How to avoid falling prey to online scams

How to avoid falling prey to online scams

Author: Philippa Thompson

This year has seen most of us make an incredibly swift transition to running many aspects of our life online, from online banking and bills to keeping in touch with loved ones. In many ways technology has offered huge benefits, enabling families to stay in touch, for grandparents to see their grandchildren and business to continue to run.

However, as with anything in life, where there are pros you will inevitably find cons. The rapid rise in online activity has proven irresistible to unscrupulous criminals who have seized the opportunity to prey on unsuspecting people.

This article provides useful information to help you spot and stop scams before it’s too late.

Are older people at greater risk of being scammed?

It’s a bit of a sweeping statement to say yes as many older people (affectionately known as Silver Surfers) are extremely ‘tech-savvy’ and very able to spot a scam.

However, there are also many for whom using technology is a very new part of their life and inevitably this makes them more vulnerable.

In fact, the information in this article will be useful to anyone, young or old, helping us all to stay alert online, on the phone and in day-to-day life for the protection of ourselves and others.

How to spot a scam

Sadly scammers are becoming more and more sophisticated so you do need to have your wits about you. Below are some things you should be aware of that will help you spot email and phone scams.

Scam Emails (a.k.a. phishing scams)

Typically phishing emails will; entice you to respond and disclose personal information; want you to click links to fake websites; or want you to download attachments that contain malicious software to corrupt your computer.

Five warning signs to look out for

1) Who is the email from?

At first glance it often looks like the email has come from the company it claims to be from. However, hover your mouse (don’t click) over the email address and you will reveal the full email address. At this point it is often easy to see that the email is fake as you can see in the image below.

2) Who is it addressed to?

This is by no means foolproof as some scam emails are personalised. However, a lack of personalisation - or indeed personalisation that just looks strange - should ring alarm bells.

3) Check the quality

Initially, the email may look ‘on brand’ but take a closer look.

Are the brand logos and images of the quality you would expect from the alleged sender?

What about the grammar, spelling and general flow of the email?

Phishing emails are often poor quality and include a mix of fonts, blurry images, out of date deadlines and poor grammar.

4) Tick Tock

If the email pressures you to take urgent action in order to avoid penalties and is packed full of words like ‘official’ take a moment to do some extra research.

Common tactics include threatening to cut off your telephone or internet service or facing court action if you don’t respond immediately. While these threats might make your heart beat a little faster at first, don’t be afraid to check things out before clicking links, making payments or sending personal information.

5) Is it too good to be true?

Unfortunately, if you receive an email out of the blue, offering something that seems too good to be true - it probably is!

Scam phone calls (a.k.a. Vishing)

In many ways phone scams can be spotted by looking out for similar warning signs to emails. For example, something that is out of the blue, too good to be true, threatening penalties or asking for personal information should all sound alarm bells.

Common phone scams include recorded calls claiming to be from your internet or telephone provider, services like Amazon and even your bank advising that you must ‘press 1’ to speak to someone and avoid further action.

The golden rule is never disclose your PIN number, account details, passwords or personal information.

Beware of scams that ask you to call back

As if spotting a scam isn’t complicated enough, some fraudsters actually ask their victims to hang up and call their bank back in order to ‘go through security’.

Reassured by this apparent concern for security, victims are duped into thinking they’ve called their bank. However, phone lines can stay open for up to two minutes after a call is disconnected. Fraudsters play a false dial tone before ‘answering’ the call, pretending to be the organisation you’re calling (often the bank) and taking the individual’s information.

You can read more here.

What to do if you think you’ve been scammed

Firstly, do not feel embarrassed if you do fall prey to a scam. The unscrupulous people behind the scams can be very convincing and you will not be the first person to be taken in by it.

If you think you’ve been scammed it is important to report it as soon as possible. Report it to the police and also to the company involved. For example, if your bank details have been disclosed, let your bank know so that they can take action as quickly as possible.

Many official organisations, including HMRC, BT and most UK banks, allow you to report phishing and vishing scams on their website.

You should also mark the email as junk, spam or phishing (depending on your email provider). The technology used in most email systems means that by identifying junk, spam and phishing emails, the system will ‘learn’ how to identify them in future and improve the likelihood of them being redirected straight to your junk folder.

Online at The Dower House

Throughout The Dower House residents have access to telephone and internet in their rooms, and in communal areas.

During the pandemic, this has enabled residents to embrace the use of technology in order to keep in touch with their friends and family via email and Zoom, and to enjoy new activities during lockdown. Staff have done a great job of helping residents to get online safely and with confidence.

Potential residents are able to explore life at The Dower House through the seasonal videos and virtual tour available on our website. These videos are a great alternative to visits if you are researching later life care options for yourself or a loved one.

If you are researching later life and residential care, please click the link to download our guide. Alternatively, to discuss moving to The Dower House, please call 01962 882848 where one of the team will be delighted to help.

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