Lots of us like to think we can spot real-world scams like faulty goods and cowboy tradespeople, but what about online scams like phishing? This is where scammers try and get your personal information by posing as legitimate companies. Using tactics like emails and fake websites, once they’ve got your information they can use it to steal your identity or cash.
Recent Misco research has shown that one in four UK adults have fallen for online scams, and that just two in five (39%) people can correctly identify whether a bank email is genuine or not.
To try and help improve the UK’s experience online, here are some of the ways you can spot a scam.
Scammers shouldn’t already have your account information or personal details, so check whether the email, text message or website features these. If it does, still be careful – they might have gained your info from another source.
Scammers want your info, so they’re going to ask for it. Most banks and businesses have cottoned on to the idea that asking for your personal info is an easy way to look illegitimate. They just won’t do it.
If you receive an email saying you’ve won a million pounds, but that you first need to send a few hundred pounds as a ‘processing fee’ or something similar, then you’re 100% in scam territory!
A bank or business will only usually contact you asking for you to log on or visit a link if you’ve asked them to do so – if you wanted to reset your password or username, for example. A random email usually means a scammer’s afoot.
Does an email threaten you with legal action, financial penalties or some other means of intimidation? Chances are it is part of a scam. But just to be sure, contact the third party using details you’ve found from a legitimate source.
If the email contains links, don’t just click on them – hover your cursor over them first. If you’re on a PC browser, the address it links to should appear at the bottom of the screen, and if the web address looks strange, it might be fake. Alternatively, right click, press copy link address, and then paste it into a word processor or notepad to see what comes up.
Whenever you’re looking at a website or email address, the right hand side of the address is the most telling bit. If Misco customer services were emailing you, for instance, the email address would be ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. Some scammers, however, might try to trick you by putting ‘email@example.com’, hoping you don’t look at the last bit of the email – do look!
How’s the grammar and spelling? Official emails are written and edited by professionals, getting rid of any errors that might have been present in the original text. If the copy is sloppy, it might be a fake.
An easy way to avoid scams is to access your account through the official website, not a link sent via text or email. Check that the site is the right one, of course, and that there’s a secure connection symbol in the web address field – usually shown as a padlock with the word ‘Secure’ or with the ‘https’ protocol placed before a web address.
If you receive an email from a bank or company asking for your personal details, look up their contact information elsewhere (the email contact info will probably also be incorrect, so check a search engine or the Yellow Pages) and ask if the communication was legitimate.
If you think an email might be from scammers, mark it as spam send it to Action Fraud – a service run by the UK police that aims to tackle online crime. Every little helps, and you could help protect other people in the long run.
Think you know how to spot a scam? Click here to test yourself with a phishing quiz.
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