One of the biggest fears for people today is that they are caught up in some kind of online Fraud, have their identity stolen or get caught by a scam of some kind. The news is often filled with stories and sadly, cases are on the rise. So, what can you do if you think you have suffered an online fraud? And how can you protect yourself in the first place?
Common types of fraud
There are many different types of fraud and fraudulent schemes out there but there are two main types that most people are likely to encounter. Bigger, more high-tech scams are often targeted at big businesses or multinational companies where the potential earnings for the hackers are much bigger.
Phishing scams are a popular one where fraudsters send you an email that is designed to gather sensitive personal information. The email might look like it is from a legitimate company and will have the right logo and other design information. But the key to it is that it will ask you to click and link and then input some information – this might be login information, bank or card details or other data that can be used to then steal money or use your identity.
Pharming scams are something similar but a little harder to spot. These don’t even require a click and can work on legitimate websites. They redirect people from a real website to a copy website that steals their details rather than allowing them to do the shopping they believe they are doing.
How to report a fraud
The first thing you should do if you think something is wrong with a transaction, an email or other online contact is report it to your bank or card issuer. They can often block your card or put a watch on your account to prevent any money from being stolen.
Likewise, if you think a transaction through PayPal doesn’t look right, use the PayPal customer service contact phone number to tell them about it. PayPal monitors all transactions and will often contact you first if there is anything out of character or odd on your account.
You should also report the fraud online to the police through the Action Fraud website. Here you can report what happened via the online tool which takes you through a series of questions to report the incident. There is also live chat if you have problems with the form or are concerned. Additionally, there is a phone number to call.
How to combat fraud
The best way to deal with fraud is always to avoid it in the first place and while this isn’t always possible, there are things we can do to reduce the chance that we are hit with fraud of some kind.
Use a recognised Payment processor
When you make a payment, opt for a recognised payment processor where possible. PayPal is one of the most widely recognised of these alongside companies such as Stripe and WorldPay. This means that you aren’t putting your card or bank account information directly into a website but rather using them to process the payment. Private transactions don’t cost anything, and you get buyer protection.
Be wary of attachments
One of the ways that phishing scams often steal information is by tempting us into opening attachments in emails or even in messages on Facebook and other online message services. It might be a special offer, exclusive deal or something that entices us to click then to provide information to get the offer. Sadly, these are often fake, and a scam so be very cautious about anything in emails. The majority of companies will send an email with a simple link to their website – you shouldn’t need to log onto anything to view it or open an attachment.
Update your devices
Updates are about more than just getting the latest features – they are how companies update the security within their software and apps to make it resistant to the latest fraudulent attacks. So updating your devices and apps is something that should be done as soon as updates are available. You can set these updates to go through during the night while you are asleep to avoid device downtime.
Don’t allow file sharing
Some versions of Windows operating system have a file sharing facility that may be allowed as default. This is a potential weakness that can be exploited by hackers. So you should turn these off to reduce the chance someone can get access to your system. Simply type ‘file sharing’ into the settings search bar and this will help you spot if there are any settings like this on your computer. You can then make sure this is turned off.
Choosing the right websites
As well as taking steps to protect yourself, you should also be cautious about where you visit online and the security that a website has before you make a purchase.
For starters, when you go to a payment processing page of a website, there should be security. If they offer payment through PayPal or similar services, this is okay as this handles the security. But if they process the payment themselves by taking your payment, there should be a padlock on the address bar. This means the website has SSL encryption to protect your data. Never input details such as card numbers without this as hackers could get the information.
If you visit a website and it doesn’t seem very modern, there are misspelt words or other signs that the website might not be reliable, go somewhere else. It doesn’t mean don’t shop with smaller sites but make sure they are good quality, well protected and that you can contact them if there is a problem.
Avoiding online scams isn’t always possible because sometimes they are so advanced, we don’t even realise they are happening. Keep an eye on bank statements and credit cards to make sure all transactions are ones you have authorised. And if something looks wrong, get in touch with your bank or card provider immediately.
You can also read my tips on cyber security and how to keep your data safe online for more information on this topic.
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*This is a collaborative post
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