As with many of our peers in the unsecured lending industry, we have seen a sharp increase in what we call “Social Engineering Fraud”. At Fluro we have a vision of driving permanent positive change in the credit industry. This is all about being on the customer’s side, so we wanted to bring to life how and why this happens, give you tips on how to stay safe and make sure the fraudsters don’t win.
Simply put, social engineering is a form of manipulation fraudsters use to trick you into revealing personal information or performing actions they seek to benefit from. Social engineering encompasses many tactics and methods which are mostly designed to gain your trust. In our industry, we see social engineering techniques used to trick people into making applications or allowing their details to be used in applications for credit, either with the prospect of an investment, to improve a customer’s credit score, or with the promise that the loan will be written off as fraud because the fraudsters have people on the “inside” (they categorically do not!).
Sometimes, the scammers will state that the finance company (such as ourselves) can facilitate the bogus investment, but we can confirm that Fluro is not affiliated with any investment companies and our products should not be used for speculative or investment purposes.
Fraudsters typically, although not exclusively, target customers through social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, and may share success stories and Reels showcasing high amounts of cash, expensive cars, and other luxury goods to entice people.
Why has the credit industry seen a rise in social engineering?
There are two primary reasons for this increase: technology and the environment.
As technology has improved, with banks using better verification, biometrics and open banking to combat fraud, it has become harder for fraudsters to use ‘traditional’ fraud methods such as impersonation to obtain fraudulent lines of credit. So they had to find another way...
Environmental factors such as covid-19, the cost of living crisis, and the general economic downturn have created a perfect storm of conditions for fraudsters to take advantage of those desperate circumstances.
Covid-19 created an unprecedented environment in the UK and globally. Many people became isolated, with social media and technology becoming even more important for keeping in contact during lockdowns. This has, unfortunately, come with further risks exploited by fraudsters. Loneliness creates an added vulnerability, especially in people who have not previously used technology and social media to stay in contact with the world.
Another big factor is the rise in awareness of crypto-currency; crypto has been a subject of contention, even to the point of being taboo among some investors, both professional and recreational. Everyone has heard the huge success stories of early investors in cryptocurrencies, but many people still don’t fully understand the unregulated environment of digital currencies. The high risk and high reward offers an exciting prospect of financial gain and, coupled with the lack of crypto education, fraudsters have seen this as an “in” or “hook” to exploit.
Fraudsters previously did all the heavy lifting. Trawling through personal and sensitive data, either purchased or obtained through various phishing techniques, then making applications manually, using their victims' details to progress with applications from submission to pay-out.
Social engineering allows fraudsters to bypass most of this. After coaching and coercing a victim, the victim then follows the loan journey themselves, able to answer any questions about their application and provide any documentation or validation the business requires. Any fraud techniques designed to spot a fraudulent application, fictitious identity, or impersonated victim are largely defunct as for all intents and purposes, the application is genuine, and the subject is a regular customer making an enquiry to borrow money.
What is the impact of social engineering fraud?
Being involved in a social engineering scam can leave people feeling betrayed, exposed, and angry. Fraudsters gain the confidence of customers, sometimes building strong relationships and establishing themselves in positions of trust within their lives. Sometimes romantic connections are built – fraudsters will use any way they can to infiltrate their victims’ lives ready to exploit them. This can be absolutely shattering to each victim’s confidence and trust. Then, of course, there is the financial cost. When you take out a loan, you are solely responsible for the repayment of said loan. It will impact your credit file and you cannot transfer the liability to another individual. In many cases of fraud, customers can be left with large debts to repay, sometimes with multiple companies. It can be daunting to pick up the phone to explain what has happened to even one company, let alone several.
There is also the wider impact to the economy and society. Many fraudsters operate in gangs, some of which may be involved in (or support) organised crime. These criminals make the world at large a more dangerous place through violence, drug and people trafficking, and other illicit activity.
So what are we doing to counter social engineering fraud?
Fluro is on a mission to maximise access to fair credit. And working together with our customers to beat fraudsters is a crucial part of that journey
The challenge for us is reaching our customers, both existing and prospective, to raise awareness of the types of fraud they may face, and how this could impact themselves, businesses, and the economy. We firmly believe that if people are made aware of the risks, and understand that they are essentially being used to fund the lavish lifestyles of fraudsters - often with very little gain and often detriment to themselves, then they will be more likely to recognise and therefore avoid such scams. We can explicitly state that we are not affiliated with any investment or cryptocurrency companies, we never recommend our loans as a short-term financial product, or lend for speculative purposes. We must also affirm that a loan with us should not be taken with the sole intent to improve one's credit score.
What should I do if I think I have been scammed?
Fluro will always offer support to our customers.
Your first step should be ensuring that you are not in any immediate danger. Fraudsters can become persistent and threatening when they feel their scams are about to fail.
You can report scams to the police here, and always remember to call 999 if you are in immediate danger.
You should then check that your bank account is secure by contacting your bank directly.
We can guide you through the necessary steps to protecting yourself against future scams, recommend free legal and debt advice, and in some cases put you on the path to recovering the funds you have paid out.
If an investment offer feels too good to be true, it probably is.
Fluro is not affiliated with any cryptocurrency or investment companies.
Always do your own due diligence when making an investment.
Do not entrust your personal information to anyone on the internet.
If Fluro (or any other company) has been mentioned to you online or by a stranger – pick up the phone and call them to confirm. Our customer service team will always be happy to talk to you and give you guidance.
If you are being pressured, call the police, a family member, or someone you trust. Fraudsters rely on pressure tactics to entice you into rash decisions. Talking something through with someone you trust may help you identify the signs of a potential scam. Once again, if you are one of our customers and feel that you have been the victim of a scam, have transferred loan funds to a third party, or are suspicious that someone is using your details to make applications for credit, please do the following:
Call Fluro on 0207 096 8512
Email Fluro at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk/reporting-fraud-and-cyber-crime
Call 999 if in immediate danger.
You can request free debt advice at www.stepchange.org
You can request free and impartial legal advice at www.citizensadvice.org.uk
If you are concerned your personal details are being used to apply for credit, you can register with CIFAS at www.cifas.org.uk