It may feel our lives are on hold right now but online fraud is as prevalent as ever. Whether it’s through emails, texts, calls or those exploiting others online seeking to buy hand sanitisers or face masks, you need to be alert. By using the Take Five initiative from the Government (https://takefive-stopfraud.org.uk/) you can be one step ahead of the fraudsters.
Online fraudsters will try anything and everything to get your personal details, debit or credit card details or access to your bank. Let’s look at the ways you may be exploited within knowing it.
Text scams also known as the cute and cuddly term, smishing. Smishing is fraud, they are texts claiming to be from the good guys, the reputable companies, but they are not. They will ask you to click on a link or call a premium telephone number, a prompt that gives them the opportunity to take information from you or take your money. A good example is a recent text received from O2 claiming a bill hadn’t been paid, it looked 100% genuine, only by logging in to the account itself did we confirm that it was in fact fraudulent. The text contained a link and had we entered bank details who knows what would have happened, so keep an eye out and think before clicking the link.
Whether it’s business or personal, email phishing affects everyone. Did you know over 3 billion phishing emails are sent every day? These are like smishing but longer, more elaborate and if the fraudster has done their homework, they will contain personal information or details you can relate to. They are designed to get you to click on a URL contained within that email or download a file which can be attached in any form, including Word, Excel or PDF. As a business we receive several pertaining to unpaid invoices, some look genuine from real companies and others are simply trying their luck. Clicking on links or downloading files can be a sure-fire way to give fraudsters access to your details and the potential of being hacked. If it is an email you feel you need to follow up with, use known websites or customer service contact details to confirm whether it is genuine or not.
You are eligible to get a tax refund of £1,234 GBP, click here to access your funds. Look familiar? HRMC scams come in the phishing and smishing form, along with phone calls and WhatsApp messages. You may have received an email which looks very real, it has the banner, the official icons, the text looks right and it asks you to click on the link to claim your rebate or tax refund. Don’t. It will take you to what looks like a genuine web page to enter your details but it isn’t real. Where you were hoping for some extra cash, it will end up costing you. There are currently two known SMS scam texts allegedly from the HRMC, one is offering a Goodwill payment, ‘click here to apply’ and the £250 fine text, which claims you have left your house more than once during lockdown. This scam provides an 0800 to call. If you are unsure about any communication you have received from the HRMC visit their website for help (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs).
Shopping online. During lockdown online grocery sales have increased by a quarter, it is no surprise if we can’t go out, we shop online, whether it’s for food, clothes, electronics or face masks. There are millions of websites that want to sell to you but how do know if they are safe to shop with? If you are using Chrome they provide some protection against dodgy websites, a big red webpage will arrive when you click on a link with a warning such as ‘this website may contain malware’ or ‘deceptive site ahead’. Also look for the padlock symbol alongside the website’s URL in your browser; you can click on the padlock to see the site’s information including the site’s SSL certificate, cookies and the site settings. There are more obvious signs such as bad English, spelling mistakes or grammatical errors; try looking for a telephone number, company number or head office address. If they’ve passed those tests, Google the website name and see what comes up. This is usually a good indicator if they are worth spending your money with. Always be wary when purchasing medicine online and always look at reviews, the good, bad and ugly as many can be fake.
The promise of sun, sea and sangria. It is safe to say the pandemic has disrupted everyday life across the world. Weddings, festivals and holidays were all cancelled and the promise of some summer sun in a foreign country later in the year can be very tempting right now but is it legit? There are many online scams which offer the dream villa for a week or two, the price is unbelievably low and they warn you that this deal won’t be around for long, all you need to do is make the bank transfer and your booking will be secured. This is a scam. They will take your money and seemingly disappear, seeking their next victim. Always use reputable travel companies, those who are ABTA protected and those with a track record. This will ensure you are financially protected and your autumn/winter escape is secured.
How Scam-Savvy are you? Take the Take Five Stop Fraud online quiz https://quiz.takefive-stopfraud.org.uk/