Belfast Telegraph

Pleasant cold-caller may be fraudster, warns speech pattern analyst

A cold-calling stranger who sounds nice, patient, helpful and acknowledges your concerns could be a fraudster using language tricks to win over their victim's trust, research suggests.

Take Five is a national campaign against financial fraud backed by major banks and financial services providers.

It revealed the techniques financial fraudsters commonly use to trick people into handing over financial or personal information over the phone, often when they are posing as someone in authority such as a fraud detection manager or a police officer.

It found that while many people are more likely to trust a stranger over the phone if they sound like a "nice person", in fact a caller acknowledging someone's concerns and sounding apologetic can be the hallmark of a scam.

The campaign, which encourages people to pause for thought before transferring money or handing over personal details, has been working with speech pattern analyst Dr Paul Breen.

Dr Breen found six patterns emerged from his analysis of real-life evidence drawn from recordings and transcripts of scam phone calls.

Fraudsters will:

:: Use snippets of information about you, gathered together from different sources, to sound like they know what they are talking about.

:: Create a false balance of power by using apologetic language for taking up your time to make you feel sympathetic towards them.

:: Remain patient as they continue to build up layers of seeming authenticity until you are convinced they are legitimate.

:: Assume the identity of someone in authority such as a fraud detection manager or a police officer investigating an ongoing crime.

:: Welcome your scepticism and turn it into a weakness by acknowledging your concerns about being security conscious.

:: Switch tempo and increase or decrease the pressure by creating a false sense of urgency or using understanding language.

Dr Breen said: "The process used by fraudsters is carefully scripted from beginning to end - knowing the language fraudsters will use to mimic patterns of trust can help people to avoid becoming a victim."

Take Five also carried out consumer research which found people could be particularly susceptible to the "patterns of trust" used by fraudsters.

Some 46% of people said they would be more likely to trust a stranger over the phone if they sounded "like a nice person".

Nearly a third (30%) would be more inclined to trust a stranger over the phone if they were "offering to help with a problem".

Katy Worobec, director of Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK), which leads the fight against fraud in the UK payments industry, said: "Tackling financial fraud is a priority for every bank and each one continuously invests in advanced security systems to protect their customers.

"However, as this research confirms, fraudsters use sophisticated methods in an attempt to circumvent these when targeting victims.

"While the payments industry stops six in every 10 pounds of attempted fraud, it cannot solve the problem alone.

"Criminals try to take advantage of our instinctive willingness to accept someone at their word. That's why we are asking everyone to take five - to take that moment - to pause and think before they respond to any financial requests and share any personal or financial details."

The Take Five campaign encourages people to help protect themselves from financial fraud by remembering some simple advice:

:: Never disclose security details, such as your Pin or full banking password.

:: Do not assume an email, text or phone call is authentic.

:: Do not be rushed - a genuine organisation will not mind waiting.

:: Listen to your instincts - you know if something does not feel right.

:: Stay in control - do not panic and make a decision you will regret.

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