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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 March, 2004, 11:29 GMT
'I'm calling about breast cancer insurance'
SCAM WATCH
Your tales of the latest scams

Breast cancer screening
THE SCAM: Breast cancer insurance

THE MEDIUM: Phone call

THE SCRIPT: It starts like any other cold call selling insurance. The friendly voice on the other end of the line claims to represent an insurance company set to launch a new scheme which pays out to policy holders if they contract breast cancer. If after 15 years they remain cancer-free, they receive back the money they've paid into the scheme.

THE CATCH: "I was dubious about buying insurance over the phone, but as a woman whose mother has had breast cancer twice, I wanted to find out more," says Elizabeth McLean, a 34-year-old teacher.

"When I asked to be sent more information before committing to anything, the caller said that to do so he needed my bank details - sort code and account number included.

"I said I wasn't prepared to do that, and he said my bank details were needed as part of a new scheme run 'in partnership with the banks to beat the fraudsters'.

"It all sounded very dubious to me, so I hung up."

THE VERDICT:

"That's a new one on me," says a spokeswoman for APACS, the Association for Payment Clearing Services. "There is no such security scheme with the banks, and I can't think of any reason that an insurer or a charity would need your bank details unless you have agreed a payment.

"And that's very mean and callous to play on something they think a caller will be concerned about."

While Elizabeth was right to refuse to give out her bank details, a prospective fraudster would need extra information to be able to take money out of her account, she says. They may, however, be able to set up a mobile phone account or similar.

"There's key information you should not divulge: the three-digit security code on the back of your bank card, unless it is a call you have initiated in order to buy something; your PIN; and any password you have to get into your account, such as your mother's maiden name."

But, she points out, even a legitimate caller from your bank would not ask for such information.


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