You may remember there being news headlines reporting a series of such illegal and unauthorised interception (also known as hacking) of databases belonging to some of UK’s major retailers and service providers, such as TalkTalk, Carphone Warehouse and British Gas, during 2015.
What does this mean? Do we stop using online facilities because of the potential risk of getting our personal and payment data exposed to online fraudsters? Or, do we take preventative steps that can help us stay protected from becoming victims of identity theft and online fraud?
Well, we think that it is important for us to understand that identity fraudsters have been found to be highly educated and intelligent people, who have the required sophistication and technical knowhow to misuse identity information of someone else for their own financial gain. However, we also know need to be aware that government bodies and specialist organisations in the field of payment technologies are bringing about stronger data security solutions, such as stronger, impenetrable digital encryption technology, so that consumers, like us, can conduct financial transactions in safer digital environments.
How you can help to prevent identity fraud? There are several steps that you can take to help prevent identity fraud from happening to you and your loved ones.
Below is a list of our suggestions:
- Recognise the signs of identity fraud: If your bank statement and/or utility bills do not arrive; or you receive bills for products and services that you know you have not signed up to; or you do not recognise transactions that appear on your bank statements; you receive letters from debt collectors or solicitors about loans that are in your name that you are sure you have never taken out; or important documents, e.g. your driving licence or passport are lost or stolen; these could all be possible indicators of identity fraud.
- Contact the authorities as soon as possible: If any of the above circumstances apply to you, then we suggest that you get in touch with your bank, the debt collector and the police to report your concerns and take necessary further steps.
- Do not give out your personal and payment details online: While this may sound obvious, we strongly suggest that you be careful in giving out your personal and payment details online. You see, for every genuine website, there may be several that are not. A genuine website belonging to a bona fide business is not likely to ask for your personal or payment details via email. They would have strong login procedures that they would have told you about when you signed up with them.
- Be sure to check that the website you are on starts its address with “https” as opposed to “http”: This is because the “s” stands for “secure”. In other words, the website has digital encryption technology to protect all data shared on it. This applies especially to when you are thinking of making purchases from a website or a social media platform.
- Look out for the golden padlock sign on websites: This should come before “https” text in the address bar of your browser and indicate that the site is secured with digital encryption.
- If you are moving house, be sure to let all the relevant parties know about your change of address: This can include your bank, your doctor, your utility providers, the TV licensing office and any credit or store credit card providers that you have accounts with.
- Monitor your credit report and credit score on a regular basis: We think it is better to shred any old documents that contain your personal and payment details, as it then becomes less likely for prying eyes to be able to decipher your data, let alone misuse it for their own financial gain.
- If you find that your credit score has dropped, in spite of you having made regular credit repayments, you may wish to check your credit report for any unrecognisable entries and your bank account for any unrecognisable transactions. In such cases, we think that it would be in your best interests to contact your bank to query all this.
This is a question being posed by as part of a police warning about skimming devices.
People are reminded to be vigilant around ATM after skimming devices continue to be found on them in in various parts of the UK. Can you tell which of these two machines has a skimming device attached? See the answer at the bottom of the story.
A police spokesman said: “The incidents have been reported about people have been putting their card in the machine to withdraw cash, but their bank card has not been returned by the machine. Please be vigilant when you use a cash machine and take a look around the machine to see if you can spot anything unusual before you use it. Always cover the keypad as you enter your PIN number and, if you insert your card and it appears to be stuck or is retained, then check the facia and contact your bank or card issuer immediately. If you notice anyone acting suspiciously then please contact the police as soon as possible.”
Advice and tips for when using cash machines include:
- Looking for anything that seems out of place such as ill-fitting components, wires, tape, hidden cameras or missing panels. If the card gets stuck, or you notice an error message, alert the bank immediately and inform the police.
- Shield your pin number; discreetly putting your money and card away before leaving a cash machine; reporting incidents promptly to your bank and the police and saving your bank’s phone number into your mobile phone.
- If someone is behaving suspiciously behind you or making you feel uncomfortable, cancel the transaction and use another machine.
- Don’t be distracted by others while at the cash machine. Keep an eye on your bank statements to check for any unusual activity.
*The answer to the photo is, the one on the right has the skimming device attached. Clue: Look at the arrows – they are much too close to the slot in the photo with the device fitted.
Email purporting to be from Facebook claims that you have won $900,000 in the ‘Facebook Award Pragram’ for 2016. The email is not from Facebook and you have not won $900,000. There is no such thing as the ‘Facebook Award Pragram’ (or even ‘Program’). The email is a typical advance fee scam designed to trick you into sending your money and personal information to criminals.
According to this email, which purports to be from Facebook, you are the lucky winner of $900,000 USD via the 2016 ‘Facebook Award Pragram’. Supposedly, the award is designed to encourage the usage of Facebook all over the world. It comes complete with a Facebook logo, bar code, and an apparent stamp and signature of the ‘Facebook Financial Director’ Mark Scott. The email, which includes ‘claim details’ such as a batch number and reference number, instructs you to contact Facebook’s ‘accredited attorney’ Lucas Swat with your details ‘for immediate claim procedure and payment code’. However, the email is certainly not from Facebook and you have not won $900,000 as claimed. There is no Facebook Award for 2016 or any other year. In fact, the email is a typical advance fee scam designed to steal your money and personal information.
If you fall for the ruse and contact the ‘accredited attorney’ as instructed, you will soon receive a reply claiming that, before your prize can be processed, you must send money to cover obligatory fees such as banking and legal costs, tax, or insurance. The scammer will claim that you must pay these fees in advance or your prize will not be processed. He will explain that, for legal reasons, the fees cannot be paid out of the prize money itself. And, he will warn that, if you do not pay all of the requested fees by a specified date, you will forfeit your prize and it will be given to somebody else. The scammer will likely continue asking for more and more money to cover more and more – totally imaginary – fees until you run out of funds or finally realise that you are being scammed. And, by this time, the scammer may have gathered a large amount of your personal and financial information. He may have asked you to supply this information in order to prove your identity and allow the processing of your ‘prize claim’. The scammer may later use this information to steal your identity.
As such scams go, this one is fairly sophisticated. Some recipients may be taken in by the seemingly official presentation of the scam message. But having gone to the trouble of tricking up their scam email with logos, signatures, bar codes, and the like, the scammers shoot themselves in the foot via the glaring spelling error in the name of the supposed award (‘Pragram’ rather than ‘Program’). Nevertheless, at least a few recipients may miss the spelling error or, despite the error, still believe that the email really is from Facebook.
Advance fee lottery scams like this one are very common and people all around the world still fall victim to them. There have been many variations of the Facebook award or lottery scam. Remember, there IS no Facebook lottery or award program and any message that claims that you have won such a lottery or award is sure to be an advance fee scam like the one described here.
Distraction Burglary is a crime that effects people of all ages, but in particular the elderly and vulnerable members of our communities. It involves criminals knocking at your door as Bogus Callers. This can range from them imitating workmen and engineers, to police officers or even vulnerable people seeking sympathy. The aim is to either con their way inside your home to commit a burglary, or keep you distracted long enough to allow an accomplice to slip in through a back door or window.
To help you avoid falling victim to Distraction Burglary, we have provided this helpful checklist based on the Lock, Stop, Chain, Check process for what you should do when there’s a knock at the door:
Are you expecting anyone? – If not, consider whether you should answer at all, particularly if it is after dark.
Can you see who is calling? – Using a peephole, electronic door viewer, intercom, or even just glancing out of a window can help you establish if the caller may be suspicious.
You’ve decided to answer. – Before you open the door, are your back doors and windows shut and locked? This will prevent sneak-in burglaries whilst you are occupied at the front door.
Have you applied your door chain? – These essential bits of kit allow the identification and verification of callers, without allowing them access. The higher quality chain the better.
You’ve partially opened the door with your door chain applied. – If the caller is a stranger then ask them who they are and what they want.
Is the caller claiming to be in trouble or that their car has broken down etc? – Do not feel obligated to invite them in or to leave your home, offer to call the police or breakdown recovery. Don’t worry about being rude, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Is the caller claiming to be from an organisation? – Ask to see some ID. Ensure you check it closely; a genuine caller won’t mind handing their credentials over.
Does their ID seem genuine? – If you’re not sure, call the organisation they claim to represent. Always try and use a number you find yourself (e.g. online) rather than the one that’s on their ID.
If you decide to call their organisation. – Shut the door again whilst doing so. A genuine caller will understand and won’t mind waiting.
Does everything check out? – You’ve now completed the Lock, Stop, Chain, Check process for identifying Bogus Callers and combatting Distraction Burglary. You can return to your visitor with confidence. However if you’re still in doubt, just keep them out!