Online risks come in many forms and have a variety of unintended impacts, consequences and potential harms, for both children and adults. Despite our best efforts to protect ourselves, there are many ways that scammers can target us, exploit our information and leave us feeling exposed.
Scammers have been around for a long time and are adept at taking advantage of current trends, or issues to increase the likelihood of successfully targeting a victim. For example, in the first 6 months of 2020, scams targeting UK citizens increased by 66%, making use of the COVID uncertainty and changing work environments and habits.
How the Scams Work
Scams have become more sophisticated during the last 10 years or so, with increasingly believable and complex approaches, designed to trick even the savviest of internet users. Scams arrive on our devices in a number of ways: Emails, texts, calls, impersonation accounts on social media and impersonation websites purporting to be a legitimate company.
A Common Approach is to Introduce a Sense of Urgency
- Act now to save money!
- Failure to reply will result in fines.
- Your parcel cannot be delivered owing to an unpaid fee. Click here to pay now.
- This is HMRC. You have failed to pay the correct taxes, press one now otherwise a warrant will be served and you will be arrested.
- Here is your latest invoice. Click here to download and pay.
Sadly, scammers prey on the vulnerable, the time-poor and those prone to being tricked. With it being so easy to collect information about us online, scammers may take the time to learn more about you. When they do eventually target, it can be a cleverly crafted attack. They may even take a widespread approach, hoping that someone will bite - it only takes 10% to make it worthwhile.
Top Tips to Avoid Being Scammed
A crucial method to reduce the risk of being spammed is to be highly critical of all messages and calls you receive. Disbelieve is your ally in protecting yourself against spam.
Secondly – trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, look right, or sound right, delete! A reputable company will try alternative means to contact you and won’t mind providing you with identity verification. If you’re being pressured to ACT NOW, take a moment to breathe and think before acting.
Ways To Tell it’s a Scam
You don’t recognise the number, the name, the person or contact details - Be critical
- The message asks you to click here to input your details - Don’t! Delete the message and contact the company using your normal routes.
- They need something quickly - Slow down. Be critical, take your time and get support if you need it.
- Something important to do - If it’s from someone you know, check with them using a different way to communicate. Voice or video calling would be a good option.
- They need to confirm your details, right now or accounts will be shut down - Don’t share anything. End the communication and contact the company using your normal routes. Often there will be warnings about scams on the company website.
- It’s badly written - Poor grammar, spelling mistakes or not how the contact would normal speak with you are key signs it’s not genuine.
Key Scammer Approaches to Look Out For and Avoid Sharing
- Bank details.
- Email addresses and passwords.
- Gift Cards & Vouchers – Don’t pay anyone for anything using Gift Cards/Vouchers.
- Remotely accessing your device to “fix it”.
- Everything needs to be done right now.
- An “urgent” investment opportunity.
What To Do If You or Someone You know Has Been Scammed
Some key steps to take if you’re worried someone is being scammed:
- Stay calm – Breathe and write down what’s happened.
- Contact your bank – If bank details have been given, then contact your bank immediately, explain the situation and put a stop on all payments.
- Change passwords and log ins – If this information has been comprised, changing them immediately can potentially prevent any further breach.
- Collect all data – Record and retain as much information about what happened as you can
- Contact the police or Action Fraud – It’s important to report what has happened so it can be investigated. Both the police and Action Fraud will want as much detail as you can provide to help them track the scammers down.
- Contact the organisation – If you have been scammed into purchasing items from a specific organisation, contact them to let them know what’s happened.
- Get Support – Talk to a friend, family member, or a support helpline such as; Victim Support, Think Jessica or the Samaritans.
Finally, with the volume of scams taking place, there’s bound to be someone else who has got similar experiences. You won’t be alone in having been the victim of a scam. This was not your fault, you’re a victim of a crime and asking for help and support is nothing to be ashamed of.
Of course, now it’s happened you’ll know what to look out for. Talk to your family and friends and help them understand the risks of scams and you might just help avoid someone else from being tricked. You can find out more about Phishing and other forms of cyber attacks in our resource.