Finance

Is entering competitions leaving you vulnerable to fraud? Promise of prizes lures Britons into handing over personal details

The prize loving public are putting themselves at risk by handing over key personal information to enter competitions, according to new research.

Many enter draws to win holidays, gadgets and other eye-catching prizes without checking the competition is legitimate, Nationwide Building Society data shows.

To prove it, BBC presenter Chris Hollins teamed up with Britain’s biggest building society to illustrate how easy it is to convince the public to give away personal details by offering a ‘too go to be true’ competition for a holiday to Thailand with £5,000 spending money.

They set up a fake competition stand in a shopping centre by a company called C.A.M.S – an anagram of scam – and many handed over bank account details, address, e-mail and password hint in order to try ‘win’ the prize.

After doing so, Mr Hollins – who presents consumer television show Watchdog – pops up and asks why they were so willing to hand over personal details and how they know it isn’t a scam.

Many could be lured into doing the same, especially online. Details can then be used to build a profile on a potential target.

A survey of 2,000 people found that two thirds have previously entered private information such as their name, address and date of birth to enter a competition.

Of these, seven in ten have done so without any checks to make sure an offer is real or not fraudulent before doing so.

The findings come as official statistics show that online fraud was the most common crime in Britain in the 12 months to September 2016, with almost one in ten people falling victim.

Tackling fraud: TV presenter Chris Hollins highlighted how easy it was to swipe details from Britons wanting to ‘win’ a holiday to Thailand

Stuart Skinner, director of fraud at Nationwide, said: ‘Britons are much more willing to take a risk with their personal information if they think there is a bargain to be had.

‘It’s very easy to be swept away with the prize on offer and not stop to think whether it is valid. Our advice is, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is, so it’s wise to be suspicious.

‘People should take a bit of time to do some research and check the source is valid, particularly if it’s a website they are using for the first time.

‘Nationwide, like all banks and building societies, uses a wide range of measures to keep its customers’ money safe, but knowing how to protect yourself is by far the most effective way to avoid becoming another statistic.’

The survey highlights how the risk and reward radar can often be unbalanced by unrealistic offers as it reveals most people are aware that providing such information could put them at risk of fraud, with many regretting doing it later.

According to the poll, 18-to-24-year-olds are four times more likely to give out their personal details on a cold call than those aged 55 and above.

They are also almost three times as likely as 35-to-44-year-olds to give their bank details to an unfamiliar website while shopping.

However, the nation’s generous approach to sharing their personal information is in stark contrast to their awareness of fraud – most are well aware that sharing their bank details (86 per cent), date of birth (62 per cent), home address (58 per cent) and email address (42 per cent) could put them at risk of fraud.

This could explain why more than a third say they ended up regretting giving their personal information out.

The Nationwide experiment is similar to one Santander did last year which found 85 per cent of people parted with personal information in order to win a high-spec television from a shopping centre stand.

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