15 February 2024

HSBC UK warns of new technique used by scammers

HSBC UK is today warning consumers about a change in approach by some scammers, using gold and silver bullion, as well as purchased jewellery, as part of their scam to steal money from unwitting victims.

The scammers, who typically use impersonation scam or ‘safe account’ techniques, often pose as Police officers suggesting that a fraud has taken place on an account. The plot also often involves claims that the bank customer has been chosen to help with an investigation into the bank branch, or that members of branch staff are involved in a plan to steal money from the account, replacing it with counterfeit money.

This warning comes as new insight from HSBC UK shows the bank received an average of 46 cases per month where customers have fallen victim to an Impersonation Scam where a scammer impersonates the Police or a bank worker, with an average case value of almost £600k (£598,692). While the number of other types of Impersonation Scam are twice as common, with an average of 95 cases per month, the average case value is much lower at £245k, albeit still a life-changing amount.

The new twist is where scammers try to persuade the customer to withdraw large sums of cash from their branch and purchase gold or jewellery, which is then handed over to the scammer under the pretence that it will be kept safe or will be used in evidence in court. The reality is the opposite.

David Callington, HSBC UK’s Head of Fraud, said: “Scammers are devious criminals who adapt their approach from time to time, trying to stay one step ahead of banks and the Police. Over the last couple of months we may have seen the start of a trend where purchasing and physically handing over gold, silver or jewellery has become part of a scam. Whereas scammers previously often used cryptocurrency exchanges to ‘cash out’, moves to tighten payments across the industry have led criminals to go down a different route. While this not only leads to the customer losing money through the scam, as there is a physical element to it with a meeting to carry out the handover, there’s a potential physical risk to the victim as well. If you receive a call out of the blue about money, it is very likely to be a scam.”

What to look out for
The exact details of each scam can vary. They may involve more than one scammer posing as different organisations. They may tell you:

  • You have been a victim of fraud within the bank and shouldn’t trust them
  • You are helping a police investigation
  • Your money is counterfeit
  • You need to buy gold or jewellery to stay safe

How to stay safe
Stop and think. If you are asked to buy gold to stay safe, it is a scam. Legitimate fraud investigations will not ask you to do this.

If someone contacts you or asks you to buy or hand over gold or jewellery, hang up immediately.

If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, call the number on the back of your HSBC card immediately. You can also make a report to Action Fraud.

Notes to Editors:

HSBC UK serves over 14.75 million customers across the UK, supported by 24,000 colleagues. HSBC UK offers a complete range of retail banking and wealth management to personal and private banking customers, as well as commercial banking for small to medium businesses and large corporates. HSBC UK is a ring fenced bank and wholly owned subsidiary of HSBC Holdings plc.

HSBC Holdings plc
HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of HSBC, is headquartered in London. HSBC serves customers worldwide from offices in 62 countries and territories. With assets of $3,021bn at 30 September 2023, HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations.