How to stay safe from fraudsters
Unfortunately the Covid Pandemic is the ideal scenario for fraudsters. They love to prey on the vulnerable and have even been using the vaccine as a reason to obtain money fraudulently from their victims. HMRC have also reported that fraudulent claims have increased during the course of the pandemic with all of the new help available for individuals and businesses.
So how can you make sure you stay safe from scammers?
Be careful what you share on Social Media
Don’t share too much information on Social Media and be careful what you do share. Social media is the perfect platform for identity theft. They have access to your images and can very easily find out personal information about you. Change your privacy settings so that only friends can see what you’re posting. Don’t connect with people you don’t know. Be vigilant of mirrored accounts. If you receive a message request on Facebook from someone who is already your friend then delete it. Message requests come through from people you are not connected with, it may look like your friend, but their way of messaging you will be completely random and not like them at all. Make sure anything unusual like this is reported.
Not only can people replicate your Facebook account but they can steal your identity in order to apply for finance fraudulently so be vigilant when posting on social media platforms .
If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Research new businesses that you deal with
Online shopping is so convenient and easy to do, however make sure you research new companies that you haven’t used before, check they are legitimate before handing money over and try to pay by credit card or Paypal to ensure that you are insured against fraudulent websites. Never do a bank transfer to someone you don’t know.
Be careful when opening emails, even if they look reputable. Don’t open links or attachments if you’re not 100% the source is reliable. If something sounds too good to be true it probably is. Legitimate companies will not email you asking you to hand over personal information. Never email your passwords or personal information to anyone. If you’re not 100% sure the email is genuine then call the company using the phone number you would usually call them on, not the one in the body of the email. Delete suspicious email or texts straight away.
You may well have heard of Phishing but have you heard of Vishing? This is when scammers use the method of phone activity ie, phone calls and text messaging in order to steal personal information. Phone calls and messages may appear to come from a trusted source, but in reality it’s cybercrime.
I for one have noticed an increase in nuisance calls and cold callers over lockdown. The majority of them are obvious that they are scamming you but they may not be as obvious to vulnerable people or the elderly. There is currently a HMRC phone call doing the rounds saying that if you don’t call them back there will be a warrant out for your arrest. HMRC would never make phone calls of this nature, if you receive a phone call like this, do not ring the number back and report it Action Fraud.
It’s also been reported that there are phone calls being made from people claiming to be from the NHS offering vaccines to people at a fee. The NHS will not charge you for your vaccination. You will receive a text message, phone call or letter informing you that you can now book your appointment online using their online portal.
I received a phone call not so long ago from someone claiming to be from Sky. They said my internet would be disconnected if I didn’t hand over my IP address to them and they wanted to access my computer remotely. Of course I ended the call straight away. Just be wary of unknown numbers calling you and never hand over information to them.
Don’t grant people remote access to your computer unless you have made the phone call to them and you know they are trustworthy.
Any mail you receive which is unwanted should be shredded so that your name and address cannot be seen. Don’t write down or email personal information and passwords, use a file sharing/password sharing service such as 1password or Lastpass.
Secure your devices
Use passwords to keep your devices secure and update your password regularly, never share your password with anyone, choose strong password which cannot easily be guessed, used capital and lowercase letters and special characters and numbers
- Use 2 factor authentication when available
- Update your software and make sure you have antivirus software
- Be wary when using public wifi connections
- Only trust encrypted websites that have a security certificate - this can be recognised with the prefix https rather than http
How to spot a fake document
Not only do fraudsters use the internet for their crime they also use the postal method. They will replicate a letterhead from a legitimate company in order to make you believe it’s genuine. Look out for poor quality printing, reputable companies will ensure that their print is on top form in order for their brand to maintain its reputation. If a letter is generic and not personally addressed to you, it’s more than likely marketing spam or fake. Watch out for incorrect grammar or spelling, a professional document will be proofread and checked before being sent out to customers.
Believe it or not, people still try their luck by knocking on people’s doors and even more so now that people are at home during the day. The people that do this will look genuine, probably with an ID card to make you believe that they are who they say they are. They may even stand at your doorstep with an iPad in their hand trying to get you to sign up to their service, they usually use charities to do this. Never hand over your personal information or your bank details over on your front door step. If you really want to sign up to their service, tell them you want time to research first. You should not be forced into making a decision there and then. If you feel that it isn’t right, it probably isn’t trust your instinct, ask them to leave and call the police.
Always think before rushing into something new especially online, remember never to hand over personal information and be vigilant about what you post. Let’s not make it easy for scammers!