Partnering with behavioural psychologist, Jo Hemmings, NatWest has unpicked the techniques used by scammers to prey on their victims, with flattery and fear identified as the most common approaches.

To show how this emotional manipulation works in practice, NatWest held an experiment in the form of a real-life speed dating event. Hosted by TV presenter Laura Whitmore and attended by members of the general public, NatWest wanted to show how much information people unwittingly gave away in an emotionally-charged situation.

Two actors were planted to extract seemingly harmless personal information from the daters - such as the name of their first pet, the town they were born in, or their mother’s maiden name. This information could potentially be used for online passwords and security questions. The actors were able to use charm, coupled with their date’s heightened desire to be liked, to convince them to reveal personal information. 

Watch the experiment here

The experiment’s host, Laura Whitmore, said: “I partnered with NatWest to help carry out this experiment because I wanted to help show how easy it is for scammers to extract personal information from people.

“Even more shocking was watching it in practice. I was amazed to see how many daters gave away what could be considered trivial pieces of information, with a minimal amount of coaxing. It definitely brought home how important it is to stop and think before sharing personal information with anyone.”

NatWest and Jo Hemmings have also revealed some of the most common digital scams from 2017 and which emotions scammers target:

  • *Romance scam: targeted emotion - DESIRE 
  • Holiday scam: targeted emotion - EXCITEMENT
  • Goods not received scam: targeted emotion - TRUST
  • Payments scam: targeted emotion - FEAR

Jane Howard, Managing Director of Personal Banking at NatWest, explains: “Financial fraud is now the most common crime in the UK. At NatWest, we are committed to protecting our customers, and it is at the heart of everything we do.

“In order to protect yourself from falling victim to a scam, people should remain vigilant when browsing online or receiving an out of the blue phone call. Take Five** and don’t act straight away. Listen to your instincts and don’t be pressured into making a payment.

“Remember, a bank will never ask you to transfer money to protect your account and if you have any questions contact your bank or visit the NatWest website.”

*Definition of some of the top scams the UK faced in 2017, identified by NatWest:

  • Romance scam - when someone thinks they’ve met the perfect partner online, but it is actually a fake profile set up by a scammer. They gain the victim’s trust to ask for money or enough personal information to steal their identity.
  • Holiday scam - when an online holiday is booked, only for the victim to find out later that the holiday is not real.
  • Goods not received scam – when goods or services are paid for but they are not received from the seller.
  • Payment scam - when scammers ask for advance payments for goods or services that never end up materialising. Also when a request for payment is received from someone purporting to be someone senior in a company or a client.

** Take Five is a national awareness campaign led by Financial Fraud UK (part of UK Finance) which is backed by all major banks and key financial services providers across the UK. The campaign urges people to stop and consider whether a situation is genuine, and aims to put consumers and businesses back in control with straight forward advice to help prevent financial fraud.

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