How to avoid online fraud crimes

As more of us are either working from home or using the internet to do our shopping, we are spending more time online. This has meant that there’s been an increase in online fraud, with scammers preying on the fear caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. There’s also been scams targeting NHS workers with false offers such as car insurance deals.

Outlined below are some ways to reduce the risk and protect yourself from online fraud.

  • Take a moment – stop and think before you part with any money. Does the offer sound too good to be true? Often it is. Anything free or heavily discounted should ring alarm bells.
    • Is the person you’re supposedly buying from pressurising you to make a payment or deposit? Only scammers will try to get you to pay straightaway. For example, CIFAS have stated that there’s been an increase in online pet fraud, where the fraudster will ask for a deposit to hold the pet, stating that due to COVID-19 lockdown, the pet cannot be collected in person. The fraudster may suggest they’ll deliver the pet to you and ask for additional funds to cover costs.
    • Are you being messaged through Whatsapp or social media channels to share personal data? Legitimate organisations wouldn’t use these methods to request personal information.
    • Check emails carefully – there are lots of phishing emails purporting to be from the HMRC or other legitimate organisations, requesting you to link through to a webpage, or to confirm your bank details. Often these emails have the branding we’re used to seeing, but look out for any grammatical mistakes and question whether it looks professional and consistent with other emails you’ve had. If in doubt, don’t click on any links or reply to the sender but look for the company’s official details on Google.
    • Always check the email address – at a first glace it may look like it’s from a business you’re used to dealing with i.e. noreply@aplan.co.uk but if you click on it and it expands to something more inauthentic i.e noreply.a.plan_wnfintoisdnflbja it could be a phishing scam.
    • Check to see if the business is reputable – is it registered on Companies House or if it’s a financial service, check the FCA register.
    • You can check for recent scams on the Action Fraud website. You can also report a scam or phishing attempt.

Keeping your information secure

Make sure you regularly change your online passwords and ensure the password you choose is complex – including a mix of upper and lower case letters, special characters and numbers. Don’t use family names or pets.