Protect Yourself from Online Scams

Scams: How to Spot, Protect and Report

In an ever-evolving digital world the threat of cyber scams is increasing significantly. There are no specific characteristics of who is being targeted, everyone online is a potential victim. Many of these scams will seem genuine; it is easy to be fooled into thinking a scam email is real correspondence. Below are some tips and guidelines to help you if you ever suspect you’re being targeted by scammers.

How to Spot a Scam

As mentioned before, scams can look very genuine and it can be easy to think that they are real. Common things to look out for are:

  1. If correspondence comes out of the blue from someone you don’t know.
  2. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is - for example, winning the lottery or being selected for a prize.
  3. Paying for something in advance - for example, being asked to pay for something by bank transfer is a popular scam.
  4. Providing personal information such as a PIN number or bank details.
  5. Being pressured into buying something or making a decision quickly.

How to Protect Yourself

Be Alert

Scams are extremely common in everyday life whether at home or work. They can come in various forms; a phone call, an email or even a letter. Remember, these scams can look very real and it is easy to be tricked into thinking they are genuine.

Be in-the-Know

Imagine receiving an email advising that you have won a prize that you can claim by simply providing your credit card details. It seems a bit too good to be true, but you follow the advice in the email and provide your bank details. When the prize doesn’t materialise, you follow up with the company who sent the original email, but you don’t receive a reply. Following a Google search, you find that this is a scam to lure people into unknowingly surrendering bank details and other sensitive information and your credit card has been charged hundreds of pounds.

In this scenario, it is always worthwhile to do your research to make certain that the correspondence you have received is genuine. Generally, if others have fallen for the same scam there will be something online describing the details.

Be Secure

Most websites or online banks will ask you to input security information before allowing you access to your details. You should never keep these passwords written down. You should try and set easy-to-remember but hard-to-guess passwords. Remember that these need to be strong and will include a range of upper and lowercase letters, numbers or symbols.

Most people will use social media networking sites daily such as Facebook and will share their lives with their friends. You should review your privacy settings frequently to ensure that the information you post is strictly for those you’re comfortable sharing with. It is very easy if you do have an “open” Facebook page for someone to steal your details and create a fake identity.

Common Scams

Phishing Scams

These definitely are some of the more popular scams but require a level of sophistication from the scammers. Normally these scams come in the form of an email posing as your bank usually and asking you to verify something. If in doubt, you should contact the company named on the email to check the legitimacy of the email. Alternatively, you can submit suspected phishing emails to Google’s fraud team from within Gmail.

Email Attachment Scam

This is quite a clever scam as the email you receive plays on the victim’s curiosity. You will be asked to open the attachment in the email which then downloads either malware or spyware onto your device which is used to obtain your personal details. If you don’t recognise the sender of the email don’t open any attachments.

Romance Scams

With an increasing number of dating apps and sites it’s no surprise that scammers will use this method to prey on lonely victims. Many of these scammers will use an emotional ploy to try and gain some money out of their victim. They will generally take a greater interest in you and rarely offer information about themselves. The top tip here is to try not to give out too much personal information about yourself and if someone asks for money don’t send them any! If in doubt report their profile to the dating app or site.


What to do if you think you are being scammed?

If you think you have been scammed there are a few things you can do to report the scam:

  1. Report the scam to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via their website
  2. If you have sent money to the scammer stop sending any further payments immediately. Get in contact with your bank if you have set up any Direct Debits.
  3. Beware of follow up scams from people claiming they can help you get your money back.

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