How many NatWest customers have been the victim of financial scams since 2016? According to the bank’s own figures, it’s a whopping 7,000.The bank, which is co-owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, prides itself on creating ‘safe, simple banking’. Little wonder, then, that at an event in Westminster run by the National Trading Standards’ ‘Friends Against Scams’, NatWest helped raise awareness of fraud and limit its impact by revealing the most common scams people fall for.

Topping the list is ‘Goods not received’, which accounts for 2,073 – or almost a third – of fraud cases. As you might’ve guessed, that involves us paying for products that never actually arrive. With NatWest warning that this sort of scam usually occurs on online auction sites and marketplaces, it’s a warning for anyone who regularly buys goods online: Stay vigilant. The bank suggests reading product descriptions, looking at a seller’s reviews and feedback, and always use official payment services, like Paypal. It helps, too, to understand the website’s dispute resolution methods, so you can get your cash back if it falls into unscrupulous hands.

But it’s not just personal shoppers who should be wary. Business customers are also known to fall for financial scams, with ‘invoice fraud’ being a big one to watch out for. You’ve probably come across phishing scams before; phoney emails, purporting to be from a company or trading partner, requesting you pay a supposedly genuine invoice. It’s reckoned that, on average, these scams cost businesses £30,000.
The five most common scams, according to NatWest’s own research, are…

Goods Not Received
Typical on online auction sites, unwary buyers purchase products that never arrive.

Advance Fee Fraud
Similar to ‘Goods Not Received’, this is where scammers request payment up-front for all manner of goods or services. And, inevitably, you risk never seeing either the products or your money again.

Spoof Payment Requests
Your email pings. It’s a communication from one of your clients asking for payment. Looks genuine, you pay up, and then… Then you realise it wasn’t a genuine email, and your money’s nestled in a fraudster’s bank account.

Invoice Fraud
Much like the ‘Spoof Payment Requests’, in this scenario the email is apparently from a trusted trading partner. They explain that payment arrangements have changed and that you should pay the balance into a new account. Of course, you shouldn’t.

Holiday Scam
An incredible simple scam: Those looking for a little R&R book a holiday online, only to discover that the holiday wasn’t real. It was all a trick that’s both disappointing and ends up costing us money.

Les Matheson, chief executive of personal and business banking at NatWest said:

‘We know scammers can be convincing and they work round the clock to persuade their victims to part with money. We have hundreds of people working 24/7 to detect and stop fraud, but it’s very important that, as individuals and businesses, we know how to protect ourselves.’

Many of the scams are usually online-based, and all can be carried out online, so the bank’s findings are further evidence – if any were needed – that caution is paramount when buying over the internet. Look for clues that communications or online sellers are genuine. Intel, for instances, suggests checking for spelling mistakes in emails. It’s worth remembering, too, that official never ask you for banking details over email or link out to their sites – something which scammers often do, directing you to fake websites that look real, but are actually illegally capturing your personal data.

Ultimately, if what your buying is too good to be true, or it feels wrong, then it probably is. Stay safe out there – it’s your money you’re looking after.