There are very few worse experiences than the feeling which comes from being robbed. It leaves you feeling shaken, violated and insecure.
Online robbery – otherwise known as scamming – is prevalent these days, and some of the worst cases occur when it comes to theft in the realms of pensions, finances and personal data.
A scam is sophisticated, in that it involves someone tricking you into handing over information which they can then use harm, or steal from you. Quite often, the person or people scamming you will come across as friendly or as legitimate businesses, so you need to be on guard.
So, how can you protect your financial affairs and future from such people? Here are some tips:
#1 Be Wary of Texts & Emails
Mostly likely, you will have seen a scam email in your own inbox at some point, or possibly a text. The message will claim to be from a genuine source – like HMRC, iTunes or your bank – claiming that there’s an issue you need to sort out, by responding with some personal data (e.g. your PIN number, or other passwords).
Be very careful, and avoid clicking on links in emails like this even if the message looks trustworthy. What often happens when you click on these links is that they take you to a website which looks like your bank, for example, but it’s actually a fake website set up to capture your login details when you enter them in.
If you’re worried that there really is an issue with your bank or other account, then don’t click the links. Find the company or organisation’s number on Google, and call them directly to see if the issue is legitimate.
#2 Unexpected calls
If you get an unexpected call from someone claiming to be your bank, HMRC or utility provider, say you will call them back. If they are really who they say they are, then they will not mind. From there, you can find the number online and call them. That way you know who you’re really speaking to over the phone.
However, there are still ways scammers get around this. Indeed, many will call you and ask you to call back. When you put the phone down, they stay on the line and play a dial tone. When you phone them again, you believe it’s a new call – but they’re still on the other end.
To be extra safe, here are some things you can do:
- If someone calls and asks you to call back, call someone else (like a friend) first. If the previous caller is on the other line (and not your friend), then they’ve used a dial tone to try and trick you.
- Use another phone to call back.
- Leave at least 30 minutes before calling back.
#3 Beware of Bogus Deals
Watch out on social media sites such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter, where fake deals are sometimes promoted in the ads which appear on your newsfeed.
For instance, if someone is offering a free giveaway (e.g. tickets to a gig), make sure you check who it is who’s putting the offer out. Are you sure that the social media profile pushing that ad is from the real thing?
There are lots of fake profiles and accounts out there after all, which look legitimate. To be sure, go to the company’s main website and see if you can find the same offer there.
Bear in mind that a link in an ad may not always take you where it says it will. Click on this link here to see what we mean: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/. So don’t click on the links. Try and find the offer elsewhere at a legitimate, trustworthy source.
#4 Use solid software
It always helps to have a solid anti-virus software installed on your computer, to keep your device up to date against the latest threats, malware and spyware.
Another useful tool you might want to try is LastPass, which allows you to securely store your passwords in one vault. The double-authentication feature is also very useful, as you must also log in on your personal, registered mobile device before you can gain access to the vault.
This makes it very hard for hackers to gain access, even if they somehow guessed your password. In the same vein, if any software or bank accounts you use offer double authentication, then it’s well worth signing up to it in order to give that extra protection layer.
#5 Pay with a Credit Card
Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, any purchase you make between £300 and £30,000 is jointly-held responsibility between you and your credit card company.
If you pay for things online, try and use your credit card. It means that if anything goes wrong, you have more of a chance of getting your money back. Where you can, avoid bank transfers, vouchers cheques and cash, which offer less protection.
In addition, paying off your credit card as you use it helps your credit history!
If You’ve Been Scammed…
If you’ve been the victim of a scam, then here are some practical steps you can take:
- End communication with the scammer, if you spoke to them.
- Cancel any further payments by contacting your bank.
- Report the scam to the police authorities.
- Speak to Citizens Advice or the Financial Conduct Authority.