Avoiding SCAMS

The Internet is a huge resource of information, allows for the easy provision of goods and services and enables fast and flexible communications.

Unfortunately criminals have adapted to the online arena and SCAMS have become numerous and often well constructed.

The most important principle in staying safe, is to trust no one until you can prove they are genuine. Much like walking into a pub and having a stranger offer you a cheap TV which turns out to be either stolen or faulty, it is exactly the same with emails and web pages. Never let anyone pressure you into making a payment, if pressure or speed is involved, it is invariably a SCAM.

Always use a credit card when online – personal credit cards offer more protection against fraud than debit cards or direct money transfer.  PayPal also offers good protection but differs depending on the type of payment. But you will have little or no protection if you voluntarily give out the details, even if it is a SCAM.

If you have concerns about financial information that you provided to someone you think may not be genuine – CALL YOUR BANK IMMEDIATELY!

And never EVER give out your online passwords! BT or your bank etc. will never ask for your online login passwords.

The Internet is fantastic and there is no need to be put off by the SCAMS but you do have to be careful all the time unfortunately.

PHONE CALL SCAMS

Typically you will be called from someone claiming to be part of Microsoft or BT (but it could be any name). They will state that you have a problem with your computer or Broadband and that they can fix it. They will ask you to install software so that they can remote access your computer. In the end they will ask for payment at an extortionate rate (for doing nothing that was necessary) and you will have to pay a professional to wipe your computer.

Microsoft or your Internet services provider will never call you unless you call them first. If a Company is not already invoicing you for services,   they will not be calling you about issues they have detected! Never EVER allow remote access to your computer to someone you do not know! If you are unsure, ask the caller for their name, department, contact telephone number and case reference number. Then find your latest bill, and call the number printed on that bill. Give them the details you obtained and ask them to confirm if it was genuine or not!

ADVERT SCAMS WHEN BROWSING THE INTERNET

 Unfortunately amongst the genuine adverts there are many ‘trick’ adverts. Usually if you are on a well known website, you can trust the adverts but even here you should be careful. Many trick adverts offer you things that appear to be too good to be true, or claim that your computer has a problem and offer software to resolve this – see below.

TRICK SOFTWARE

You might find offers of free software but this is sometimes a carrot on a stick. If the website is not well known, or the software is not trusted, then you may end up installing something that will cause you problems at best or steal your information and banking details at worst.

You may often see software promising to fix errors, to speed up your computer and to install drivers – most of the time these are totally unnecessary!

A ‘Google’ search will often show if something is to be trusted or not – if the search result is a page of ‘how to remove this malware’ then it is obviously not something you would want to download!

Always have Internet Security software installed and up to date on your computer but be aware this will not stop all ‘trick programs’, however it should protect you from actual viruses. Consider additionally installing anti-malware software which will protect you from more. 

TRICK EMAILS

Be extremely careful with all emails – it is easy to forge the senders address, such that you think the email is coming from someone when it is not. Most email tricks can be discovered simply by reading the email carefully – bad spelling, odd signatures, asking you to click links, problems with accounts you don’t have etc. If you are unsure, never click the link. You can always check your credit or payment status for any online firm by logging in directly rather than clicking on a link!

If there is a link, if you very carefully move your pointer over that link taking extreme care not to ‘click’ then the webpage that link would open is usually displayed in a pop-up box. This usually gives the game away instantly!

TRICK WEBSITES

Just because you ‘Google’ for something, it does not mean the results can be trusted. There could be trick sites amongst the results. Try to determine the genuine sites from the trick sites by looking at the ‘domain name’ (website address). For instance Microsoft always ends with microsoft . com. BT always ends with bt . com. If you see it slightly different (e.g. microsoft1 . com) or misspelt, or Microsoft is at the start and not the end (e.g. microsoft . itservices . com ) then it is a trick and you cannot trust any information on it!

Any website that takes online payment and most websites with a log in area will have a security certificate these days – this is to protect you but you must look at the top of the webpage for it. This will be shown in the website address bar by a https:// preceding the website address and a padlock symbol. Unsecure sites will be http://webaddress . com with no padlock. Secure sites will be https://webaddress . com.  Large firms may even have their Company name displayed. This protects you in to ways, (1) it encrypts your interaction with that site so what you type cannot be intercepted and (2) it gives confidence the site is who they claim to be. So if you try to access a bank or an online shop, and at the login screen there is not ‘s’ for ‘secure’ (https://) and no padlock, you are mostly likely not on a genuine site – do not proceed!

FURTHER READING AND REPORTING ONLINE FRAUD:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/frauds-tricks-and-scams/fraud-tricks-and-scams

https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/