banks would do the same.

So there's prevention checks in place.

A point I'd like to make on this one is if you've not heard of the term money mules, it's worth having a look at money mules.

Do a bit of a search for a money mule.

What is a money mule?

One of the biggest problems we have, Sam and Ross will know this well themselves is that criminals will launder those funds through numerous bank accounts.

So a lot of people might think, well, why don't you just phone that the money's gone to NatWest.

Why don't you just find the NatWest and get the money back?

But what will happen is the money will go there pretty quickly and then it gets dispersed very quickly out to lots of different accounts and then that money's gone.

And then again, if it goes abroad, if it's, you know, out to cryptocurrencies, for example, it can make a big challenge going after those funds.

So money muling is a big problem.

That is where people will allow other people to use their account.

They might get paid £50 if they actually get the money in the first place to allow that money to be filtered through their account and they won't realise that what they're doing is facilitating money laundering.

So that is one of our biggest problems is the fact that money mules are facilitating these crimes.

Very difficult for us to stop because ordinarily it's everyday accounts, you know, if money just goes in and out of somebody’s account that’s always using their account it’s very difficult for us to spot.

So they're not just opened to facilitate this.

They might be somebody’s account that they're just allowing the criminals to use.

So it makes it very, very tricky to to spot, detect and block.

And just on that as well Cat, I was just going to mention so we do see reports I can see it myself online on social media.

These messages are getting out there.

So if you go on to Snapchat now, you could see something on there that is trying to entice you to sell your account to somebody.

So while social media, is it its reach is just incredible.

So young people, for example, may think, oh, that's a very, very quick way to make some money.

Potentially and may sell their account.

So just be careful.

That's really valid.



A good part on that.

Say in our police unit we have got something called trusted status with Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, where if we identify those accounts, we can get them closed down by those organisations.

So we do a huge amount of work trying to stop that.

But of course it pops up time and time again.

So I think that's a really valid point.

It is widely available as a resource for people who are criminals to use.

Thank you both.

Really appreciate all of your, your insight, your knowledge.

There are lots and lots of questions.

So a huge thank you.

Unfortunately not time to get to all of them.

But what like to move on to now, which will help to certainly answer some of those other questions you have.

I'm just going to mention a couple of really useful Barclays Resources.

Now, the First one is on our website.

So simply search for Barclays fraud and scams.

And this will take you to our fraud and security hub and as it says, help you stay one step ahead of the criminals.

You've got the the link on the page as well.

And there's also a QR code.

So if you've got your phone to hand or a spare device, you scan the QR code using your camera or your QR code app, you'll be able to get straight to to that home page.

Now, on this particular hub, there's info on the latest scams and you can learn more about specific types of scams.

Some others that we may not have covered today and really crucially, how to protect yourself.

There are some best practices to stay safe online.

There's a lot more to think about when it comes to using the Internet, using technology, thinking about passwords.

So lots of useful information that covers staying safe online.

There's a great jargon buster, lots of terminology that we use.

So do have a look at that.

And also at the bottom of this page that you'll come to, there is an other resources section where you can get help and support from other organisations.

And one in particular I would like to point out is victim support.

So if people do unfortunately fall victim, it's a great organisation that can help people because when we talk about scams, it's not just the financial impact, it's the physical and the mental impact that it has on people.

So that's the Barclays website.

And then just moving on to the website, Barclays Digital Wings, this is managed by the team that I work in, the Digital Eagles.

It's a free platform and I'd like to draw your attention to and by using the menu across the top, our digital courses, when you scroll down, you'll find a particular course called Being Safe and Legal Online.

So this is one of the essential digital skills that we all need to to have to help protect our data and our money.

What you'll find here and across all of this platform is interactive content.

There are quizzes that you can take to really embed the knowledge that you need in order to protect yourself.

Well, you'll also find on this platform is lots of other useful content on all types of digital skills, not just talking about fraud and scams.

So please do immerse yourself in the platform.

Please share this with family and friends in order to help other people grow their digital skills.

One other thing I'd mention again, it's on the top menu is why not think about signing up to become a digital champion?

One of the big things we focus as part of this programme, again, it's a free programme, is how to improve our knowledge on fraud and scams.

So you can pass on all of that knowledge to to other people.

So that's how Digital Champions Program, what I'm going to do now is we just come to, to towards the end I'm going to hand back to Sam and Cat to share their key takeaways.

We've covered an awful lot today, but both Sam and Cat have three key takeaways they'd like to share with you.

So thank you.

Just very quickly, because I know we're short on time now, but if you've been a victim, please report this to your bank so that we can investigate it and that we can also help and protect other people from being a victim as well.

If you receive a suspicious message, as I've said earlier on, please try and verify that communication independently.

If you if you've received a text message, have a look for the genuine contact number and make contact that way instead.

And the third thing is please discuss what you've heard here today with your friends and your family to spread the word.

It's just get the message out.

Thank you.

I'll keep mine really brief.

I'm conscious of time.

And one thing we haven't mentioned, but I do want to make this point to treat your passcode the same as you with your pin.

So one time passcodes are for you, for you alone not to hand out over the phone.

So never give out a one time passcode over the phone.

The criminals will tell you they need it in order for A, B and C they don't.

The bank will never be asking you for a one time passcode.

And if you feel any pressure at all, I spoke about five things to look out for context.

They're using the here and now add authority, urgency, scarcity and emotion.

If you feel pressure stop what you're doing, it's okay to say no and hang up.

And finally, back to the same point, report your cases to your bank and to action fraud.


Many thanks.

Sam, Cat, thank you so much for those those are some really as it says, important key takeaways for everybody.

And two last things for me.

The first one is following today's virtual event, you will receive an email from Digital Eagles events that will be the subject title, I can assure you can trust this email that has come from us and there is a link in there.

We would really appreciate your feedback on today's event.

It's a very quick survey, really helps us shape future events that we will be running later this year.

So you will see those promoted.

So if you can take the time to complete our survey, much appreciated.

We'll take on board all the feedback for future events.

And the last thing is just to say a huge thank you.

First of all, thank you to Sam and Cat, excellent guest speakers for your insight and knowledge.

It's been so useful.

I'm sure it's added a huge amount of value to the audience and a huge thank you to everybody who's joined today, who's taken the time.

As I said at the beginning, it's a really hot topic and we had a huge interest in this event, which really just confirms that it's on people's minds.

They want to learn more.

I guess what we do ask of everybody is to to share this with friends and family, as Sam said in her key takeaway.

Take five.

It will be a very good way to to protect yourself.

If there's one thing you do is take five and pause.

So thanks again, everyone, for joining.

I hope you enjoyed the event and we look forward to seeing you at a future Barclays event.

Length: 60 minutes


  • Samantha Cooper, Head of Fraud Prevention at Barclays
  • Catriona Still, Head of Education at the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DPDCU)

Summary: Criminals are experts at pretending to be people we trust. They link their scams to current affairs to make them believable. Our guest speakers discuss the latest trends in impersonation scams and how you can help protect yourself.

Money mules: What are they? And how to avoid the trap

Good afternoon everyone and a very warm welcome to this Barclays event.

Money mules.

What are they?

And how to avoid the trap.

So firstly, some introductions before we hand over to our guest speakers.

Firstly, I’m Ross Martin, Head of Digital Safety at Barclays and I work in our Barclays Digital Eagles Team.

I'm delighted to say I'm joined by some excellent guest speakers, Sam Brooker from our Barclays Mules Team.

And I'm also delighted to say we're joined by Ebony King, Youth Advocate and Founder of Elevate Her UK charity.

Earning extra money for doing very little may sound attractive.

The promise on offer of easy money with no strings attached would lure many people in.

But what's the catch?

Today you'll be hearing from Sam, who'll be providing an insight into what the banking industry are doing to monitor and detect suspicious mule activity and what Barclays are doing to help protect and educate our customers.

You'll also be hearing from Ebony, who will be sharing her own story, how she was targeted and the consequences she has experienced as a result.

Towards the end of today's event, there will be a Q&A session.

So throughout the event, we would really like you to submit your questions using the functionality you see on-screen.

And we'll do our best to pose as many of these questions to Sam and Ebony.

So in the top right corner of your screen, you'll see the option to type your question and then simply click ‘Submit’ for us to receive your question.

So now I'd like to introduce our first guest speaker Sam Brooker, from the Barclays Mules Team.

Over to you, Sam.

Thank you, Ross, and welcome everyone, and thank you for joining us today to talk about this very compelling subject.

Money mules, so what are they?

I'm here to talk to you about how criminals use money mules to move money.

So let's start at the beginning and try to explain what a money mule actually is.

A money mule is someone who lets criminals use their bank accounts to move money.

Often that mule doesn't know what's really happening and has been manipulated into believing a cover story or lured by an offer of a repayment.

There are two main types of money mules.

One of those will be witting.

Witting mules are generally complicit with the crime.

They are aware of the criminal source of funds and typically they can be recruited using social media platforms.

Most commonly Instagram, WhatsApp or Snapchat.

Account holders are generally lured by quick cash opportunities and will disclose their account security details, payment cards and PINs in exchange for monetary rewards.

They may also receive and send on criminal funds themselves, but generally they're aware that what they're doing is actually wrong.

Then on the flip side, there’s the unwitting.

These individuals engage in mule activity generally under false pretences.

It could involve exploitation, where they're duped into distributing payments, while actually being scammed themselves.

You might also have heard the term ‘mule herder’.

So what is a mule herder?

Well, they are the key support to the criminal gangs as it's them who recruit the actual money mule to do the job for them.

They do that by searching your social media profile for information and then use it to befriend you, or trick you into receiving stolen money into your bank account.

That's the key thing that a mule herder is looking for - you to have a bank account.

They might approach you online through a messaging app or actually in person at the school gates or in the workplace or at university.

They are importantly the link between the mule and the organised crime gangs, or OCG’s as we call them, along with law enforcement.

These OCG's could be funding terrorism across the world like drugs or human trafficking - sexual exploitation.

And it scares me to think of the innocent people encountering these dangerous individuals.

So what does money mule activity actually look like?

Mule herders tend to lie to get what they want.

They might say it's quick and easy and, you know, no ramifications involved in doing it.

And it's an easy way to make money, or that they urgently need to receive a payment.

And you're the only one who can help them.

But they can't use their own account for whatever reason.

They might even offer a cash or gifts as a reward or incentive.

The herder will use that cover story as an excuse to pass you that stolen money.

They might ask you to open a bank account yourself, if you don't already have one.

They might transfer money to you or give you cash to pay into your account.

They could ask you to pass it on by a bank transfer, or withdraw it as cash, or even ask you to buy, to purchase a high value item in exchange for the money.

Importantly, passed back to the criminal network.

They might ask for your online banking details so that they can do the activities themselves on your own account.

Or they might ask for an activation code to access your banking app.

But importantly, it lets them access your account and use it to clean their dirty money.

Which means to essentially confuse the origin of the funds and to make those funds appear genuine.

They also could actually buy an item from you and ask to pay by bank transfer.

But the important thing is they tend to pay from a stolen account and you give them the item and often you can lose those funds once the criminal nature of them is understood by the banking system.

So is it a crime to act as a money mule?

Well, absolutely.

Yes, it is.

Unfortunately, handling money that comes from illegal activity is a crime, even if you don't know what you're doing.

Money can often be traced to someone who has been the victim of a scam or a fraud.

I'm sure we all know someone who has been affected by a scam at some point in the past.

Whether they're old or young, vulnerable or not, UK Finance, who are the trade association for the banking industry, have advised that over £1.

2 billion was stolen through fraud last year.

That's the equivalent of over £2,300 every minute.

Most importantly, if we didn't have mules, there would not be a route to take a lot of those funds from those victims.

They simply wouldn't be able to operate.

If you are a mule, the consequences can range from your bank account being closed, to even going to prison.

But what is the reality of getting caught and what impact could this have on your lifestyle or your future?

For most people, getting caught means that your bank account could be closed and you'll have problems opening a new one.

That makes paying your basic living expenses so much harder, removes any independence that you might have.

You could find it difficult to get credit like a student loan, phone contract, or a mortgage or a loan.

You could end up with a criminal record and that could affect your ability to get a job or to go to university.

But you could also go to prison for up to 14 years.

So it's important that you know the warning signs - the red flags to look out for.

This can help you identify mule herders and avoid falling for their tricks.

Or contact from someone that you don't know trying to befriend you, especially online or through a messaging app.

Look out for someone you may also, who may also ask you to move money for them.

Always check that you know where the funds have come from.

Look out for anyone you've met online, offering deals that sound too good to be true.

It often is.

Be suspicious of jobs offering quick and easy money with no experience necessary.

Be wary of anyone who asks to transfer money to your bank account for you to pass on to another account.

And take care when selling an item, where the buyer insists on paying by bank transfer or pressuring you for a quick sale.

Or even paying over the odds, that's not usual.

So what are Barclays doing to target mules?

We focus on prevention.

If we can prevent a mule, we can prevent a potential scam, and that means less victims.

We do this by providing targeted education to our colleagues and customers on how to protect themselves.

Our priority is to protect our customers as well as society in general of the dangers presented by criminal gangs who are at the heart of this problem.

Last year, 43% of mule cases identified by Barclays were individuals under the age of 25.

So we tend to do lots of targeted messages in those younger age categories.

The children's digital banking market is expanding.

UK finance revealed that the number of 14 to 18-year-olds misusing their bank account rose by 73% in the last two years.

There are even reports of children as young as 12 being persuaded to comply with the misuse of their accounts.

If we can't prevent someone being recruited, we do also monitor payments and react in the moment as time is of the essence to trap criminal funds before the mule can move them.

We also work with many suppliers who provide a range of ways to detect money mules.

But more than ever, we're sharing more information across the banking industry to jointly tackle the problem.

There is more government regulation coming to banks, which compels the whole industry to collaborate and work together.

Over the first six months of 2023, 17,286 cases involving money mule activities were filed.

And that includes 3,881 people under the age of 21.

A growing number of other age groups are also being recruited by criminal gangs too.

Between 2017 and 2021 we've seen a 34% increase in the number of accounts belonging to 40 to 60-year-olds displaying money mule activity.

That's really unusual.

But obviously, in trying to target all areas and all age groups in which mule operates, we know that genuine customers can sometimes be impacted as we try to look for suspicion.

So it may be that we have to delay payment sometimes just to check that we feel that the origins of that payment are genuine.

But a key priority for us is always to limit the impact on genuine customers.

We want Barclays to make money work for the genuine people, not the criminals.

And with that I'll hand back to you, Ross.

Thank you.

Thanks very much, Sam.

Really insightful.

Lots for us to think about, but really good to understand the size of the problem and what we're doing to really address it.

Thank you very much.

So, we're going to move on to our next guest speaker.

Ebony, thank you for supporting this event today, it’s much appreciated.

And I'm sure the insight and thoughts you're going to share will add so much value for everybody who's attending the event.

I'd like to ask you, first of all, if we were to rewind 12 years ago, can you share what happened to you?

What was your experience?

Thank you, Ross.

Good afternoon everyone.

What happened to me was that I actually trusted a friend, someone that was very close to me who was like a brother.

We were so close.

He was like an older brother to me.

And I had borrowed him some money.

It was something as little as, I think, £50 or something.

I had just finished sixth form college.

I was going into uni and I borrowed him £50.

He said he needed it desperately and in the past I've helped him.

He's helped me.

We had like a good relationship.

So I had no reason to think anything of it.

So I borrowed him the £50 and then I kept asking him, you know, when will you pay me back?

It took a while for him to pay me back.

And then one day, when he was ready to pay me back, he called me and told me that he has paid me back into my bank account because he had asked me for my bank account a few weeks before that.

And then I, you know, I went to the bank, not on the same day.

I can't remember exactly the timescale, but I eventually went to the bank to go withdraw some change out so that I can buy some things for my son and I, because I had just become a teenage mum as well at that time.

And it's important to note that this account was a savings account, it was a passbook account.

Therefore, I had no access to online banking.

I had no access to mobile banking at the time.

So when he did say that he had paid the money in, I couldn't check using my phone.

I couldn't check using laptop or internet.

I didn't have any internet access for this.

So I had to go into the bank with the passbook and go to the cashier and ask to withdraw some money.

So all this time, I'm just thinking like 'it's legitimate money' I didn't know it has you know, where, I didn't know the source of where the money would come from.

I just thought it was from him.

It wasn't until about I think six to nine months later, I was at my mum's house, and very early in the morning, I got the loud bang at the door and it was the police knocking on the door.

And so they basically they came to raid my mum's house.

And I was just in shock because I was literally the teenager.

I had just had a child.

And I was just thinking, what's going on?

So they took me - so when I got to the station and I found out what it was about, like what it was for, for fraud.

And I was still shocked because I didn't know what was going on.

And then when I had to go to court, that is when I found out that the money that my so-called friend had put into my account, had belonged to someone else who they had scammed.

So I was used as, my account was used, and I was used as a mule without even knowing, you know, without having any knowledge.

I was vulnerable and naïve.

I didn't know.

And then after that, I was very lucky because the judge just, they just gave me, they gave me community service and a fine.

This was, I was very lucky to not go to prison because I had just become a mum and I had no previous criminal record.

I had good character, you know, I was just, a student going, getting ready to go to uni with a young son, like I was not, I am not into the life of crime.

Yes, I was, you know, around, I had friends, I lived on my own.

But I didn't, you know, everything was just new to me.

So, I was lucky to not go to prison.

However, my DBS, which is formerly known as a CRB, was stained for over 12 years.

It had only become clear the beginning of this year, which is why I'm coming out to tell my story now.

And yeah, so, it was not a good experience for me.

I was lucky because I actually was able to still get a job, to get jobs.

I had a job within the NHS with a local authority before, but that's because when I explained my story to each manager, they could understand and they could sympathise with me and see that it wasn't even my fault.

But there are some other young people out there who they don't have, they don't have these opportunities and they don't get these chances.

So yeah, it's a very unfortunate thing that happened.

Ross, over to you.

Ebony thank you so much for sharing all of that detail, your experience.

I can tell, just listening to your story, you went through an awful lot, especially for someone of such a young age.

That's a lot to deal with and obviously a lot to, to take in.

I’ve got a couple of follow-up questions for you specifically, if that's okay.

Firstly, were you aware of any other young people in your circle of friends that were perhaps allowing their bank account to be used?

Being, were they approached at all?

Was that something you saw sort of at the time?

To be honest, it wasn't, it wasn't as, I think it was going on, but it wasn't as rampant as it is today.

So, you know, there was no cause for concern for me because I didn't think it would happen to me, because it wasn't obvious like how it is today, basically.

So I think there were few people that had been used as mules, but it wasn't anything significant for me to be worried about or to be, to know about basically.

Yeah, sure.

And I guess in your particular experience, in your scenario, you were effectively lending somebody some money and that was sort of how simple the, you know, the sort of agreement, the transaction was.

I guess, a question, a good question to ask, if we can is, would the benefit of hindsight and just looking back, was there any one thing that you would say was a red flag for you at that time, in terms of the conversation that was being had what was being asked of you any, specific red flag?

To be honest, there were no red flags at the time.

However, looking back on it now, a red flag would be the fact that the money that my so-called friend had repaid me with was more than the amount that I had borrowed him.

If that happened today, that is going to be a red flag, because why would you be paying that three times more than what I paid you?

And also another red flag, I mean, if back then, you know, the whole, it wasn't, the whole online banking and mobile banking wasn't, we didn't really use it that much back then, so.

But if it was now and if I had mobile banking, I will be able to check my account to see what, you know, to see the name on the account of where the money came from.

And then that would have made me think I'll contact him be like, you know, this is not in your name.

Whose name is this?

Whose account is this?

And then I probably would, then I would have called the bank as well and found out, and where's this money coming from?

So yeah, those, that would probably be the red flag.

Yeah, thanks Ebony.

And would you agree, with technology now, we can manage our bank account obviously via our smartphone, we can do that online, we can do that 24/7.

That makes it really easy for us to stay on top of you know, the things that go in our account, the things that come out.

But I guess the other side of the advancements in technology means that actually young people, it's so much easier for them to be targeted.

Would you say that's the case?


The access to social media that young people have, whether it's TikTok, these apps, a lot of these criminals target them through that.

So, yeah, it’s very bad to be honest.

Thanks Ebony.

So I guess from your point of view, there's lots that you would really like to do to help others - young people who may be vulnerable, may be at risk.

What from your point of view, what can teachers, parents, guardians, carers, all of those people, what could they do to help prevent these young people falling victim?

Parents, educators, teachers, the community, to be honest, should do more of talking to the young people, raising awareness, educating them.

Showing, even if you can just show them a video online, show them videos, awareness videos, you know, constantly remind them to be checking their accounts regularly and to be very cautious, you know, just constant education, they need financial education.

Yeah, awareness, I'll say.

Yeah, absolutely.

I guess it's making sure young people feel comfortable with actually having that open conversation with a parent, teacher, especially if they feel they're involved in a conversation that just doesn't seem right, feels uncomfortable.

I think that's key.

Just before we move into the other questions we've received during the event, so I mentioned the beginning of your charity.

So Elevate Her UK, I know coming up later this year, you've got a campaign launching on protecting young people from financial exploitation.

Could you just share briefly why you're launching that campaign, what are you looking to achieve?


Yes, that campaign is actually called ‘Don't Get Finessed’.

For those that don't know what finessed means, don't get scammed basically.

We want to raise awareness, like I said, raise awareness on these issues because not every young person is aware of the consequences.

Not every young person is aware of how to avoid these situations.

So that campaign will be raising awareness.

It will be educating not just young people, it will be educating everyone in the community, teachers, parents.

The campaign is also there to we're trying to see if we can get some policy changes as well because some of the young people, they are vulnerable and they are, they don't even know, like in my case, I didn't know what was going on.

And I don't think it's fair that I got punished for something that I didn't do or I wasn't aware of.

I think they need to stop punishing the, like they need to actually do proper investigations and find out the people at the top of the chain and punish them.

And I think there should be more safeguarding measures for young people or vulnerable people, more early intervention, especially in the hotspot areas in London.

Not a lot of them have this financial education in schools, so it's good that our campaign video will be used in the schools that we go to, which are in London.

We’ll be playing these videos in school, in the workshops that we go to, to educate them.

Yeah, and that's it really - the campaign’s just to raise awareness and to see how we can find solutions.

Yeah, that's amazing Ebony.

I would definitely recommend everybody have a look at their websites, so Elevate Her UK.

You'll find that online.

Amazing work that you do there and much needed and I think just an example of how we need to come together across the industry, across all organisations to make sure that we can reach those people who need the education, they need that support.

So thanks again, Ebony for sharing your experience, your story your recommendations in terms of making sure we protect young people before they even, you know, start being involved in these conversations, these interactions.

So we'll now move on to some of the other questions that we've had.

So thank you for the questions you have submitted, I'm going to pose these questions to both yourself, Sam and Ebony, depending on the question and I guess what's relevant from your sort of positions.

So, let me start with one of the questions we've had.

So one for you Sam.

In Ebony's case and we can't talk specifically about the case, but in cases similar to this, would the bank not ask questions as to the money coming in, going out of the account, which is not in line with normal activity?

What's your view on that?

Yeah, it's a really good point.

One of the concerns from hearing Ebony's story myself was that, you know, she's the one who's had all the impact and the criminals got away scot-free, who's done the actual act.

And that is often the case with our money mules unfortunately, you know, you're the front person then, the only person who can be traced and the criminals stand behind that, unfortunately.

What I would say is the more information that mules can tell us about how they got recruited, who was involved, any details they can tell us all adds to our ability to take action potentially against the real people, the real perpetrators of the crime.

And we can feed that information to law enforcement, you know, and hope that there could be some broader action taken.

But again, the more information that mules can give to us, we can take that into consideration.

You know, if there's any vulnerability, exploitation of that particular individual, we want to know about it.

And we want to give our mules, the opportunity to tell us, you know, if there's any other circumstances involved, that's really, really important because, you know, unfortunately, some of our young people are very, very vulnerable, as Ebony has pointed out.

And, you know, it's not fair that they should feel the brunt of a criminals act, essentially.

So, yeah, that would be my advice.

Tell, tell as much as possible.

Thank you Sam.

I guess a follow-up question to that one is, if Barclays were to uncover a money mule, what is our standpoint?

Do we close their accounts with notice to close?

Would we ban customers from re-joining in the future?

What's the standpoint there?

Yeah, so typically what would happen is that when we receive a report that an account has received the proceeds of crime, we have to firstly secure that bank account.

We have got a duty to obviously try to prevent those criminal funds from being dispersed and we have a duty the victim of that crime.

Then we would investigate our account holder.

That often involves contact with the account holder, again, to give them the opportunity of telling us what's going on.

There could be another side to the story.

But the typical action that we would take would be that depending on what story we do get from our account holder, it would tend to result in the forced closure of their bank account.

Sometimes immediately, if we find that the risk presented by the account holder is too great, that we need to get them off our books really, really quickly.

But often we do give them notice or we do give them another opportunity to sort of prove that they can turn, especially if they're open and honest with us, turn, you know, their banking around and, you know, and use their banking accounts exactly how they should do.

If we do exit a customer, we do mark fraud databases.

We're also compelled to do that amongst our industry partners to ensure that we're sharing information between ourselves and that everybody in the banking industry can see what potential risk a mule presents to them if they're opening, if they're deciding to open another bank account elsewhere.

And that's why some customers will find it difficult to get a bank account elsewhere, because obviously reference to those industry databases are referred to within the application process for a new product.

Thanks again Sam.

Ebony, just coming over to you, so did you admit to being a mule, to the police unknowingly or were you coerced into accepting a caution?

Is there any way you could have appealed the action that was taken based on someone taking advantage of you?

Just wonder what your thoughts are on that one.

The thing is, I actually said not guilty all the way.

And I actually did, in the interview, I told them everything.

I told them the truth and I told them that it wasn't me, but still that it was what, I mean, I have spoken to officers like years down the line recently due to the charity work that I do with other young people that go through this.

And I asked them, officer, like, you know, why?

Why does that happen?

Why did they do it?

And they said, unfortunately, because investigations take too long and are too costly, they usually use the account holder as the scapegoat.

So basically I was used as the scapegoat.

Yeah, sure.

Thanks again for sharing Ebony.

Just a quick question, follow-up as well Ebony is, in your situation, you're the person who you were talking with borrowed £50.

How much did they actually put back into your account?

I think it was like £250.

Of course, that now might look like a little bit, because I know now a lot of these scammers are they put four figures or more, but then it was still, it was still something and it's still, you know, the way it was, the source of the money was not right.

So yes, I bought them 50 and I think they put they would put 200 or 250 back in.

I'm not sure.

The thing is, I don't even actually know the exact because when I went to the bank, I just went do what I needed to do for the shopping and I never ever got to clear anything.

The bank just closed the account and I couldn't even take the money out.

So yeah, it was at the, in the court, at the court hearing that I heard, you know, what had happened and this is how much, I think it was like 250, yeah.

Sure, thanks Ebony.

And what we do know worth sharing is that in some cases people are given incentive to keep obviously some of the money, or it could be that they're offered a particular item, whether it be the latest pair of trainers or something of value.

So we do see different examples of where people perhaps are given motivation in order to help somebody to move this money around.

A question for you, Sam, if I can, are we looking at biometric patterns, new tech to see if different people, mules, are accessing the same accounts?

That's a really interesting question.

We, one of the stakeholders that we're, suppliers that we're working with at present, is one that offers biometric capability.

So it is an opportunity for us in the future and probably a lot of the industry as well.

So, yes, it's definitely something that is becoming increasingly more and more interesting to us.

We can't say that say any more than that right now.

That's great.

Thanks, Sam.

Another question for you, Sam is do you get business accounts being used for mules as these have different limits and are they perhaps harder to detect the patterns?

Yeah, absolutely right.

We do.

We do.

And you've hit the nail on the head.

The reason being higher transfer limits generally, you know if you have a business account that is expected to operate, you know, with a lot of transactions going through it, then I guess the feeling is that that will go under the radar a little bit more, you know, from a monitoring point of view.

But I can to tell you that we do catch an awful lot of business banking money mules, as well as personal money mules in Barclays.

So yeah, we try to manage our defences across those segments quite equally, depending on the risk that they present us, because in one side of the business, they will present us more in the way of volume and the other side will present more in the way of value.

So we do manage the risk effectively across the two segments.

Thanks Sam.

Just another question for you as well.

Would you say due to the cost of living that we need to be even more conscious and aware of offers, of easy money and the use of our bank account, pay more attention as both of you have already mentioned, to what goes in and out of your account, yeah, due to that cost of living that we're seeing?


From my point of view, I think I mentioned earlier that we've seen a 34% increase in the number of accounts being used by 40 to 60-year-olds.

That's a really unusual age group to be involved in money muling.

If I can be honest, normally it would be it would be our, very much younger age groups that would become involved.

So that to me could indicate that people are feeling the pinch a little, you know, potentially looking at this as an opportunity to make a little bit more money.

So, yes, it's absolutely a risk for those age groups.

And, you know, for anybody who is feeling the pinch, my advice would be easy money is not always the best way of making money.


Thanks again, Sam.

So a question I'm actually going to answer here is, how do the so-called scammers get one's landline number?

We get numerous calls that are obviously a scam.

So we're talking about the general theme of scams here.

And I think to answer this question, is good just to raise awareness that in terms of any of your data or personal information, including telephone numbers, this can be accessed in various ways.

One of the ways could be the number of data breaches we see.

So if an organisation's details are hacked, if they can get access to that information, that could very easily be shared or sold on what we call The Dark Web so organised criminal gangs may be using that information and passing it on.

But also the other piece of awareness we should definitely promote is be very conscious about anything you share online.

So people tend to share too much information on social media or they're not verifying some of the details they've been asked to share in an email or a text message.

So we just need to be extra vigilant, careful about what we share online, because that information, again, could just be harvested by a criminal.

And that could even just be someone who's being very spontaneous, or it could be a more organised sort of targeting of certain people.

There are also directories online where you find lots of personal information.


com is a directory.

If you're on the electoral roll, there's a good chance your details are going to be visible.

And that could include things like your address, your telephone numbers.

So it's a really good question, I think, just on the theme of scams in general, good for that awareness to be shared.

I’m just going to check if there's any other questions that we've had.

Thank you for the ones that have come in, lots to talk about.

And one of the questions we do have is do you go to schools to educate young people from year seven upwards?

So we absolutely do proactively educate not just our customers, but people across local communities and that's across all of Barclays touchpoints.

So that could be through a virtual event like you're seeing today, that could be students joining from their classroom, an event that we deliver virtually.

I'm going to comment on some resources just very shortly and I'll pinpoint some of the content that we have there, which is available for all different age groups.

So certainly lots of proactive work that we're doing and I know lots of other organisations are doing as well.

So with that, again, thanks for everybody's questions that have come in.

We're now going to move onto some useful resources.

So let's just move onto the first resource.

So the first one is the Barclays website.

So if you go to the Barclays website, this includes a fraud and security hub page, to really help people stay one step ahead of the criminals.

Now, within this hub, we have a specific page all about money mules.

This is the one screenshot that you can see on screen now.

And this really does provide some excellent content and guidance.

Everything from what are money mules?

How can you be approached?

How is social media used?

What advice do we have for those people to support young people?

So do visit the Barclays website.

You can scan the QR code that you see on-screen and you can simply search for ‘Barclays money mules’ and that will take you to the page, that's the first listing that you see in the search results.

So do have a look at the Barclays website.

The next one, one that the team I work in, I’m proud to say have been managing and creating all the content for what's called our Barclays Digital Wings platform.

So this is another great resource which is completely free for anyone to use, includes lots of great content on fraud and scams.

And when you're on the main homepage, which again you can access through the QR code, or by searching Barclays Digital Wings, you'll see on the top menu there's an option ‘Online safety’.

If you click on that one, it takes you to what we call our ‘Staying safe online’ hub page.

This signposts to lots of great content, lots of tools, resources that you can access to help you protect yourself in many ways.

So do have a look at Barclays Digital Wings.

Click on ‘Online safety’ for more information.

And then just a couple of others, in terms of further support, the first one being Victim Support.

This is a brilliant charity that helps victims of crime providing free, confidential support.

It’s one that Barclays has a really good relationship with and why I think this is such a great charity.

When you think about any scams, any fraud, the experience that you go through, it's not just a financial impact on people, it can be physical, it can affect your mental health.

So this charity does a huge amount, offers lots of great services to help people who may have fallen victim to crime.

And this includes the hugely challenging navigation of the criminal system and people understanding their rights as a victim of crime.

So do have a look at Victim Support.

And the second one is the ‘Don't Be Fooled’ campaign.

So Don't Be Fooled is a collaboration between UK finance and Cifas.

It aims to inform students or young people about the risks of giving out their bank details and deter them from becoming money mules.

So lots of great content again.

There’s an excellent short video that you can play to young people, which really highlights the dangers, the consequences that you need to think about.

So do have a look at the Don't Be Fooled websites as well.

Now, as we draw to a close, I'm now just going to move on to what we feel are some really key takeaways both from Sam and Ebony.

So first of all, we've heard lots from you Sam, lots of insight, lots of guidance, lots of work we're doing.

But what would be your key takeaways for the audience?

Yeah, thank you Ross.

So my main takeaways would be that if you're receiving any money into your account, make sure that you know where those funds are coming from.

And don't be afraid to question the person who's paying it to you, even those you trust, given Ebony's experience, unfortunately.

A genuine person won't mind a little bit of questioning.

It's valid in today's environment.

The second item would be to be really wary of urgent requests, particularly to withdraw funds.

Just pay to you really at speed.

Mules absolutely need to operate quickly to move their criminal proceeds around the financial ecosystem.

And you'll just be supporting them if you do that.

So don't make it easy for them, you know, be very wary of those types of request.

That would be it for me.

Thanks Ross.

Over to you Ebony.

Thanks Sam.

For me, yep, be careful who you trust.

Friends and family could be recruited by criminals, so be very careful when doing favours that involve money.

Always check your account regularly.

Obviously, in my case, I couldn't check my account regularly because I did not have access to online bank or mobile banking.

But nowadays, most of us do so please check your accounts regularly, your bank statements check them regularly just to see, you know, where money's coming from.

You might not be expecting some form of money.

Make sure you contact your bank immediately to find out where it came from before spending it.

Because if you withdraw or transfer any money that comes from a criminal source, you will be, you know, punished, like in my case.

And then the last thing is do not be fooled by the thought of making quick money.

You know, there's a cost of living crisis right now, so if you are looking for an extra income, contact your local jobcentre because there are various job opportunities out there.

Over to you Ross.

Sam, Ebony, thank you for that.

Obviously, lots we've spoke about.

So, I think it’s really important that we just highlight what are those key takeaways, the things that we need to share with young people.

I think if we just reflect on some of the things that we've touched on today, what we do know is historically money mules used to visit the school gates.

They used to approach young people in person.

The world has changed.

The use of technology means that actually people people can now sit behind a laptop, they can sit behind a phone.

They can do this targeting of young people in a different way, which obviously makes it even harder to catch these people.

So I think that's something we really need to bear in mind.

Young people are exposed to so much online.

Social media has a real part to play in terms of what we see being shared in terms of adverts, posts but in the meantime, we just really need to make sure that young people are aware of how they can be targeted.

So, I just want to say a huge thank you both to our guest speakers for all of your insight - Ebony, the experience you've shared has been really important so thank you so much for joining as well.

Really encourage you to share the resources with your wider networks, family and friends, in schools, across the education sector, to make sure that we can prevent more people not to fall victim.

Such an important topic.

So a ‘big thank you’ for everybody who's joined.

All of those people who've registered for today's event, it's much appreciated.

In the near future, there will be a playback of the event.

So do keep an eye on the Barclays website on our Barclays channels for more information to be able to view the playback and share with other people.

But again, big ‘thank you’ for everybody who’s joined.

and we look forward to seeing you at a future Barclays event.

Length: 46 minutes


  • Ebony King, Founder and Youth Advocate at Elevate Her UK
  • Samantha Brooker, Customer Engagement Manager at Barclays, specialising in money mules

Summary: Ever wondered how criminals move stolen money around? They often approach young people on social media to help them. Our guest speaker explains what money mules are and how to spot the warning signs.