The internet has made our lives so much easier. We’re now able to do our shopping, book appointments, request prescriptions, do our banking and connect with friends at just the click of a button. It’s great, isn’t it? The only problem is that the internet has made us vulnerable to online fraud, with cybercrime on the rise. In fact, fraudulent cases have increased by 6% across the UK since last year. In 2018 alone, almost 190,000 cases of identity fraud were reported – and that’s just the ones we know about!
We’re not saying this to scare you but instead to make you aware of the real threat of online fraud, so you can protect yourself from becoming a victim. You’re probably familiar with the classics, the spammy emails that demand payment or letters from exotic princes wishing to give you millions of pounds. There are all sorts of creative ways that cybercriminals are trying to get your details and most of all, your money.
These scammers are becoming more creative by the day and online security has never been more important. So, to help keep you safe, here are seven signs from the guys at Evalian.co.uk that you may be a target of online fraud, so you know how to spot the red flags and avoid becoming a victim.
1. You’ve received a strange email
One of the most popular scams amongst cybercriminals is sending fraudulent emails. The worrying thing is that these can appear very real and often they disguise the sender as someone you trust. For example, copying the format and even using the logo of big retailers like Amazon to trick you into thinking it’s a legitimate email. The good news is that often if you look a little closer, you’ll see the cracks. Are the logo and images very distorted? If you click on the name of the sender, does it reveal a very suspicious-looking email address? If so, you can quickly realise it is a scam.
2. You’re being threatened
Let’s face it, even if you’ve fallen behind on payments for a legitimate company, they are never going to use aggressive and threatening language. While they might be sending you correspondence to say that they’re going to charge you or take legal action, this will always be done in a professional manner. So, if you receive an email that uses a lot of hyperbole and aggressive language, this should be a warning sign.
Some scammers like to pray on the fear of unsuspecting victims by sending them an email or letter saying something along the lines of ‘if you don’t pay us right now we’ll be forced to take legal action which could affect your credit rating and means we will be taking you to court’. They use these scare tactics in the hopes that victims will simply pay up without arguing because they don’t want to face a court date. If you receive a threatening letter or email like this, it’s best to seek legal advice before giving any details or making any sort of payment.
3. It seems too good to be true
As a general rule, if it seems too good to be true, that’s usually because it is! Sadly, people don’t tend to want to make us millionaires out of the blue. So, if you’ve received a letter, text or email asking you to make a one-off payment in return for a much bigger cash sum, it’s a scam and you should avoid sharing any details or exchanging any money.
4. You didn’t buy the goods or services they’re charging for
There’s nothing worse than the fear that you haven’t paid for something or that you’ve been running up a debt – and hackers know how to exploit this. If you receive correspondence that says you haven’t paid for something, be sure to read it very carefully to see what they’re claiming you bought. If you know for a fact you did not use their services, or you have never purchased that particular item then you are being targeted by a cybercriminal.
5. The language is terrible
Many of these scams come from other countries or are created using translators or online generators. Because of this they often contain a number of mistakes. As we discussed above, a legitimate company will use professional language and will have almost always had their emails or letters proofread before being sent. So, if you notice lots of spelling mistakes and poor grammar, it’s usually a scam.
6. Someone has tried to log into your accounts
This scam can be two-fold and as such is a bit harder to navigate. Many sites like Facebook or Gmail will alert you if they think there’s been suspicious activity on your account. For example, if you live in England and someone in Egypt has tried to log into your account. Now it’s entirely possible you’ve been on holiday to Egypt and logged into your account while there, in which case you simply ignore their alert. However, if this is not the case you are presented with the opportunity to change your password and it is recommended that you do so.
The only issue with this is that hackers have cottoned-on to this security system and begun sending fraudulent emails asking you to change your password as someone is trying to access your account. So if you receive an email saying someone is trying to log in as you, be sure to check the sender before clicking through and updating your security information. If you’re unsure whether the security alert was legitimate, you can get in touch with the platform that sent it to you and check whether there really has been an attempt at logging into your profile.
7. You receive a recorded sales pitches over the phone
Finally, not all scams are conducted by letter or email. Cybercriminals are getting increasingly good at mimicking area codes and setting up phone numbers that look legit. If you receive a phone call or voicemail with a recorded sales pitch, this should be a warning sign. Though a lot of companies use automated systems on their phone lines, these will always give you an option to speak to a real person. If you receive a very glitchy or strange phone call from what is essentially just a robot, be careful not to share any of your personal details. If you’re ever unsure if the company is legitimate, Google their name to check the number or select the option to speak to a person. This can help to give you peace of mind and decide if the phone call was a real one.