How to keep safe online

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In our modern tech-driven world, staying savvy about financial scams and keeping safe online is more important than ever. Scams are fraudulent schemes that trick people into parting with their personal details or cash.  Financial scams come in a variety of shapes and forms, from fake phone calls to emails or even WhatsApp messages. Criminals stole a total of £609.8 million through financial scams and fraud in the first half of 2022 alone, according to UK Finance data. In this article we’ll provide you with information on the different types of online scams, signs to look out for if you think you’ve been scammed, and what precautions you can take to stay safe online. 

Types of online scams

  • Email invoice and online payment scams. According to a poll by Nationwide in 2022, 24%of people surveyed had fallen victim to an email hack scam. In these scams, sneaky fraudsters intercept emails from real businesses and mess with a customer’s payment details, tricking victims into sending money to the wrong account. This diverts the money to the fraudster with the average victim of these scams losing £8,500. Unfortunately, this is just one of the many methods email scammers use and these scams continue to become more common with Mimecast reporting in 2023, 75% of companies have experienced an increase in email-based threats.
  • Phishing attacks. Phishing is an attempt to trick people into handing over their personal or bank details by posing as a reputable company or person. Data from the Office for National Statistics in 2022 showed 32% of respondents had received a messagevia text or instant messaging. Individuals between the ages of 25 and 44 were the primary targets of potential phishing attacks however please be aware that this can happen to anyone, no matter the age. As phishing is not limited to text messages but also can occur through emails, social media, cloned websites along with more, this is a complex scam that needs careful consideration.
  • Investment scams. Investment scams aim to trick unsuspecting people into investing in false opportunities using professional-looking documents, websites, and other credentials. Data published by the Financial Ombudsman Service in 2022 found that investment scams had the biggest increase as a proportion of ‘authorised’ scam complaints, rising to 30% (+9% from the year prior) with over half of these complaints involving cryptocurrency.  
  • Romance fraud. Romance fraud involves a fake online profile that poses as the perfect partner to gain your trust, so you send money or personal information. In 2022, Lloyds Bank found romance scams were up 30% from the previous year with victims losing over £8000 on average. It was also found that men make up most cases with those aged between age 65-74 most likely to be tricked.
  • Purchase scams. A purchase scam involves an individual paying in advance for goods or services that are never received. Usually through an online platform such as an auction website or social media. In the first quarter of 2023, the UK Finance Fraud Report showed that a total of £67 million was lost to purchase scams with most losses coming from personal accounts.     

What to do if you think you’ve been scammed?

If you think you may have been the target of a scam, it’s worth reflecting upon the following questions from MoneySavingExpert:

  • Has an item you’ve purchased not arrived?
  • Have you transferred or paid someone money that can no longer be contacted?
  • Have you seen unexplained transitions come out of your bank account that you cannot recall?
  • Has mail meant for your address such as bank statements failed to deliver? This could be a potential sign of ID fraud. 
  • Is the offer too good to be true? Are you being promised high returns for little financial commitment? 

If you feel that you can relate to any question above, you may want to consider the following from

  • Contact your bank. Getting in touch with your bank should be your first port of call. They can replace your cards if compromised, step up security on your account, and potentially will refund any money that has been.
  • Check your credit report. Look for suspicious activity and deal with it before it begins to affect your credit score. You’ll need to check in with ExperianEquifaxand TransUnion as the different agencies use different products. It is free to check your credit score and something we encourage our members to do so regardless of any suspicious activity.
  • Speak to Action Fraud. All scams must be reported to the police via Action Fraud. Call 0300 123 2040 or click hereto submit a report.

Ways to avoid scams and stay safe online 

 It’s good to ensure you’re up to date with the most recent scams so you know what to look out for, but scams are constantly adapting to find new ways to take your money. Due to this, we’ve collated a list of ten tips to keep you safer online:

  • Use a strong and unique password to keep your data safe. It’s important to not use the same password across multiple platforms.
  • Turn on 2-step verification to help protect your online accounts.
  • Never share your passwords or PIN number with anyone. A bank will never ask for your password and if they do you should report it.
  • Always use secure payment methods recommended by reputable online retailers and try to avoid requests of payment via bank transfer. Always look for the padlock beside the URL link, this shows it is a trusted website.
  • Be cautious of those approaching you with exclusive investment opportunities. If you are being pressurised to act quickly this could be a scam, alternatively, does it seem too good to be true?
  • Avoid sending money to someone you’ve never met in person and have recently met online as this could be a romance scam.
  • Question claims that you are due money for goods or services you haven’t ordered or don’t know about, particularly if you are required to pay fees upfront.
  • Watch out for poor grammar or misspelt words when being contacted by others.
  • Install the latest software and app updates. These updates are vital to help protect your device from cyber criminals.

While this article has given you a comprehensive overview of this important topic, we recommend that you regularly do your own independent research on this topic to stay informed and up to date.

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Written by,

Joseph Thakker

Student Marketing Officer