We’ve all had it; a phone call from a number you don’t recognise where a person claims you’ve had an accident recently, or an email that claims to be from Microsoft or PayPal.
In the first six months of 2019, scammers stole £616m from UK bank customers, and of that total, £207.5m was lost to scams in which people were duped into authorising a payment to an account controlled by a criminal? (The Guardian 2019)
So how do you know if the correspondence is genuine or not?
The main source of email scams is phishing. This is where scammers will send out fraudulent emails to millions of people hoping that just a few will click a link or download an attachment. A common example of this is an email that is supposedly informing you that you have a tax rebate and you just need to fill in a few details to claim your money.
The easiest way to work out if this is a scam is just to read it. A lot of these scams just don’t look right; whether that be an odd layout, images looking very blurry or most obvious of all, blatant spelling errors. But sometimes the emails pass this initial check and look genuine. In these situations, you should also check the ‘from’ email address.
In the header of your email client (Outlook, Gmail etc) it will tell you who the email is from but beware - just because it says it is from Amazon Support Team doesn’t mean it is. Always double check the actual email address it is coming from before clicking any links. The email address will either be displayed next to the name, or it’ll be hidden in a little dropdown and if you see something suspicious, don’t open the link.
If you’re still unsure whether the email is safe, ask someone or use a search engine to check the email address. If the address is safe it’ll usually be displayed on the company’s website somewhere.
If you want to learn more about the variety of internet scams, I recommend looking on YouTube, there are a few channels that deal with scams. A particularly informative one I’ve found is Jim Browning
One of the worst but also most common scams I’ve seen are ones where you’ll receive a call from a person claiming to be from a company like Microsoft saying there is a problem with your PC that needs to be fixed. They will attempt to get you to download some software that will give them the ability to access your PC under the guise of walking you through how to fix it. They will usually show you something like Event Viewer which will show a lot of Errors in your PC. This is perfectly normal and doesn’t mean there is a problem with your PC but they will use this as a scare tactic with the ultimate aim of getting you to log in to your internet banking.
Under no circumstances should you ever let a person you don’t know talk you into downloading anything from the internet, especially software that gives them access to your PC, nor should you ever log into your internet banking while someone else has a connection to your PC. If they try this it is almost always a scam and you should hang up the phone immediately.
If you’re not sure if there is an issue, please take your PC to your local reputable repair shop.
Recently there has been a noticeable increase in scams coming through text messages. Fortunately, Google and Apple are both getting better at detecting scam texts and will automatically move them to your spam folder, however, the odd one will make its way through.
The most popular type of scam text is where you receive a text informing you that your delivery has been redirected to your local Royal Mail depot due to unpaid delivery fees and you need to go to a link to pay for the delivery. As more people order products from the internet this scam is more likely to keep occurring. BBC Look East reporter Jon Ironmonger fell victim to a text scam before he contacted his bank and was informed it’s a scam, learn more.
Thankfully, according to an article on the BBC, “79% of those who received a scam delivery text in the past year said they immediately knew it was fake”. However, some people do fall for the scam and by entering your bank details into the fake website linked in the text, it’s possible for the scammers to make more payments from your account and maybe even convince you to move your money to another “secure” account set up by them to prevent further money being taken, which in reality will give them access to your entire savings pot.
Whilst nowadays most scams are technological, sometimes you’ll still get cases of people knocking on your door claiming they need to come in to check your gas meter. If you’re not expecting someone, make sure to get them to show some identification before letting them enter your property, and if you’re not convinced, turn them away and call the company they claim to be from.
Most scams can be spotted quite obviously but there are some that will even catch out those that are being vigilant. Generally, the best rule is to not enter any personal details on a page you’ve received a link to unless you’re sure it is what you expect it to be and it’s secure, and if you’re ever unsure talk to a friend or relative, or call your bank before moving any money to someone you don’t know. Most importantly, make sure your family and friends all know how to protect themselves as well as it’s primarily the elderly that are targeted successfully by these scams and once a scammer has successfully scammed money from you, they will sell your details on so other scammers can target you as well.
If you would like to learn more about how to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of scammers or some of the features that are being put into place to prevent scammers, then check out the following links BBC Newsbeat, Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert and Which News, most common scam threats in the UK.