Isabel Morrison

Advice

How to protect yourself against identity fraud, cyberattacks, and scams

Avoid being another victim.

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Fraud costs us billions in pounds and dollars every year with thousands of people being tricked by con-artists. Understand how the most common scams work and protect yourself from becoming the next victim.

Telephone Scams

The courier scam

This is the most common telephone scam

A fraudster will call you posing as your bank, a police officer or an official from another company. They'll advise you to call your bank or the Police to verify their call (but they stay on the line). What happens is that the fraudster doesn't disconnect their call to you, so when you dial another number you're still connected to the same person.

The fraudster will then convince you to enter your PIN details into the phone and tells you a courier will be sent to collect your card.

The fraudster now knows your PIN, so once they collect your card they can go on a spending spree and you're paying for it.

Requests to transfer funds

Another popular telephone scam involves a fraudster calling you, again posing as your bank or another organisation, and telling you you're at risk of fraudulent activity. You'll then be pressured into making a transfer of funds into a 'safe account'. This account will actually be owned by the fraudster and you'll be sending your money directly to them.

Other Scams

Buying scams

These scams are where you find an item online at a deeply discounted price. However, after talking to or e-mailing the seller you're told that the item (such as a car) can't be seen in person for whatever reason. But they'll convince you that the item is available and ask you to pay an amount to secure it.

Sometimes they'll send you a link to a website which takes payment — but this will be a fake site that has been designed to make the transaction seem genuine. Once you make the payment the seller and their product listing will disappear, leaving you with nothing.

This scam is particularly rife on marketplaces like eBay where the seller prices an item very cheaply and convinces you to pay by taking a photo of the item with a handwritten piece of paper showing their username. So if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Selling scams

When you're selling something, a fraudulent buyer may give you a cheque of greater value than the item being sold. They'll ask for the extra money to be transferred back or sent to someone else. What actually happens is that by the time you've sent the money to them, the cheque will bounce and the buyer is long gone leaving you out of pocket.

Phishing and malware

You may receieve a fake e-mail pretending to be your bank or another organisation that you know. The e-mail will be generic but use graphics and layout features that appears familiar. There's usually a link to a fake website asking you to log-in with your details. However doing this means that the fraudster gets your details instead and then uses it to access your online banking account.

Also beware of calls claiming to be from an IT helpdesk or your broadband provider asking to give them permission to log-in remotely to your computer. The fraudster will get access to everything on there, even files that you have deleted, and can run havoc not only on your computer but also get hold of your personal and financial details.

Staying Safe

Other tips to help you stop the threat of fraud

  • Never give out your security details - Information like your card or telephone banking PIN, passwords, or any other security numbers are personal to you and shouldn't be shared with anyone — not even your bank. Your bank or the police should never ask you for such details or to surrender your card. A bank may only ask you for part of your telephone banking password such as the first and fourth number, but never your card PIN
  • Inform your bank of changes to your personal details - This is so that they can get in touch with you to talk about important things relating to your account
  • Never transfer money out of your account for 'security' reasons - Banks will never ask you to do this, so if you receive such a request then hang up the call immediately and after 10 minutes call your bank to verify what's going on.
  • Never respond to e-mails asking for personal information - Your bank will never e-mail you asking for personal information. Delete such e-mails and do not open any attachments or click on any links included in them.
  • Never widthraw cash or purchase goods for a stranger including the police or any so-called official from an organisation - Fraudsters pretend to be the police and ask you to widthraw cash or make a purchase to help with an investigation. The police or your bank would never ask you to do this.

Always be wary of mail, people who visit unannounced and people who call saying they are police officers or bank staff.