In the recent past we have seen national and international headline reports of large corporate organisations falling victim to Ransomware attacks, where malicious software encrypts data on the user computer system and network infrastructure:

In this short series of posts we will look at some common threats, how they work and what to look out for to help protect yourself from falling victim to fraud.

Some of the common techniques fraudsters attempt to use to trick you into giving away your personal information, banking details or even access to your computer include:

  1. Scam emails, texts or social media messages (aka Phishing and Malware)
  2. Scam Telephone Calls
  3. Computer Software Scams
  4. Investment Scams
  5. Pension Scams
  6. Romance Fraud Scams
  7. Invoice Re-direction Scams
  8. PPI Refund Scams
  9. Money Mule Scams

In this first post we will examine what is probably the most prolific scam technique – Scam Emails.

Scam Emails

Scam messages can be very convincing and are popular with fraudsters. Fraudsters will deliberately mimic the contact details of the Bank, Police, Customers, Suppliers – especially large organisations, like utility companies, that have a very large customer base and other trusted companies to hide their true identity.

Scam messages will often imply a sense of urgency encouraging you to act fast, e.g. to call a phone number included in a text message to stop a fraud payment or include a request for personal information, or banking details such as password or security credentials.

Scam messages can lead to you speaking to fraudsters. They may try to trick you into providing account security such as; verification codes or token codes to move money out of your account without you realising. Remember banks will never ask you to provide verification codes or token codes over the phone.

Some scam messages will contain links or attachments which, if accessed, will take you to a fake website that prompts you for your online banking details. The fraudsters then use your details to access your account(s) and steal your money.

Accessing fake websites or opening attachments in scam messages may install malware, a type of malicious software. This steals information and can be so sophisticated that it can work in the background to encrypt your data or even to move your money, or trick you into believing that you’ve been unsuccessful in logging onto your online banking page and prompts you to re-enter your security details, which the fraudster captures.

How to protect yourself from scam emails, texts and social media messages

  • If you are in any doubt that a message may not be genuine stop and do not respond. Instead, call the bank, company or the appropriate organisation using a trusted number, one that you may have used in the past or one you can obtain from another trusted source.
  • Be vigilant to any out of the blue message requests from family members, friends or work colleagues, which involve you transferring money to them. It’s always best to check the message first by speaking to the person direct before deciding to part with any money.
  • Never respond to an unexpected message from an unknown source. Always avoid clicking on links or opening attachments contained in messages. Never log into any online accounts through a link in a message especially those from an untrusted source.
  • Ensure you use strong passwords and lock your devices when not in use. Keep your anti-virus software up to date and always complete security and software updates when promoted. This can protect you from viruses contained in links and messages.
  • Be vigilant and alert to requests to re-enter your security credentials or any unusual screens, when online. These could be an indication of malware.
  • When making a purchase online or inputting personal details on a website, always make sure it’s secure. Look for a padlock symbol in your browser, usually next to the web address and check that the web address starts with ‘https’ rather than just ‘http’. This tells you that it’s a secure site.
  • If you want to check that an email, text or social media message received is genuine, use contact details obtained from a reliable source.
  • To help stop SPAM texts forward the text to 7726. For further advice on nuisance calls and messages visit the OFTEL website.

Be vigilant, keep safe and happy surfing.