Scamming – A guide to protect against common online scams
Online scams can come in many forms, but with critical thinking and the right skills it is possible to spot tricks and scams online and avoid the variety of unintended consequences and potential harms, for both adults and children. However, it is important to be aware of the ways that scammers can target us and exploit our information.
Scamming has been around for a long time and perpetrators are often very adept at taking advantage of current trends or issues. This tactic is often used to increase the likelihood of successfully carrying out an attack on an unsuspecting victim. As an example, for the first 6 months of 2020, scams that were targeting citizens in the UK increased by 66%, taking advantage of the COVID uncertainty and the unprecedented change that was occurring.
How do online scams work?
The types of scams that we see today have become a lot more sophisticated throughout the last decade. Perpetrators can often present increasingly believable and complex approaches.
Scams can arrive on our devices in several ways. Some of the most common approaches include: emails, texts, phone calls, impersonation websites and accounts on social media.
A sense of urgency
Scammers can often present a scenario that creates a sense of urgency, panicking the user into engaging quickly and letting their guard down. Some of the most common approaches include:
- You need to act now to save money!
- Failure to reply to this message will result in fines or consequences with the law.
- Your parcel cannot be delivered because you have not paid the delivery fee. Click here to resolve this issue.
- You owe a sum of money in unpaid taxes. Press one or a warrant will be served for your arrest
- Your latest invoice is now available. Click here to pay.
- The scammer pretends to be someone you know, and they need a loan of money or gift cards asap!
Unfortunately, scammers often prey on the most vulnerable internet users. As a lot of information can be readily available about users online through social media, scammers may take more time to learn more about the person.
This can lead to more cleverly crafted attacks that can appear more personal and worrying e.g. impersonating a family member who desperately needs money. They may even take a more widespread approach, targeting hundreds of users hoping that someone will engage.
Top tips when faced with a scam
A crucial practice is to be highly critical when navigating online spaces. This also includes being critical of every email, text message or phone call you receive. An automatic sense of disbelief or uncertainty can be your ally when protecting yourself against scammers.
Secondly, it is important to trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel, look or sound right, take a moment to think critically before you engage or go any further. If you are being pressured through urgency or scenarios that encourage you to ACT NOW, take a moment, breathe and just think before acting any further.
How to tell if it is a scam
- The email, phone number, name or contact details are unrecognised or do not match up with each other . If one of these details is from someone you know then you can always check in with them in a different way such as on the phone or in person.
- The communication asks you to click here or input your details – Stop! Delete the message and contact the company using already known or established routes.
- Someone needs something quickly – Take a breath, be critical of what is being asked and get support if you need it.
- I need you to do something important for me – If an email or message appears from someone you know, but they are asking for money or something unusual, check with them separately first using a different method of communication. Voice or video calling would be a good option to ensure it is who they say they are.
- Confirm your details now or your account will be closed – Do not share anything. Stop the communication and contact the company using your known routes. A lot of time there will even be warnings about typical scams on the company website.
- Poor grammar and spelling – If the correspondence is badly written or reads poorly, it is usually a sign of not being genuine.
What to watch out for
Scammers can approach victims in various ways but a lot of the time, they will ask for:
- Bank details
- Email addresses, contact information and passwords
- Gift Cards or Vouchers – Scammers can often encourage victims to purchase these in order to settle ‘payments’
- Remotely accessing devices – pretending to resolve tech issues
- An ‘ACT NOW’ scenario
- An “urgent” opportunity to invest or make money quickly
How to respond if you, or someone you know, has been scammed
Some key steps to take if you or someone you know has been scammed:
- Try and stay calm – Take a moment to breathe and collect yourself
- Contact your bank – If bank details have been compromised, contact your bank immediately and put a stop on all payments
- Change details, passwords and log ins – If you feel this information has been lost then changing details immediately can potentially prevent any further breach
- Collect as much data as you can– Try and record as much information as you can so you can effectively report what has happened
- Report to the police or Action Fraud – It’s important to report the incident so it can be investigated. Try and provide as much detail as you can
- If necessary, contact the organisation – If you have been tricked towards purchasing items from a specific organisation, contact them to let them know what has happened and see if anything can be resolved
- Get the correct Support – Surround yourself with people who can help. Talk to a family member or friend. There are also helplines such as; Victim Support, Think Jessica or the Samaritans that can help
Just remember that scamming is very common and if you have found yourself victim, you won’t be alone. Scamming is a crime and it is not your fault. It is important to talk to family and friends about the risks of scams so you can help develop awareness around what to watch out for. You can find out more about scamming and other forms of attacks in this resource from our partners at SWGfL