Scams Awareness – Be Safe Online

Scams come in many forms, face to face, over the phone, by post and online, but online scams represent the fastest growing form of scams in recent years. We are all being encouraged to shop, bank and interact socially online but many people are uncomfortable doing so or not confident in their online security. Below are some simple tips for spotting online scams.

Spot online scams

If you think someone might be trying to scam you online, don’t:

  • give them any personal information, like bank details, computer passwords or PIN numbers
  • reply to their email or click on any links
  • download any attachments or files in emails
  • send them any money or buy anything
  • ring any numbers in emails

If you’ve lost money because of a scam, you can report it (see below).

Know the warning signs

Be careful if an offer:

  • comes out of the blue or from someone you don’t know
  • sounds out of the ordinary – like you’ve won the lottery, or you’ve been invited to invest in an ‘amazing’ scheme and keep it a secret
  • asks you to pay for something in advance – especially by bank transfer
  • asks you for personal information – like your bank details, computer passwords or PIN numbers
  • pressures you into buying something or making a decision quickly – a trustworthy company will be happy to wait
  • asks you to phone an expensive number – these start with 070, 084, 087, 090, 091 or 098

Spot a fake email or website

Scam emails ask you for personal information like passwords or bank details to get money; called ‘phishing’. They often look real, as if from a bank or building society, but remember that your bank will never ask you to confirm personal details by clicking on an email link. If you’re not sure if it’s a scam, check:

  • the email or website address – if it’s a scam, it might have a strange address or come from a free email provider like Gmail
  • for spelling mistakes – trustworthy websites are less likely to have them
  • if the website starts with https:// – this means the information you send on the website is secure, but the website could still be a scam
  • if the website has a green padlock in the website address bar – this means the information you send on the site is private

If you think you’re being scammed

Don’t click on anything and leave the website. You might want to keep the email as evidence in case you report the scam. If you’ve had an email that looks like it’s from your bank, contact your bank directly using the number on your card. You can also log into your account on their website – use Google to find the real one. You can also block the email sender or mark an email as ‘spam’ or ‘junk’ – this means you won’t see them in your inbox. Check your email provider’s help section for instructions on how to do this.

Further help

Call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06 if you need advice or to report a scam.

Get expert advice on being safe online from Get Safe Online at  https://www.getsafeonline.org/.

For up-to-date information on common scams, and how to report them, contact Action Fraud at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/ or call 0300 123 2040.

Finally, if you want to take the fight against scammers further consider joining the ‘friends against scams’ campaign. This is a National Trading Standards Scams Team initiative. For more information on this visit https://www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk.

Our thanks to Coventry Citizens Advice (CCA) for submitting this article to us. For more information, contact your local CA offices or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk.