Staying safe from scammers
There are many different types of scam out there, know the warning signs to look out.
Most of us will be targeted by scammers at some point. Their goal is to trick us into giving them our money or revealing personal data they can use to steal from us. Their opportunistic natures have also meant that Coronavirus related fraud has been on the rise, so to avoid getting caught, read our helpful tips below.
How to spot a scam
Have you been contacted out of the blue?
If you've never heard of the organisation, and you haven't been in touch with them before, you should be suspicious.
Do they want money upfront?
A common scammer's tactic is to ask for some money upfront with greater rewards following later. If this happens, it’s almost certainly a con.
Does it sound too good to be true?
...it probably is. Be sceptical of claims of easy money and big prizes, especially if they ask for you to give money or your bank details.
Are you being pressured?
No organisation should require an answer straight away. If they put you on the spot, refuse. If they’re legitimate, they'll be happy to wait.
Are they telling you you have been hacked?
Some scammers will contact you telling you that you’ve been hacked and want to confirm your details or tell you to move your money into a second account for safety. Never give any personal details to someone that has contacted you, and always get in contact with the company or bank in question directly.
Is their spelling and grammar bad?
Ignore any mail, emails or websites with lots of errors. Legitimate organisations know better.
Do they want you to keep it secret?
Organisations normally want publicity for special offers or competitions. They'd never ask you to keep secrets from friends and family.
Did they use your real name?
Organisations who’ve obtained your details legitimately will refer to you by your first name or surname, rather than ‘dear sir’ or ‘hello madam’. And they’d never refer to you by an online username or nickname.
Do they want your personal details?
Don't give personal details to anyone if you're not sure who they are, especially if they're asking for bank details. Anyone contacting you should have some details already - ask them what they know and how they got that information.
Can you get their details?
Organisations shouldn't hesitate to offer a phone number or address. They should have a landline, not a mobile number (beginning 07) or premium rate number (beginning 09).
Be wary of PO Box addresses - that won't tell you their location. If someone shows up at your door, ask for ID. Don’t trust a number or address you get on an email or letter, use the details they have on an official website.
Social media scams
Some scammers will encourage you to hang up and call your bank straight away. If they do this, either use a different phone line to contact your bank or wait 10 minutes to ensure the fraudster is no longer on the line.
Who can help?
If you suspect you have received a scam regarding a pension, contact the Pension Advisory Service for advice.
How to protect yourself from scammers
A great way to protect yourself online is to have strong passwords for any account that you have. Have a look at some of the below methods and advice on how to create a strong password.
- Use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters.
- Try and avoid shorter passwords. The longer a password is, the more secure it will be.
- Base your password on a sentence or a phrase to help make longer passwords easier to remember.
- Avoid using the same password for all your online accounts, it will make it easier for a hacker to access them if one of them is compromised.
- Avoid using people's names. These can be easily exposed using common hacking tools.
- Try to use obscure words and not something that could be easily guessed by researching your social media.
- Using a secure password manager is a great way to generate hard to guess passwords and also have somewhere to store them safely. Discover more about password managers on the National Cyber Security Centre website.
Protect your devices
To help you keep you protected from online attacks it's important that you have antivirus software installed on your devices. Whilst they can't stop every cyber attack, they will help prevent hackers from getting into your mobile or computer.
Not all threats to a computer are designed to steal information or corrupt it, but that doesn't mean that it isn't dangerous. All breaches are designed to take advantage of what is known as a vulnerability, or weakness, in a computers software or operating system.
Here are a few key ways to help prevent spyware from infiltrating your computer or mobile:
- When installing software, make sure you read the security information, license agreements and privacy statements.
- Keep your device's software up to date. Updates to apps and software tend to contain important security updates that help to further protect your device from cyber criminals.
- Make sure you know what you're signing up for before you click 'I agree' or 'Ok' on pop-up windows.
- Ensure that programs you download and install onto your device are from a website that you know and trust.
Scammers can also steal your details via thrown away documents that have personal information on them. To further protect yourself, ensure anything that shows personal details is scribbled out, ripped up, or even better, shredded using a shredder.
Still not sure?
If you're still not sure if it's a scam or not...
- Do some research. If it’s a letter or email, don’t trust the contact details they give you, or click on any links. If you get a phone call, say you’ll call them back.
- Look the company up online. If it’s an organisation you know, find and use the contact details on their site and ask if they’ve tried to get in contact.
- If you don’t know the company, search for them online. Check if they have a professional-looking website and see what other people are saying about them. If there are any red flags, don’t contact them.
What to do if you suspect it's a scam
If a scammer is pretending to be a real organisation, contact the real company and let them know about it. Some other authorities you can contact are below.
ICO (Information Commissioner's Office)
An independent UK authority who uphold information rights in the public interest, advocating openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.