If you’re reading this, you’re one of the 4.5 billion people who use the internet.
Let’s look at the facts around online safety: there were more online scams in 2020 than in the previous three years combined. That’s more than 700,000 online scams totalling 1.4m URLs in the UK alone, according to the National Security Centre.
You’re not alone. These alarming numbers affect us all. But what can we do about it? Scams will always exist and criminals will always try to reach us. The trick is to stay alert, stay aware and continually share details of any potential scams with friends and family.
Allow this blog post to be your starting point. We’ve got you.
Be aware of the scams on the rise
During the pandemic, cybercriminals have used what online safety expert Professor Donna O’Shea describes as “human behaviour techniques” to target individuals.
For example, the rise in online shopping during the pandemic has seen a surge of delivery scams. These involve a simple, but believable message from courier companies like DHL, Hermes or Royal Mail about a ‘missed delivery’.
Other scams on the rise include those pretending to be the NHS with vaccine rollout messages, Test and Trace, HMRC, TV Licensing and anything from your bank that you didn’t initiate.
A text claiming to be from a delivery company inviting you to track your parcel is a malware scam targeting users of Android phones.
❌ If you receive one of these texts DO NOT tap the link.
✔️ Instead, forward the text to 7726 to report it to your provider. pic.twitter.com/KS3PZgVAhC
— Ofcom (@Ofcom) April 23, 2021
Never reveal your personal or financial details
No exceptions, even if the caller claims to be from your bank. Unless you’ve called your bank directly, don’t trust anyone who says they are them.
Top tips to always keep in mind: your bank will never ask for your full PIN or password. EVER. Never send anyone you’ve only met online any money or high-value items. And never reveal your personal or financial information to anyone, unless they’re your bank and you’ve called them via a verified number.
If you’re worried about being a victim of a financial scam, contact your bank immediately and they will help you.
Keep your devices secure – no matter where you are
A helpful word about keeping your tech as safe as possible: every device you use should follow a few key rules.
First things first, secure passwords are a must. Never use the same password for all your logins, and don’t use personal information to create a password, like your date of birth. Instead, use Lastpass to generate secure passwords. It’s easy, takes moments and will give you more peace of mind when signing in and up to new things. Plus, Lastpass stores your passwords in a vault for you so you don’t need to remember them. Clever, right?
Next, never use public WiFi. If you have to use WiFi on the go, use your phone’s hotspot or a VPN. Check every URL you use and if you don’t feel certain, listen to that feeling.
Respond don’t react
We’re all busy and time-poor. Scammers know that and that’s why it’s so important to respond, not react to every message you get.
When receiving a call or text message, take a moment to ask yourself whether the company usually communicates with you in that way. Check the phone number or sender email address closely.
— Cristina Nicolotti S (@skynewsgirl) June 6, 2021
Only use trusted, well-known online shops
Make sure the site you are buying from is genuine, and not a fake or copycat site. There are some great deals out there, but sometimes things seem too good to be true because they are!
Check the spelling and font carefully, as fake sites usually only vary with one or two incorrect letters. The URL should start with ‘https://’; the ‘s’ stands for secure. Keep an eye out for a padlock symbol in the browser, too.
If in doubt, don’t buy anything. And, if possible, use your credit card rather than a debit card for increased protection.
Ring the organisation yourself to be sure
Unsure whether a caller is genuine? Tell them you’ll call them back. Not on the number they provide, but a number you find yourself via Google or their website.
Remember: any organisation that’s legitimate and cares about you as a customer won’t have a problem with you asking to call them back for security purposes. Consider this a useful test whenever you’re not 100% certain.
Know that online safety affects us all
It’s easy to think online scams only affect infrequent internet users, but a study by ESET, a technology company based in San Diego, showed that teenagers are just as likely to be scammed. After all, who are the biggest users of apps, the internet and mobile devices? Young people.
That’s why it’s so important to know there’s no shame in being affected by a scam. The more we talk about it and share resources, the less chance criminals have of reaching us.
Report every scam you see
We get it. It’s easy to become desensitised to scams. There are so many of them and we have so little time, but it’s so important to report every scam you see.
Here’s a helpful quick trick: every time you receive a text message that’s a potential scam, forward it to 7726 to report it to your mobile provider. If you believe you’ve been the victim of any type of fraud, immediately contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
Here at help me Angela, we understand how tough dealing with online scams can be. That’s why we include help with online identity theft as part of our industry-leading recovery programme.
- Be aware of the scams on the rise.
- Never give anyone your personal or financial details.
- Keep your devices secure, no matter where you are.
- Respond, don’t react: Take some time to check the message.
- Ring the organisation yourself to be sure.
- Know that online safety affects us all.
- Report every scam you see.