Fraud is when trickery is used to gain a dishonest advantage, which is often financial, over another person. Cybercrime is any criminal act dealing with computers and networks.
Both individuals and businesses become victims of fraud every day. Other words used to describe fraud could be scam, con, cheat and confidence trick. The cost of fraud is escalating and is reported to be between £130bn to £190bn a year. According to Office for National Statistics people are a lot more likely to be victims to fraud than any other crime.
Some of the things that can help you spot a scam:
- You have been contacted out of the blue – very common recently have been calls claiming to be from BT and saying there are issues with your Internet connection or PC. They will often then try to get you to give them access to your PC and claim there are lots of issues which need fixing – for a fee. Another classic example is that you have been involved in an accident and are due compensation. Should you receive such a call it’s best to hang up straight away – even answering any questions can lead to further crime, as recordings of your voice answering questions could be used to access other accounts via a phone call.
- You are being asked to share personal details – These could be anything from basics like date of birth to bank details , PIN numbers and passwords. Financial and Insurance companies may ask for these before discussing your account in detail, but be wary of calls made to you. If in doubt, hang up and call them back but use the number from your credit card or bank statement, don’t just redial the number as often scammers will register very similar numbers. You can also try giving false details to see if that flags up!
- There are spelling and grammar mistakes and the English is poor – legitimate businesses should not make obvious mistakes. Often scam emails or communication will not read well but some can be extremely convincing.
- The contact details or email address is vague or uses additional text – a good example is PayPal. Their email is usually straightforward and has an image icon attached to it – PayPal@mail.paypal.co.uk. A lot of the time, these emails will not originate from the correct server and therefore a new, similar address will have been registered such as paypal.myemail.com.
- Being asked to keep it a secret from family and friends – There are scams where people are called and asked to withdraw money from their account, make a payment or be ready to hand over money to someone who will visit, on the basis that they are part of a larger criminal investigation and that it must be kept secret. You would never be asked to make a payment or hand over money in this situation.
- The offer seems too good to be true – found something for sale online that is a lot cheaper than in the shops or other, well known sellers? Most likely it is a scam, possibly someone is selling it much cheaper, but stay alert and ask to see the item first or pay through PayPal with buyer’s protection. Be especially aware of downloads such as games or other software which is a lot cheaper. You will usually find this is illegitimate and wont activate once you have downloaded it, will not be a full version or may even be a virus or malware.
- The person is pressurising you into deciding – legitimate businesses will not make you feel like the decision has to be made now. They will also be aware of the Distance Selling Regulations which allow you a cooling off period to cancel any order made online or over the phone within 14 days. If you are purchasing something of value in this way, and especially if it has originated from an unsolicited call, make sure you ask about the refund procedure and make sure you can contact the company back before parting with any money or credit card details.
Those are some of the more popular things that will characterise a fraudster or cybercriminal. If you have received an email or phone call that you’re not sure about, contact the company in question directly or ask us for advice.
If you have fallen a victim of a fraud or have been targeted, you can report the crime to Action Fraud on https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/.