Online scams and fraud schemes have seen a huge increase recently. The impact on the victims of these types of schemes can be devastating with extreme cases seeing people lose tens, or even hundreds of thousands of pounds.
There are lots of different types of scams and fraud schemes and it would be impossible to look at each one in-depth. We have already been made aware of increases in fake NHS communications relating to the Coronavirus Pandemic where they either ask for payment for the vaccine or ask for banking information to confirm your identity which the NHS will not do.
We have also been made aware recently of a telephone scheme where scammers will pretend to be from West Yorkshire Police (WYP) to obtain information. At the time, a WYP spokesperson confirmed they ‘would never call someone to request their personal banking information or to ask you to transfer money to other bank accounts’.
Similarly, there has also been a rise in scams where the perpetrators ask you to send images of your driving license for ‘verification’ purposes. When this is provided, the scammers then have the necessary details for proof of identity and are then able to open accounts etc in YOUR name.
For our investigation, we are focussing on e-mail and computer scams which can have potentially costly consequences.
How Scammers Get Your Information
There are a number of ways that scammers can obtain your information whilst online. The first way that this can occur is through scam e-mails. These can take the shape of an e-mail that looks genuine but isn’t. They can also contain links to websites that look legitimate – but aren’t. They’ll often ask you to input personal information. Be aware of bank scam e-mails that link you onto a banking screen that looks genuine asking you to transfer money.
Another way that scammers can obtain your information is through remote access. As has been widely reported, there have been several key large-scale personal data breaches from a variety of companies over the last few years. When this data is made available and used alongside other data which is available within the public domain (such as your e-mail address, phone number, computer details etc) this allows scammers to obtain a large amount of information about you; enough information to try to convince you that they are legitimate!
An example of this is when they contact you (usually by telephone) to convince you that there is a problem with your internet or PC. They will either attempt to try to get you to purchase support software or ask you to download (genuine) remote access software and provide them with the credentials to be able to access your PC. This allows them entry to see everything that you do on your computer. Remember, if you choose to purchase support software as part of a scam, you are not automatically entitled to get your money back because at the time you willingly paid the money! It is also important to note that broadband providers and companies such as Microsoft and Apple do not contact people to tell them that there is a problem. (Think about when your wi-fi goes down at home, your provider never contacts you to tell you that there is a problem – you always have to let them know first!)
How to Protect Yourself
As part of our investigation, we spoke to Lee from Inspiration Computers based in Kirkheaton, who also writes articles for PC Pro magazine. Lee told us that he has seen a rise in computers being brought to him after the owner has been the victim of online scams.
Be aware of the e-mails that you receive and take extra precautions to make sure that they are genuine – look at the sender’s e-mail address too to make sure it relates to the company. Most companies never contact you to explain that something is wrong. If you get such call, be on your guard straight away. If you have any doubt, put phone down and re-dial the company on a number that is verified to be correct such as those on your bill or on your agreement and then you can ask and establish whether the call was genuine. Be aware of callers putting undue pressure on you with urgency for sales.
Lee also stressed that If you are in any doubt, ask friends / family for help and if you believe that your PC has been compromised in any way, take it to a trusted independent computer agency to get it checked out. Inspiration Computers is a ‘Which? Trusted Trader’ and you can find details of other trusted traders by visiting www.trustedtraders.which.co.uk/.
There are lots of educational resources available to learn more about scams and how to prevent yourself becoming a victim of one:-
Citizen’s Advice – Provides lots of help and advice to check against scams.
Which? Consumer – Provides information, tools and link to support.
Take Five To Stop Fraud – National campaign against fraud. Contains lots of tools and posters.
Action Fraud – National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre.