E-crime month: Pretexting


Pretexters use personal information, such as a birth date and NI Number, to impersonate someone and contact companies the victim does business with. Pretexters want information like phone call logs, credit card purchases, brokerage statements to use for stealing from existing accounts or open new ones. Even common information, such as what movies a person has rented or what gym they’re using, can be dangerous in the wrong hands. Even if you think it’s the most boring information in the world, there’s someone out there who can exploit the information for profit.

Pretexters use a variety of tactics to get your personal information. For example, a pretexter may telephone a target claiming he’s from a survey firm, and asks a few questions. When the pretexter has the information he wants, he uses it to call companies you have accounts with and pretends to be you or someone with authorised access to your account. He might claim he’s forgotten the account number or needs information about the account history. In this way, the pretexter may be able to obtain personal information about you such as your NI Number, bank and credit card account numbers, information in your credit report, and the existence and size of your saving accounts.

Pretexting is also used in other areas of life including sales, public speaking, so-called fortune tellers, NLP experts and even doctors. They all have to create a scenario so that the person is comfortable with releasing information they wouldn’t normally divulge.

You can protect against pretexting by following these steps:

  • Dont give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you’ve initiated the contact or know who you’re dealing with. Pretexters may pose as representatives of survey firms, banks, ISPs and even government agencies to get you to reveal personal information.
  • Ask your financial institutions for their policies about sharing your information. Ask them specifically about their policies designed to prevent pretexting.
  • Alert family members to the dangers of pretexting. Explain that only you, or someone you authorize, should provide personal information to others.
  • Keep items with personal information in a safe place. Tear or shred your receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, bank checks, expired credit cards and other financial statements that you’re discarding.
  • Add passwords to your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your pet’s name, your birth date, your phone number or a series of consecutive numbers.
  • Be mindful about where you leave personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates or are having work done in your home by others.
  • Find out who has access to your personal information at work and verify that the records are kept in a secure location.



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