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Staying Safe Online

Online Scams

There is no doubt that young and old, we are embracing technology, phones/tablets, heating and doorbells we can control remotely, streaming television and the likes of ‘Alexa’ et al sounding in houses all over the country.

But whilst technology is making lives easier for us in so many ways, scam artists and thieves are finding new ways to trick us. Some emails, or cons are so sophisticated that even experts find it hard to tell, and of course some just pray on those that are more vulnerable or unaware…

So, how can you protect yourself online during 2019 and beyond?

Scams by Email – otherwise known as Phishing

Phishing emails are made to look just like normal correspondence that you would receive. They will often be sent from companies that you are familiar with and likely use, such as TV licensing, big shops like Amazon, British Telecom and so on. The email is likely to be branded with the actual companies’ logos and have similar wording to emails you will have received in the past.

Often Phishing emails, use a hook – something that will trouble you, in order to get you to take action. For example, it might say that ‘We believe your account has been used fraudulently’. Usually a link will be provided, and of course when you click on it any number of things can happen from them downloading spyware on to your computer, to gaining access to your user name and password.

  • If in doubt – do not click on the link. Delete the email, or put it in your junk folder. Or pass on to the fraud department of the actual company, so that they are aware and can investigate.
  • Check the ‘sender’ email address – you will often tell from this that it is not genuine.
  • Read the email carefully. Often incorrect use of English language and grammar will have been used – which is a tell-tale sign it’s fake.
  • Think twice – genuine companies do not ask for your information, or get you to click on links to sign in via an email.

Redirecting Payment

If you will need to move money from your bank account to someone else, to pay for services, for example to a Solicitors for moving house, or to pay a contractor for work on your home.

Then pay very careful attention to any emails requesting the money and that provide bank details. Especially if anything differs like account numbers and sort codes from correspondence you have had before.

Scam artists will hack email accounts, and then intercept messages, aiming to look and sound as the person you were communicating with, in order to redirect the funds to their accounts.

If in doubt, send a very small amount of money – such as £5, and then check to ensure the recipient got the money okay.

Fraud via Gift Cards

Again, this is a scam you are likely to receive on email, from a company you are familiar with. The email will suggest that you still owe some money, perhaps to someone like the Inland Revenue.

They will go on to advise that if you pay by Gift Card, the amount you owe can be reduced. You will be instructed to provide details of the Gift Card serial number (obtained by scratching off the back).

Of course, once you have provided such information, the scam artists will use the Gift Card money, or sell on the information for cash.

Reporting Cons

On paper it is easy to think that you will not be fooled by such cons, but many are very believable and, in the moment, create panic that cause you to act. At any time, you can report emails you find suspicious by contacting Action Fraud:

0300 123 2040,