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Scams – staying one step ahead of the fraudsters

All of us are relatively positive that we can spot a scam online or over the telephone and yet, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) latest ‘Crime Survey for England and Wales’ reveals just how effective the scammers are.

There were an estimated 4.4 million fraud offences of all types and yet the figures from the police and other bodies such as the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) showed just 730,765 offences, a rise of about 2,000 from 2019 suggesting that just 16.6% of frauds are being reported.

Turning to cybercrime, the ONS’ Telephone operated Crime Survey for England and Wales

(TCSEW) estimated 1.7 million offences to the end of September.

One of the most ‘popular’ scams at the moment preys on the rise in internet ordering linked to home delivery. The Royal Mail scam relies on people expecting a delivery, who receive a text claiming that a parcel is awaiting delivery by Royal Mail. The text claims that a notional sum needs to be paid before delivery can be made. If the link is pressed it goes to a Royal Mail lookalike site, which then asks for personal and payment details. The result – another stolen identity.

It is not just Royal Mail but also any of the well known courier firms which are servicing the growth of online shopping whose sites are being mocked up. The key to a successful scam is how plausible it seems, as in this case.

Police and anti-fraud offices’ advice centres on a few key areas where we as individuals can protect ourselves. 

  1. Be more vigilant. Taking more responsibility to ensure that we think carefully before blindly connecting to sites (as above) and responding to texts and emails from individuals or businesses with which we have had no connection.
  2. Only download apps from official app stores, such as:
    • Apple iTunes
    • Android Marketplace
    • Google
    • Play Store
    • BlackBerry World
  3. Don’t download anything from unofficial or unknown sources, as your computer or phone could be infected by malware or a virus.
  4. Keep your computer and phone’s operating systems updated with the latest security patches and upgrades. Your operating system provider normally sends these.
  5. Never give your mobile banking security details, including your passcode, to anyone else and don’t store them on your phone.
  6. For added security set up a password or PIN to lock your mobile.
  7. Just like on your computer, you can get antivirus tools for your mobile; use a reputable brand. Some banks offer free antivirus software for their customers’ phones. Check your bank’s website for more information.
  8. Be wary of clicking on links in a text message or email. Don’t respond to unsolicited messages or voicemails on your phone. Your bank will never email or text to ask for your PIN or full password.
  9. Protect family members. Every youngster has a smartphone and increasingly elderly relatives are switching to smartphones as the pandemic has forced businesses and services to move to online representation. They need to be made aware of the above.

Lastly, let’s all use our common sense. If in any doubt as to the authenticity of a website purporting to be from a service provider, particularly ones supposedly from our banks, make a phone call or check the web address you have been asked to connect to and compare it with the one on their main website. 

We will be doing other features on combatting fraudulent scams and helping you to stay safe.

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