Each fortnight I’ll be explaining some of the different types of cyber crime to watch out for and, crucially, how you can keep yourself safe.
The summer is (just about still here) and keen anglers in Wiltshire are out trying to reel in a catch. To catch a fish you need to have some bait and it’s exactly the same in the world of cyber crime. In this edition of my column I’ll be focusing on phishing scams.
Phishing scams are used by criminals to lure victims, by email, text or phone, into handing over valuable information such as credit card and bank account numbers, passwords and log on details, which can be used to commit fraud.
So what’s the bait that catches the fish? Often fraudsters will pretend to be someone else that you think is a credible organisation, such as a bank, building society, a government agency or even the police. They play on the fact you trust that they are who they say they are and try to trick you into giving vital information away.
There are lots of different types of phishing scam. Here are some examples:
Spam emails – these are often sent by individuals posing as an organisation such as a bank, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs etc.
Counterfeit sites – spam emails frequently include links to fake websites that are designed to look like official websites of genuine organisations. The aim is to trick you in to thinking, for example, that you have visited your bank’s website so you can enter in log in details, passwords and other information that the fraudster can then use
Phone scams – there are an increasing number of calls being made by fraudsters where they pretend to be part of a technical support department for a broadband provider or software provider. They will try and get you to install software on to your computer that will assist them in carrying out fraudulent activity or scams.
There are lots of easy, practical steps you can take to help avoid becoming a victim of a phishing scam:
• Keep your anti-virus and security software up to date
• Limit the amount of personal information you make public online
• Don’t open emails from people or organisations you don’t know – if in doubt, delete!
• Treat emails with caution. Look at the email address the sender has used (these often give clues that it isn’t from a genuine source) and for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes
• If you think an email is suspicious don’t click any links within the email. Hover your mouse cursor over the link and it will show you where it plans to take you (such as a fake website) or what it plans to install on your machine (such as a virus – these often have filenames that end with .exe)
• The police, banks and building societies will never send you an email, text or a website link asking you to enter your internet banking or card details. You’ll also never be notified of a potential tax refund via email
• Report any suspicious emails to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool at www.actionfraud.police.uk
To find out more visit www.wiltshire.police.uk or the Action Fraud website www.actionfraud.police.uk – by taking simple precautions you can stay out of the phishing net.