Cybercrime has been a long-standing issue, and we have only seen it grow since the beginning of the pandemic. The BBC have reported that investment scams have quadrupled since virus lockdown. Your financial security is our priority, so we’ve put together some information that can help you identify suspicious activity in the digital world.
The Investment Association (IA) have discovered that scammers have been promoting fake products on sham price comparison websites, adverts on social media and even search engines. Cyber criminals have even been cloning fund managers’ websites, making them look ever more convincing. It is estimated that they have stolen almost £10m ($13.3m) from UK investors.
Alongside these staggering statistics, there have also been dozens of fraudulent text messages, phone calls and emails circulating with scammers posing as HMRC this year. You can use the following information to help you not just with investment and HMRC hoaxes, but many other online scams that haunt the web.
First of all, HMRC will never send a text message or email that tells you about a tax rebate or penalty, or that asks for your personal or payment information. If you receive a message of this nature, do not reply.
There are a few things to look out for that can help you identify suspicious text messages, emails and phone calls from scammers posing as legitimate companies.
Some common online scams include:
- Asking to confirm your bank details for security reasons
- That your account is locked or restricted
- Suspicious activity has been detected on your account
- Threatening lawsuits/taking you to court
There are, of course, many more, but these are some strategies they use to get your attention. Don’t get spooked if you receive any of these, that is the scare tactic they are using!
A legitimate body such as HMRC will never text you from a mobile number (numbers starting with 07, for example), and many numbers will be recognised and changed to the company name when appearing in your inbox, such as messages from the NHS, Amazon, Student Finance England (SFE) or PayPal.
Most secure websites (but not all) generally will start with https://, with the s representing safety. This means your data is safe on these pages. You can also click on the padlock icon which will tell you if your data is secure. Sometimes your browser will tell you if it thinks that a page isn’t safe, but not always. If a website has a strange address, such as being spelled incorrectly or having a different name, this is likely a fake website.
These fake websites are most commonly accessed from clicking on a hyperlink from a fake webpage, email or text message. So, when logging into your accounts, it’s always a good idea to log in manually, i.e. by typing in paypal.com into the address bar and logging in from there.
Fake emails often have spelling errors or will fail to address you by your name. They may simply say ‘dear customer’ instead of ‘Dear Mrs Adams’. Also check the email address – if it is allegedly from PayPal but the email is from an address that doesn’t end in @paypal.co.uk, it’s likely fraudulent.
Many online scams which are successful in taking money from unsuspecting victims may also pass their details onto other fraudulent companies. This means the victim’s data is recycled and their information may be passed around because scammers know that they have taken money/data before and that they are likely to do it again. If you think that you have been scammed before, flag all suspicious activity and speak to your bank.
It’s a really good idea to change passwords regularly, and to use different passwords for different accounts, keep them safe, and do not share them with anyone. This way, if a scammer is able to access one account, they may be prevented from accessing others.
You can contact the HMRC security team if you think you’ve given any personal information in reply to a suspicious email or text.
If you are concerned about the legitimacy of a potential investment, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has a dedicated live webpage where you can research and avoid identified scams.
We are fully trained and qualified, so with us you would never need to worry about being scammed. Why not get in touch with one of our specialists today? Whatever your needs, we will do everything we can to meet them.