Keep your cash safe from scammers
Think you’re too savvy to be conned? Think again. A new generation of fraudsters are using increasingly cunning methods. Protect yourself with our expert advice
ou’ve inherited three million Y pounds in an account overseas, please provide your bank details to receive the money within three days… It’s quite clearly a trap, right? But while many of us think we’re too wise to fall victim, scams are becoming more elaborate than ever – and conmen are no longer just preying on the vulnerable. In fact, in the first six months of this year, £145 million has been lost to scams in the UK – a 50 per cent rise in just 12 months. We asked Oz Alashe MBE, the CEO of cyber security awareness training platform Cybsafe, to outline the latest scams and how we can protect ourselves.
SCAM 1 CONMEN PRETEND TO BE YOUR BANK
Criminals pretend to be calling from the victim’s bank and con vince them to make a payment. OZ SAYS: “Usually, the attacker will claim that the victim’s bank details have been compromised, and will demand that the individual cancel their cards and call their bank immediately. They’ll then hold on the line by keeping the phone line open, meaning that, even if you hang up and ring another number, you’ll still be connected to the original caller. Once victims are speaking to the phoney ‘fraud team’, the scammers will usually run through security questions, to make it seem as genuine as possible.”
These calls and emails can also come from fraudsters posing as brands you trust, like utility companies saying you owe a fine.
“An email might state you’ve been fined by British Gas for overdue payments and that this will double within 24 hours if you fail to act,” says Oz. The fraud encourages fear, as well as a sense of urgency, which distracts victims, and makes perfectly rational people behave irrationally.” PROTECT YOURSELF: “Beware of any calls or emails you receive – regardless of who they say they are. A line can remain open for up to two minutes after a call has ended, though many telecoms providers have cut this down to seconds, specifically to combat crime. Hang up if you receive a call of this type and wait a couple of minutes before calling the service directly.”
SCAM 2 YOUR INVOICES CAN BE HACKED
Crooks intercept legitimate emails containing invoice details and persuade the victim to pay to a different account. OZ SAYS: “This is known as a man-inthe-middle phishing attack and it is phenomenally difficult to identify. Art galleries in the US and London were caught up in this late last year, where the attackers hacked the art dealers’ emails and sent buyers duplicated invoices with the bank account details changed.”
Oz also warns to be wary of social media requests for money. “A scammer will hack into someone’s account and message family members and close friends with a believable anecdote, such as that they’ve had their wallet stolen. Ultimately, they’ll request that you send them money. Since the attacker has been spying on your genuine conversations, the fraudulent messages contain highly probable narratives.” PROTECT YOURSELF: “The crux of this scam is getting people to send money to a different account, so this is the most important thing. Call a business first to confirm their bank details before making a payment. If a friend has messaged you in dire need of money, phone them to confirm.”
SCAM 3 CHEATS PASS OFF THEMSELVES AS SPECIALISTS
Scammers call claiming to be from a recognised IT company, like Apple or Microsoft, and say they need to log on to your computer remotely. OZ SAYS: “The caller will say you have an IT problem, such as a virus, and they need to inspect and scan your computer remotely. The goal of the fraud is to get you to buy software or a ‘service’ to fix the computer, and the scammer will ultimately ask for your bank details. These scams can often turn aggressive if the victim refuses to comply.” PROTECT YOURSELF: “Never provide remote access to your computer to people you don’t know. And unless you’ve initiated the call yourself, never hand out personal or banking details over the phone.”
SCAM 4 EBAY OFFERS CAN BE FAKE
Online marketplaces like ebay and Gumtree can be a haven for fraudulent sellers who advertise goods or services at cut prices to reel you in, then try to swerve secure payment methods like Paypal.
OZ SAYS: “Scammers often encourage buyers to pay for their items directly by bank transfer – offering them a discount so they can save the Paypal/ebay fees. The item is then never sent and by swerving Paypal you also lose your Buyer Protection – which means Paypal or ebay may not intervene to claim the money back. If you’re a seller, fraudulent buyers using a stolen card or hacked account can pay for goods, then quickly arrange to collect the item before the genuine account holder realises the money is gone. Once they do, the transaction is then reversed by the bank to refund the legitimate account holder leaving you out of pocket.” PROTECT YOURSELF: “Don’t be tempted to pay sellers directly, even if discounts are offered. Only buy through reputable sites. A locked padlock or unbroken key symbol should always appear in your browser when banking or shopping online. The website’s address will be preceded by ‘https’ (not ‘http’) to illustrate that a secure connection has been made. On ebay, never complete a transaction outside of the site. Cars aren't covered on ebay’s Buyer Protection so never pay for a car by remote card payment. And if a buyer wants to get an item in person, insist on cash upon collection.”