They come in all shapes and sizes and they can contact you in nearly every way: via the internet, email, phone, SMS, and snail mail; but what do you need to know to limit your chances of being picked up by a fraudster?
Action Fraud UK figures suggest that a scammer’s most used and successful way of contacting you is over the phone. They will masquerade as representatives from any number of companies, including Amazon or a bank (not necessarily yours). Attempts will be made to persuade you to part with your online banking passwords, PIN numbers and any account details or personal information. Often, they will tell you something along the lines of, “Someone has been accessing your bank account – we can stop them, we just need to check some details”, thus enabling them to access your bank. Scammers have also been known to tell you that you need to transfer your money into a ‘safe account’ because your bank account has been accessed, but, of course, this ‘safe account’ is not safe at all.
For quite some time, banks have made it clear that they will not call you and ask you for your information over the phone and they will never suggest you transfer your money into a safe account. So, please, never give any bank information over the phone!
Innumerable scammers have been using using the COVID-19 crisis to try and take money from unsuspecting victims. Last month, Action Fraud UK reported that an email had been circulating for some time as an attempt to trick people into disclosing their bank details. Pretending to be the NHS offering a COVID vaccine, they ask you to “accept or decline” and if you click accept, it then asks for your personal information, including your bank card details. As appalling as it is to know that some people are using this crisis to their criminal advantage – stealing money from unsuspecting businesses and individuals – it is important that this information is shared in a bid to prevent the scammers from succeeding. Fortunately, information on how to protect yourself from this scam is simple: the NHS, your doctors, your employers, or a pharmacy close to you may contact you about a vaccine, but all COVID-19 vaccines are FREE of charge. Please, run in the other direction from anyone posing as an NHS worker offering you a vaccine and requesting payment for it – forget any friendly phone etiquette, simply hang up!
Overall, the go-to rules are that companies will not call you asking for bank/personal details and if you are unsure, simply refuse to hand over your information and end the call. You can also use a reporting tool called the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS), created by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in 2020. Any emails here you deem to be suspicious can be reported here.
Figures from Action Fraud suggest that in 2020, £78m of Brits’ cash was lost to investment and pension scams where they had been contacted by someone falsely claiming to be a genuine company. Be on guard, be in the know, and encourage others to do the same to avoid becoming a scammers’ next victim.
Businesses also are at risk of being targeted by cold callers, even in these strange times criminals are adapting their approach and claiming to be government officials saying your business could be due a tax refund or may qualify for special COVID grants. They will either ask for your details there and then over the phone or even want to send you an email asking you to click on the attached link, fill in the required information and all within the space of minutes they have got all your information and they’ll have their way with it!
They will also try and gain access to businesses networks, devices and everything stored on them some common ways they do this is, again, emailing you encouraging you to click on a link or some sort of malicious attachment designed to get into your computer and steal your data and in most cases, they will only give it back to you if you pay them a ransom.
National Trading Standards have launched “Businesses Against Scams” which is an online training tool made to protect businesses, employees, and customers from scams. Which provides you with free resources that you can share with your colleagues, helping educate them on the common scams circulating around now.
I hope this helps you stay safe from fraudsters, and if there is anything I would like you to take away from this it would be DON’T hand over your personal/business info to strangers!