Phishing for compliments: how to avoid online fraud
Online fraud is continuously on the rise, with identity theft increasing by 12% in the last year alone, according to the Experian Fraud Report 2015. You might be sitting there rolling your eyes, wondering how on earth people are still falling for scams and clicking dodgy links. Believe it or not, it’s not actually down to the worldwide population becoming less intelligent.
Scammers, hackers, and all-round untrustworthy internet criminals are evolving. The techniques and devices that are now used are growing in sophistication, and the people behind them have to get smart quick.
Victims no longer just include your vulnerable Nan being duped into handing over her bank details to foreign lands. Anyone can be a victim - even the savviest of tech users have fallen foul to online con artists. That’s why, here at 118 118 Money, we’ve compiled a list of the most common types of online fraud. We've even offered some advice on how to avoid it in the future – just so you can stay extra safe.
Phishing, not to be confused with the enjoyable and (relatively) risk-free sport, is one of the most common types of online fraud. It’s actually fairly similar to the sport, scammers cast out a line (email) in a hope that recipients ‘bite’ and reply back with personal details, passwords or bank details. Some are even sent in the hope that the recipient clicks a certain link in order to trigger a malicious virus – a truly nasty business.
It’s not always entirely obvious if an email is fraud. Many sneak through spam filters and find their way into our trusted inboxes. Here are some tips on how to avoid getting caught in the net of any devious fraudsters:
- Always check the sender’s email. It may say ‘Apple’ but when you take a closer look at the email firstname.lastname@example.org doesn’t quite seem as legit, does it?
- Look closely at logos, misspelled links or bad grammar. The details can reveal a lot; spammers rely on you scanning the email quickly.
- If you have any feelings of uncertainty do not click open links in an email.
- Never open any attachments unless you’re expecting them. Malware and viruses hang out here.
- Never dish out your details. Even if you receive an email from your ‘bank’, ring a trusted number and ask for confirmation first.
All that Glitters
…certainly isn’t always gold. So if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
Scammers are the Del Boys of the online world, with the added advantage of being able to hide behind a computer screen. The online world shares many similarities to the real world – sadly there’s always going to be someone trying to make easy money by scamming others.
eBay is paradise for fraudsters, so take extra care when you’re using it. Some orders never arrive while so many others have disastrous quality. And how many times have you bought a jumper only to receive the slightly smaller, slightly less useful Barbie version?
To ensure you stay safe and scam-free on eBay, read our in-depth safety guide here.
You know that shifty bloke who sets up his questionable looking stall selling used tech at the market every Tuesday? Well, he has an equally questionable counterpart online.
Dodgy retailers are infamous online. We live in such a throwaway society people want to buy things on the cheap, especially items like clothing. Online shopping fraud is rife, make sure you shop smart by following our expert guidelines:
- Read the feedback on sites like Feefo. Honest reviews from real people can help you weigh up whether ordering from a website is worth is. Scanning social media sites like Twitter is worth doing too to see if there are any recent complaints.
- Check for SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). SSL is a security feature that encrypts the information between you and the website, preventing hackers from stealing your credit card details by scrambling the information. If an SSL is in place a closed lock icon will be next to the address and the URL will read ‘https://’ and not ‘http://’.
- Check the contact details. Are they easily accessible? If you google the number or address do any negative comments crop up? You can even ring customer service before ordering to enquire to test out their service.
Did you know www.facebook.com doesn’t direct you to Facebook?
Hover your mouse over the link attached to the text www.facebook.com above and you’ll see users can easily be fooled into thinking they’re being directed elsewhere. Always double check before clicking links, especially if the site you’re surfing isn’t 100% trustworthy.
Identity theft is a massive problem, both on and offline. There’s a false sense of security online and we tend to give information away much easier than we would normally.
Would you shout out your phone number in the middle of ASDA for all to hear? Or voluntarily share the exact location of your home then inform burglars you’ve just nipped out for a spot of lunch? With the presence of social media, building an online profile of an individual is ridiculously easy. Here’s a list of key places identity thieves target so you can keep your guard up:
- Social Media. Set your profiles to private, don’t broadcast personal details and only interact with people you know.
- Email. Circling back to Phishing, you should never divulge any personal details to an unknown sender.
- Your PC. Computers store valuable private information. Ensuring that you have an effective antivirus and spyware programme in place can keep out hackers and prevent viruses and malware.
- Complicate your Passwords. Please don’t use 12345678 and never use information that’s easily accessible like your date of birth. Try to mix it up too; add lower and upper case letters, use numbers and add in some symbols to make the hacker’s job even harder.
Remember to check out some of our other posts on the 118 118 Money blog. It’s full of helpful advice to help you stay safe online and we have loads of hints and tips to save you a bit of a cash too!