Many of us are taking to the internet to complete our Christmas/Christmas sales shopping. With a host of emails and texts flooding our inboxes, it’s easy to miss fraudsters. Can you spot a fraudulent message?
In the past, fraud emails were much easier to identify, as they usually contained spelling and grammatical errors.
Most people were aware that a Middle Eastern prince wasn’t going to leave them $1m and spam filters caught many emails.
But now, fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated. Phishing emails – those that attempt to acquire personal information – can pass through spam filters, reaching inboxes and displaying as familiar companies that recipients genuinely do business with. These emails often address customers personally when requesting a confirmation of personal details.
Fraudsters are also using text messages to trick people – this is a more personal approach and is therefore more difficult to spot.
The Telegraph has created a quiz to see if you can spot genuine messages from the fraudulent ones. Have a go here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/12025831/Spot-the-scam-are-these-messages-from-banks-or-fraudsters.html
Everyone should look for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and suspect URLs when reading emails/text messages, but be aware that communications from fraudsters are appearing more authentic. Phishing messages now contain the recipient’s name and links to legitimate websites, for example.
Many companies have guidelines on how to identify genuine emails – HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and Lloyds Bank have phishing guides and NatWest has a page dedicated to security.
Generally, firms say they would never request personal information, such as passwords or account details, over text or email and would always use a personal reference in the communication.
Be very aware that a fraudster’s first communication may request you call a bank on the telephone, with further details only asked for once you make the call.
If you receive a message and don’t know if it is fake, do not reply or click on any links – phone the company on a number that you have found yourself.
If you believe that you have been sent a fake email or have had money taken as a result, contact Action Fraud and forward the email to the company the fraudster is trying to impersonate. HMRC has a specific email address for receiving fraud complaints and your bank may do too.
Deputy Chief Executive of fraud prevention organisation Cifas, Mike Haley, comments on the current situation: “Fraudsters are professionals and they are constantly working at creating more genuine-looking and sophisticated scams. This is one of the reasons that the rising number of identity fraud cases is so concerning – the more data a fraudster has about your identity, such as your address, age or date of birth, the easier it is for them to convince you that the scam is legitimate.
“But it’s not all doom and gloom – simple steps really help to limit our risk of falling victim to scams. Updating and installing antivirus software on computers and mobile devices, regularly updating software and hovering above links in emails and checking the sender’s email address to see if they show a different destination or an unusual address are just a few examples.”
He advises: “If you are not expecting the email or phone call, always think twice before responding or clicking and check if you are unsure. If you do fall victim to a scam, report it to Action Fraud right away.”1
Make sure you protect yourself and look out for anything dodgy in your inbox!