June is Scam Awareness month and is an opportunity to take a stand against those who try and trick people out of their hard-earned money. According to Citizens Advice research 72% of people surveyed have been targeted by scammers and over a third had been targeted five or more times.
So how do they do it? They use many different techniques to try and lure people in to their traps, but by far the most common method is to install a sense of urgency and fear in their potential victims. This is done by sending emails or text messages with a message that will claim the recipient needs to take some immediate action. Typical examples will include the need to update account details or the need to make an immediate payment. Most of these scams are not targeted at any individual and the attacker is just looking to try and ‘hook’ as many people as possible.
Take for example banks. Often attackers will send out thousands of emails or text messages claiming to be from one of the leading banks. They know that not everybody who receives the message will be a customer of that bank, but they are hoping that some of them will be. These are the people that they are hoping will be lured in to following the instructions in the fake message. Depending on how many people the attackers send the message to, there will also be a high probability that a few of the people who receive the message may even have a problem with their account. These are the real target of the scammers. They hope that some of the spam they send out reaches a customer of the company that they are claiming to be and also someone who may believe that there could potentially be a problem with their account.
The attackers are using psychology and fear to install a sense of urgency to sort out a problem.
This type of tactic can also be used over the phone. A common scam that people can fall for is the phone call from ‘Microsoft’ claiming that they have noticed unusual activity on your computer and it may be infected with a virus. Again, the scammer is trying to install a sense of fear in the potential victim. By using the phone, the attacker can also try to confuse the potential victim with ‘technical’ information. One example is for the attacker to talk the victim through opening what is known as the event viewer on Windows computers. This event viewer often shows many errors and warnings, but this is perfectly normal and should not be a cause for concern. However, for those that are not aware of this, then it can look both intimidating and concerning, particularly if they are speaking to someone who sounds like they are very knowledgeable.
So, what can be done? The most important thing is to be suspicious of messages, either email or text, and phone calls from businesses that you are not expecting. Don’t follow links in those messages but check independently, open a new internet browser window and search for the genuine website of the company. Nobody will call to tell you that they think you have a virus on your computer.
Another thing that we can all do is to share our knowledge with others, particularly those who may be vulnerable to these types of scams.
If you have anymore questions please get in touch at [email protected]
Written on 27 June 2018