The five most common online frauds - and how to protect yourself against them
With online scams an ever-growing issue, a communications provider has identified the most common cons - and the best ways to safeguard yourself against them.
TalkTalk has teamed up with Action Fraud - the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime - and found that the five most common scams in the UK alone amount to 130,202 cases.
Online Shopping and Auctions
Shopping and online auction fraud is where a product is either when a product is misrepresented online or then a product is not delivered, having been purchased through an internet auction site. Scammers will accept an electronic payment, but the goods will not arrive, and the sites are found to be bogus and untraceable.
TalkTalk scam prevention tip: “There are a number of things to look out for here. First of all, many fraudulent sites will use a domain name that references a well-known brand or product name, but aren’t the official site. In terms of the product itself – is the deal too good to be true? The chances are that if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is. Lastly, look at reviews across a number of sources, such as Trustpilot, Feefo or Sitejabber, which aggregate customer reviews – this will mean you are not prone to fake reviews that may feature on their own site.”
Computer Software Service Fraud
Computer Software Service Fraud consists of cold calls from bogus ‘Tech Support’ teams claiming the victim’s computer has a bug. The scammer will ask to remotely access the victim’s computer to fix it, at a charge, or simply ask for credit card information to ‘validate the software’. The caller will claim to have fixed a bug that didn’t exist, while charging the victim a fee. Fraudsters often use the names of well-known companies to commit their crime, as it makes their communication seem more legitimate.
TalkTalk scam prevention tip: “Most reputable firms will not ask for payment when calling you. When in doubt – hang up, make a cup of tea, and call back on the customer service number provided on the company’s website. TalkTalk is in fact the first telecoms provider to create specific guidelines outlining information it will never ask for. The provider will never use a TalkTalk account number to prove a call is genuine, never ask for a full password, never ask for bank details to process a refund and lastly, never ask for money to be sent through services such as Moneygram or Western Union. Scammers do this to prevent transactions from being traced back to them.”
Email/social media hacks
Email or social media hacks are when a scammer gains unpermitted access to email or social media accounts. A common tactic is to contact a family member or friend and ask to lend money to an account that belongs to the scammer.
TalkTalk scam prevention tip: “The most important step to keep email or social media accounts secure, is to use strong passwords – and not the same password across all accounts.
“To create a strong password; simply choose three random words. Numbers, symbols and combinations of upper and lower case can be used to increase the strength. Make sure you can remember it though!”
Personal computer hacks
A personal computer hack is where a scammer gains access to a home computer connected to the internet. This access often comes from phishing emails, directing users to enter personal information at a fake website. Once they have gained access, they will look to access online banking or generally modify the computer in a way that makes it difficult for the owner to use.
TalkTalk scam prevention tip: “Sadly, common sense alone won’t protect your computer from hackers. You can look out for tell-tale signs phishing emails with things as simple as poor grammar, but you will also need to ensure your computer is kept updated, a good anti-virus software is installed and you use the latest version of your web browser.”
Extortion, in this instance, is when a scammer gains access to private content, such as photographs, and demands money to be paid immediately, for said content, or it will be sent to family and friends or made public.
TalkTalk scam prevention tip: “The first step to avoid such a situation is not send anyone content you wouldn’t want to be shared further, even if you think you know the person really well. Otherwise, keep your computer secure with strong passwords and good anti-virus software.”
Donna Moore, Head of Scam Prevention at TalkTalk, said: "Scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated crimes that affect the whole country on an unprecedented scale.
“As an internet service provider, we feel it is our responsibility to ensure that the public are armed with the knowledge that may help them identify a scam and therefore not fall victim themselves."
You can find out more at TalkTalk's Beat the scammers page, or report a crime via Action Fraud