The internet is a marvellous creation; an endless resource for entertainment and information. A virtual world where you can carry out chores such as banking and the weekly shop, all from the comfort of your home. It enables us to communicate and keep in touch with friends and family on the other side of the world, it truly is an incredible tool that everyone should embrace.
But, technology is evolving at an incredible speed and it’s hard to keep up. The younger generations are adapting to the ever-changing realm online, picking up the “language” as they grow up with it. They know what buttons to click and what ones to avoid. But for those who grew up in a time where updating “windows” meant investing in double glazing, and a “Mac” was merely a raincoat that your mum made you wear, technology and the internet can seem like a minefield of uncertainty.
And while you can’t break the internet, you can be vulnerable to online fraud and financial scams, especially those who aren’t tech savvy. Scammers are using the internet, phone calls, letters, emails and texts to con people into giving them money or personal information. They’re hard to spot as they often appear genuine, so knowing the signs and what to be wary of can help keep you safe from fraud. Take a look below to get clued up on what scams are out there and how to avoid them.
Phishing / Email
The scam: Phishing (pronounced as “fishing” due to the way it baits users into doing something) is when you receive an email or sometimes a text message requesting personal information. It will look like it comes from a legitimate company. Scammers usually mimic a bank or credit card company but can also disguise themselves as other popular companies such as eBay, Facebook, PayPal, etc. Once the scammer has your details they will use it to access your account to steal your money or your identity.
How to avoid:
- Banks should never ask you for personal information via email, so never respond to an email requesting such data.
- It’s important not to click the link that may be included in the email as this could direct you to a fake site. Always type out the banks official website (URL) into your browser or use your saved shortcuts for ease.
- Check the email domain it’s been sent from as sometimes the domain will be incorrect (instead of @paypal.co.uk it will be something random like @permaxd.mx) in this case, delete the email.
- If you feel suspicious, delete the email and call the bank to clarify any doubt.
- Check the website’s SSL security seal or padlock icon
Vishing / Telephone banking
The scam: Similar to phishing but this time Fraudsters call you and impersonate your bank or building society, fraud investigation team or the police. Again, they’ll try to get financial information from you such as your credit or debit card details (including PIN), bank account details and your full name, date of birth or address. This information is then used by the scammer to gain access to your finances or to get you to make payments into the scammer’s account.
How to avoid:
- Never share sensitive information over the phone such as credit cards details, banking information, or any personal data.
- Usually, scammers will use fear tactics or pressurise you. If you feel pressured then hang up immediately.
- Banks will never ask you for your personal pin or passwords so if the caller asks you for them, end the call.
- If you receive a voicemail be wary and call the official bank/company number rather than redialing the caller’s number.
The scam: The caller claims to be from a good computer company or anti-virus firm and requests access to your computer. They’ll usually offer to fix or upgrade your machine or say there is a problem with it that they need to look at. They’ll ask to access your computer remotely and once logged on they can release software and gain access to your personal data.
How to Avoid:
- A cold call requesting access to your computer should always raise alarm bells – Hang up.
- Never give out details or allow access to a caller unless you are expecting a call and are sure it’s from a trusted provider, or if you made the call to a trusted source.
The scam: Fraudsters create fake profiles on dating sites and chat-rooms to build relationships and gain people’s trust. They’ll make you feel you’ve met the perfect match and pull at your heart strings with an emotional story of how they need financial help. They may ask questions to try and get personal information which they can use to access your accounts or steal your identity.
How to avoid:
- If it feels wrong is probably is so terminate the conversation.
- Only use trusted dating/chat-room sites and be wary of moving the chat to email or text.
- Don’t give away too many personal details.
- They usually ask lots about you but don’t let much out about themselves.
- Never send them money or details.
General safety tips
Make sure your passwords to online accounts are long, unique and use a mix of random numbers and lower and upper case letters. Don’t share them and change them regularly. Don’t use the same password for everything.
Use antivirus software and make sure you have the latest version and its updated daily
Be aware of fake websites. Before entering payment card details on a website, check there is a padlock symbol in the browser window frame. Be sure the padlock is not on the page itself as this will probably indicate a fraudulent site. For extra security, in some browsers you can click on the padlock and check the company who owns the site, and that it’s been verified.
If an unknown mailer emails you saying they need financial help – delete the email.
If you feel pressured or harassed when on the phone you can hang up.
Trust your instincts.