We all pretend to be super savvy about security and scams, but really we can be as gullible as the next person. What’s more, fraudsters are getting more cunning in their efforts to get their hands on our money and personal details. Here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim:
1. Look out for emails and texts that might be impersonating a trusted organisation in order to obtain sensitive information, some of the most common being messages asking you to re-verify your account details. This “phishing” can often give itself away through spelling mistakes or an email address that is subtly different from that of the genuine sending organisation. Similarly, beware before clicking on links, as hyperlinks can be manipulated: hover your mouse over this link to The Student’s news section, http://www.studentnewspaper.org/category/news/ and you’ll see that I am in fact (although not maliciously) directing you to the Lifestyle Section.
2. Similarly, beware of “vishing” whereby a fraudster poses as a bank representative, HMRC or similar on the telephone, persuading you to hand over financial information or use your card reader to authorise payments online. Don’t be fooled if the incoming number looks like that of your bank, as crooks are increasingly using ‘number spoofing’ to imitate legitimate organisations. If in doubt, hang up and call the fraud department of your bank, using the number on their official website, or on the back of your bank card. If upon being called, you’re asked to dial the number on the back of the card, use a different phone to do so. However the golden rule is never to reveal your bank details (account number, PIN, card reader generated passcode, online banking passwords) over the phone. If you do this, you may not receive compensation from your bank.
3. Words like ‘urgent’ often panic us into giving out information we wouldn’t normally disclose, but always take time to think, “is this a reasonable request?” “Is this a sensible way for that organization to contact me?” and you’ll develop the cynicism that’s essential to avoiding fraud. Remember that your bank will never ask you to ask you to do the following: reveal your PIN or banking passwords; ask you to carry out a test transaction online; ask you to email or text personal banking information; or provide banking services through any mobile apps other than the bank’s official apps.
For more tips on how to spot and avoid scams as well as what to do if you have become a victim of fraud, visit https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/stop-scams. This website provides a particularly thorough and up to date guide to scams and reminds us that it is always better to mistake a genuine communication for a fake than a fraudulent request for an authentic one.