Here’s how to spot the most obvious ones and what to do if you’ve already responded!
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Most often, criminals want you to click on a link in an email, or text message, which then sends you to a dodgy website to download viruses onto your computer, or steal your passwords and personal information. Over the telephone, they may have a more direct approach such as asking you for sensitive information, like your bank details.
Criminals are experts at impersonating people and will often pretend to be someone you trust or to be from an organisation you trust. This could be your Bank, Building Society, the Police or Internet Service Provider (ISP) to name but a few. They spend hours researching you for their scams hoping you’ll let your guard down.
Recent intelligence from the banking and finance industry suggests there’s been a rise in purchase scams with criminals exploiting people shopping online for Christmas presents and home improvement and DIY purchases, as criminals adapt to more people staying at home and choosing to invest in their homes.
Cybercriminals have also seen the pandemic as an opportunity. In emails and on the phone, they may claim to have a ‘cure’ for the virus, offer financial rewards, or encourage you to donate to worthy causes. These scam messages can be very hard to spot. They are designed to get you to react without thinking.
If you think a message or telephone call might really be from an organisation you have an existing relationship with, like your bank, and you want to be 100% sure:
- Visit the official website, log in to your account or phone their advertised phone number. Don’t use the links or contact details in the message you have been sent or given over the phone.
- Check to see what that organisation has told you they will never do, e.g. HMRC will never WhatsApp you to tell you about a tax refund.
If you think you’ve already responded to a scam, don’t panic! There are lots you can do to limit the harm, whether you were contacted by phone, email, or text message.
Reporting Suspicious Messages
It may be just a gut feeling or the message might be from a company you don’t normally receive emails or texts from, or it could simply be someone you don’t know. If you are in any way suspicious, you should report it. By doing so you’ll be helping to protect many more people from being affected.
If you have received an email which you’re not quite sure about, forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) at email@example.com.
Suspicious text messages should be forwarded to 7726. This free-of-charge shortcode enables your provider to investigate the origin of the text and take action if found to be malicious.
Already responded? Don’t panic!
If you believe you have been tricked into providing your bank details or if your bank account has been hacked (if you notice unusual activity or if you’ve been locked out of your account), contact your bank immediately and let them know. They will then confirm what happens next.
If you opened a link on your computer or followed instructions to install software, open your antivirus (AV) software (if you have it) and run a full scan. Allow your antivirus software to clean-up any problems it finds.
If you received the scam email or message on a work laptop, phone or tablet, contact your IT department and let them know straight away.
If you’ve shared your password with someone, you should change the password on all your accounts which use that password. Going forward it’s advisable to use unique passwords and store them using an online password manager such as LastPass.
If you’ve had money stolen, inform your bank immediately and report it as a crime to Action Fraud (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or Police Scotland (for Scotland). By doing this, you’ll be helping the battle against criminal activity, and in the process, prevent others from becoming victims of cybercrime.
So what can you do?
As criminals can use publicly available information about you to make their messages more convincing, there are a few things you can do to make it harder for them:
1. Review your privacy settings on all your social media and email accounts
2. Have unique passwords for all online platforms and websites and store in an encrypted password manager tool
3. Be mindful about the information you share and post
Take a moment to stop and think before parting with any money or information. It could keep you and your family safe.
Do you need some help with protecting your systems?
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