The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has significantly affected the way UK consumers purchase their goods over the past year.
However, with more people shopping and communicating online, fraudsters are spotting new opportunities to steal information and money from the unsuspecting public.
In fact, following a warning around the increasing surge of ‘smishing’ scams, recent figures from UK Finance revealed there were almost 15,000 impersonation scam cases reported in the first half of 2020 – up 84 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.
To help tackle and urge everyone to be more vigilant with their online spending, Wealth Management Specialists, Arbuthnot Latham, has shared insight and top tips on how consumers can protect themselves online from criminals in 2021.
Buying goods and services online
Criminals may try to steal your data or your money by directing you to illegitimate web pages. You need to be alert to scams and to carry out your research before parting with your cash.
Make sure you protect yourself and follow this guidance:
Only make payments on secure websites – a padlock symbol in the browser window is a good indication of this
Only use websites and brands that you trust
If it is a new website or brand – undertake some research, do they have good reviews? Try to establish a physical address and telephone contact details
It’s best to use a secure Wi-Fi connection – avoid public Wi-Fi
If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. An item drastically under the expected price could be fraud or counterfeit. A savings rate significantly higher than what competitors are offering could be a scam
Beware of criminals posing as genuine companies. Search for the company online (don’t click on any links you are sent) and call the number on the website to verify information you have been sent
Avoid using direct bank payments/transfer to pay for products because you don’t have the same consumer protections
Regularly check your bank statements – are there any transactions you don’t recognise? You will find it easier to monitor your transactions Your bank may send you a text message with a secure code for an online shopping transaction. If you receive one out-of-the-blue, call your bank immediately and do not repeat the secure code to anyone.
If you have any concerns about any online transactions, contact your bank immediately.
Protect your online banking
Criminals can use a variety of methods to gain access to your online banking or to persuade you to transfer money to their accounts. They may pretend to be a legitimate organisation such as your bank, the police or an energy or internet service provider. They can contact you out-of-the-blue by telephone or by email.
Remember, your bank or the police will never ask you:
To transfer money to another account
For your PIN number, online banking password or any passcode/SMS sent to your mobile
To provide your One Time Passcode/SMS code over the phone
To withdraw money and then give it to them for safe keeping
To check the number called from matches their registered number (fraudsters can clone the number displayed on your device)
To set up a ‘safe’ account for you without asking.
Check any calls with an independent source, such as dialling the telephone number on the company website. Remember that fraudsters can keep the telephone line open, so it is better to call from another phone.
Don’t allow anyone to access your computer unless you are absolutely sure they are authorised to do so (e.g. they are from your company’s IT department). If someone does have access to your computer, do not log into online banking or any other accounts.
Use different passwords for different applications and online sites. If necessary, use a secure password app to store and create secure passwords.
If in doubt, speak to your bank by calling the number on the website, the number on your statement or by using established communication channels.
Digital dating websites and apps are often used as a platform for criminals. Romance scams involve criminals creating a perceived romantic bond with someone online before asking for money to help them in a difficult financial situation.
How to protect yourself:
Be alert to people who ask lots of questions about you but seem to avoid answering questions about themselves
Avoid people who are keen to move communication away from dating websites as this could be a risk indicator as criminals do not want their conversations recorded
If possible, try to perform a reverse image search to validate who the photo belongs to
Do not share your personal data (full name, date of birth, home address) with people you do not know
Choose dating websites that allow you to keep personal contact information private until you are ready to share this information
Be cautious about using your webcam – criminals may use any footage obtained against you
Do not send or receive money from anyone you are connecting with via dating websites
It is important to trust your instincts -if something does not feel right, there is probably a reason.
And remember, not all scams take place online, while these scams may be an increasing threat, it is important to remain vigilant to scams that operate away from the world wide web..
Courier fraud is likely to start with a phone call from someone pretending to be from your bank or from the police.
You may be informed that your bank account is being used by criminals and that you need to hand over either your bank cards or large sums of cash to either a courier or someone posing as a police officer. You may be told not to inform anyone in the bank, as bank employees are under suspicion. Criminals conducting these scams can be very persuasive and aggressive and may cause panic in order for you to act quickly.
Another variation is where a courier delivers a parcel addressed to you that you were not expecting. Shortly after, someone from the same courier company comes to your house claiming the parcel was delivered in error asking for it back. This scam involves expensive goods being ordered in your name and address, which are then picked up by a criminal shortly after being delivered.
Your bank will never send a courier to your house to collect items such as bank cards, your PIN number, cash or cheque books.
Fraudsters may know personal information about you so don’t assume the caller is genuine. Call your bank using the number on the website, the number on your statement or by using established communication channels. Use a different phone if possible.
If someone tries to deliver a parcel you were not expecting, refuse to take it so it goes back to the sender.
If you have accepted delivery of the item, call the courier company to arrange collection. Make sure to get the courier details and time of collection. Don’t assume that because someone wears the uniform, they are employed by the company.
If someone is attempting to reclaim a parcel addressed and delivered to you and you are suspicious, call Police Scotland via 101.