Consumers need more ways to avoid fraud than ever before as scammers are targetting their victims using simple yet effective tactics.
Social media platforms Facebook and Instagram are responsible for 4/5 of online investment scams according to the bank TSB. TSB are perhaps rightly demanding that the Internet giant Meta (formerly Facebook), should be held more directly responsible for fraud if they fail to clamp down on fraudulent activity across their platforms (which includes What’s App, Instagram, Facebook and the emerging Metaverse).
Concerning figures released recently revealed that banks have refunded less than half to victims of fraud, whilst at the same time stating that internet and telecoms companies should equally be liable for facilitating the scams of their customers. This is all due in part to an increase in the number of internet-based get-rich-quick scams.
There’s no denying that cyber threats are on the rise and are forecast to continue for a long time to come. Almost a third of charities (30 per cent) and two in five businesses (39 per cent) reported cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months.
After hearing stories of people losing life savings, employees transferring money out of business accounts into fraudsters’ hands and seeing a company’s cash flow decimated by a scam, hopefully, this article will hopefully help make sure that you don’t become a victim of fraud before it’s too late.
How to Spot a Potential Scam
Fraudsters will try all sorts to get your attention and put you in a difficult position to try and extract your personal details such as credit card information. They will play on your emotions. Send you to fake websites. Offer investment advice. Seek remote access to your computer.
Don’t let them.
It’s much easier to put the phone down, delete the email or switch off the computer than to become a victim of fraud.
Here are some common tactics scammers will use which you need to know, so you can deploy ways to avoid fraud:
Scammers Will Pretend to Be from an Organisation You Know
They may use real organisations such as HMRC, companies house, pension provider, the bank and Microsoft. They may also use a name that sounds legitimate, like the local police, a utility company, a financial institution or even sometimes charities. They may use technology to change the telephone number displayed on your caller ID to make them look more legitimate. You will often receive frequent phone calls and if they don’t get your attention the first time increase their suspicious activity in other ways.
They will also sometimes try tricks such as offering a pension review to increase pension pots, enhanced credit reports, offer to review your bank statements, credit card deals and more.
There Will Be a Prize or a Problem
Scammers will try to shock you. They may say you’re the winner of a huge cash prize, or that there is a problem with your bank account and that they need you to answer some questions so that they can unlock it for you. They will hit you with unexpected offers or an amazing deal out of the blue. Some will get you to download software on your computer so that they can fix a problem they have found with your PC (which of course they haven’t and you have no knowledge of).
You Will Be Put Under Pressure
Scammers will try to pressure you to take action right now. They might tell you not to put the phone down or that if you put the phone down money will go missing or you won’t win the prize. They might even threaten you with being arrested, changing your pension arrangements or sending you massive fines or that if you don’t do as they say then your computer will be wiped. Some scams will even threaten to publish your Internet history and video calls. They’re all threats either via the phone, email or social media.
You Will Be Given Specific Instructions
Fraudsters will always want you to do things a specific way. For example, they might tell you to transfer a very specific amount of money from your account into another account at the bank. They might state they only accept payment in Bitcoins or ask you to create a gift card for them, cleverly capturing your account details in the process. They might also send you a prize in the post asking you to call a number so they can deposit your winnings.
10 Ways to Avoid Being Scammed
You don’t need to become a victim of fraud.
By learning some simple tips and tricks on ways to avoid fraud, you can make sure that you are never caught out by a scammer. Keep your eyes open whilst navigating the web and keep your emotions in check. Before you take any action on anything, take a breath and see how you feel about it. All of this forces you to slow down.
If It’s Too Good to be True…. It Probably Is
In the case, for instance, that a website is boasting financial advice with information on investments with high interest, or an investment in a cryptocurrency with a high yield, do some due diligence first. Interest rates are low at present (July 2022) for example. Think twice before ever handing over your bank details to anyone.
Don’t Answer Unsolicited Cold Calls
Never take calls or continue the conversation from strangers out of the blue claiming to be your bank, the taxman, or other official institutions. End the call then look up the company’s number first on any of the search engines and you will see what others have to say about the number. If you’re still not sure, call the number on a second phone to see if they really are who they say they are. 9 times out of 10, they will be a scammer. You can also block these calls you receive or use a call blocking service too.
Institutions such as banks or law enforcement will not contact you to ask for your PIN or passwords, or to move money to a protected account. Equally, employees from Microsoft will never call you to access your computer. It’s all a scam. If they become forceful, stop communication. No one should be forcing you to do anything.
Don’t Click Links in Emails Until You’re Sure
If you happen to get an unexpected email, do not click on the link. Go to the website for the firm claiming to be contacting you, and then call them back up. Check their email address and specify the domain name after the @ sign in the email if you’re not sure. Very often it will be a “dodgy” looking email or a standard Gmail account or worse.
Reputable companies will have their own verified domain name and use an email associated with it. In clicking a link you don’t trust you may be prompted to give away personal details or taken to a fake website which downloads malicious content onto your computer or device. These are known as phishing emails and can be damaging to your personal life and work life. Don’t be a victim of fraudulent emails.
Check Your Social Media Privacy
Take a look at the privacy settings of your social media posts. Do not share content with strangers you don’t know. Criminals are scouring social media with the goal of grooming youngsters as money mules to help launder illicit money through their accounts. Double-check what information is sent out with the post too. Fraudsters can geo-track you based on where you’re posting from and build up a profile of their own based on your social activity.
Use Strong Passwords for all Your Accounts
You should also look to use a password manager too. This will help you manage your passwords and change them easily as well. You should also implement the use of two-factor authentication throughout too. They will also help you generate long and secure passwords that are difficult to crack and keep passwords unique per account you have.
Update Your Software and Apps
Make sure you update and keep updated all the software on all your devices to ensure you have the latest virus protection and software. Set security to the maximum where possible. Make sure however you are downloading the updates from the source, not a copycat site. Check the domain names and where the updates are coming from. If you often forget, enable automatic updates. If you manage a website, you should ensure all your plugins and core CMS software is up to date too.
Be Careful When Using Public Wi-Fi
Never use a public Wi-Fi connection to buy products or make financial transactions. These are only to be used for surfing the web. At the very least use a VPN.
Look for a Padlock and Digital Certificate
When paying for things online, make sure a padlock is in place in the web address bar. A padlock is a visual indication that the website is secure with a digital certificate, which should mean that your information is encrypted as it goes from the site to your desired destination and can’t be intercepted. You will normally see https:// instead of http://.
However, you still need to be careful as cybercriminals have found ways around developing fake security certificates now too. Just take extra care and double-check the domain name. For example, when shopping on the Amazon website in the UK, use https://www.amazon.co.uk, not http://www.amzon.co.uk – notice the subtle difference?
Check the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
The FCA maintains a list of all firms that engage in so-called regulated activities so you can see if the British firm using the service or products of a company claiming to be a financial service institution is on the list. Some suppliers have been known to rip off other businesses by creating lookalike profile pages and designing similar brands and insignia. Just remember to thoroughly examine the webpage in question prior to purchasing anything.
What to Do If You’re a Victim of Fraud
If you have become a victim of fraud try not to panic. You don’t want to make the situation worse. The best thing you can do is also keep a date and time stamp of every step you’ve taken as this will also help focus your mind and will ensure you have something to refer back to in a few week’s time about what happened when you first realise you’d become a victim.
If it’s financial fraud, then generally, the very first step in securing your finances and credit is to make sure that you collect together the proper identification documents you will need so that you can’t be impersonated and apply for loans or credit cards when you’re not.
Then, (though you might do this first), call your bank immediately and speak to the fraud department and do the same with any credit card company you use. Also, check your credit report.
You should always contact your bank immediately if:
- There have been any unauthorised transactions on your account (transference of money you didn’t initiate or know about).
- Your credit or debit card has been used and has taken out money or paid more money than you expected.
If it’s been 8 weeks and you haven’t had your money back for the above, then you can contact the Financial Ombudsman. If they decide you have been treated unfairly during the process then they have the legal power to put things right.
You might not think about it, but you should call the police too. Especially if you have transferred large sums of money. Don’t call 999, but 101.
You should also change any of your online banking passwords and card pin codes to make sure the fraudsters can’t take action.
If you have received any fraudulent documents or demands through the post-call the relevant fraud department. It’s best practice to request brand new credit and debit cards too.
If you’ve paid for something you haven’t received, you might be able to get your money back. Your card provider can ask the seller’s bank to refund the money. This is known as the ‘chargeback scheme’.
If you paid by debit card, you can use chargeback for however much you paid.
If you paid by credit card and the item cost more than £100 but less than £30,000, you might be able to claim under the Consumer Credit Act – this is known as a ‘Section 75 claim’. If the item cost less than £100 and you paid by credit card, you can’t use Section 75, but you can use chargeback.
Bank Transfer or Direct Debit
Contact your bank immediately and let them know what’s happened and ask if you can get a refund. Most will reimburse you if you’ve been caught out by a scam (known as an authorised push payment). If it’s been completed via Direct Debit you should be able to get a refund under the Direct Debit Guarantee.
Money Transfer Service
You are unlikely to get your money back if you paid through a wire service such as Weston Union, MoneyGram or PayPoint.
Gift Cards and Vouchers
It’s unlikely you will get your money back if you used a voucher or gift card to pay a scammer. Ensure in the future, that if this has happened to you, that you never give out the numbers on the back of the gift card or vouchers to anyone you don’t know.
Data Breach or Digital Scam
If your computers have been compromised, make sure you have performed a backup and have performed a scan on the data backed up, disconnect the device from the Internet as soon as possible and then reset/wipe your computer or device in full. This might seem extreme but this way you will completely remove anything which has been installed on the device. Don’t be afraid to ask an IT professional for help.
You should immediately reset any of your online passwords relating to emails, social media accounts, online banking and even if you play online gaming. Do a complete reset. This will prevent access to the fraudsters.
If you believe you have suffered a data breach then you will also need to contact the ICO to report a data breach.
If you are having trouble recovering a hacked account, you can also seek the advice and support of the National Cyber Security Centre. They will also be able to assist you in recovering your online identities, especially if they have been completely hacked or engaging in fraud using your followers and targetting them too.
Summary of Ways to Avoid Fraud
Rather than scare you, this article has hopefully helped inform you of what fraudsters are up to and ways to avoid fraud in your life. Hopefully, it will also help you if you ever fall victim to a scam too.
- Always keep your cool and stay calm. You are the one in control, not the fraudster. Simply end the call, delete the email, and ignore their pressure. You might be glad you did.
- Make sure you keep all of your devices up to date with the latest software updates and security settings. Ensure you have anti-virus and anti-malware installed on your computers and that they are running and haven’t been disabled.
- Double-check website addresses and email addresses to ensure they are genuine. Always check to see if they are using https:// and have a padlock in the address bar.
- Use strong passwords and use a password manager so that you can quickly change your passwords and keep them safe and secure without the need to write them down.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.