We live in a fluid digital age where few of us are really aware of the real risks when it comes to everything from identity to finances. In reality, all hacks, scams and frauds have one thing at their focus: to allow the hacker or fraudster to get their hands on something that belongs to someone else, whether that is money, possessions or documentation. Most of us coast through our lives without even being aware of most of these threats – until the worst happens and we find ourselves at the centre of one. So, what hacks, scams and frauds do we need to be aware of and how can we stop the worst of the impact?
Probably one of the most common scams, phishing was also one of the first digital attacks and has remained one of the most effective fraudster tools. It essentially involves a fraudulent email or message designed to look like a genuine communication from a sender you might recognise, such as a bank or business. The message will ask you to click on a link, enter bank details or download something, all of which inevitably lead to a virus being installed, details being stolen or your browser getting stuck on a malicious website.
Action: if in doubt, delete the message. You can always contact the real organisation and ask if they have sent you a message – remember that most banks etc won’t ask you to give out personal details in an unsecure environment. Install software on your computer and other devices that will help to isolate/delete malicious emails and prevent you visiting risky websites.
We currently live in an age where property is at a premium and rents are some of the highest in the world. With between 6 and 10 tenants going after every single property that comes on the market it’s no surprise that competition is fierce. Rental fraud plays on the desperation that many of us feel to secure the best possible deal for ourselves before someone else comes along and steals it. Fees, holding deposits and up front rental payments are demanded for properties that either don’t exist or aren’t on the market and fraudsters play on our panic about missing out to encourage us to ignore warning signs, such as a perfect property at a very low price.
Action: go and see properties and rent via a reputable agent. If a deal seems to good to be true then it probably is.
Our dependence on devices and portable machines has led to hackers developing ways to ‘ransom’ them. Ransomware has been developed for almost everything now, from preventing you from updating files on your machine to locking out an entire network or remotely locking an iPhone. The way it works is to block access to the computer/network/phone and demand a ransom in order to remove the block and once again allow access. Paying the ransom is no guarantee that the device will be permanently returned to your use and some have found themselves repeatedly attacked by the same hackers. Ransomware is such big business now for hackers that some groups have even set up a customer service helpline to ensure the ransom payment goes through smoothly.
Action: don’t open suspect attachments or files and if you don’t know the origin of a message then ignore its instructions. As with phising you should also install protective software on your devices.
We’ve seen some pretty high profile hacks over the past 12 months with cyber criminals targeting big names like telecoms giant Talk Talk and the ‘cheating’ dating website Ashley Madison. While the embarrassment and loss of business and reputation are consequences primarily borne by the company in question, the stolen data often includes personal details, from names, addresses and date of birth through to bank and credit card details that were used to pay subscriptions and bills.
Action: there’s not a lot you can do if a third party doesn’t property protect your data when it comes to making it secure. However, you can keep a close eye on payments that are going out of your bank account or off your credit card and check anything that looks suspicious. Consider using different login details and passwords for each website you register with so that the loss of one set won’t open your entire network of websites to risk.
Essentially, this is making a payment to a business online that turns out to be fraudulent or fake. So, you might order a new top from an online shop that never arrives or pay for a streaming service that doesn’t exist. There are sites all over the Internet targeted at unsuspecting customers looking for a bargain, from gift sites to furniture.
Action: read the content on a site and if it doesn’t make sense then avoid it. Always pay with a bank or credit card, or with PayPal, so that you can recoup the cost of a payment to a fraudulent business.
Solution Loans wants you to remain safe online. We have published other articles about protecting yourself from scams and fraud:
Oliver Jones has written for Solution Loans since 2015. His passion for personal finance comes through in the 150+ blog posts he's written since that time. His talent for explaining all things money means he's covered topics as diverse as...Read more about Oliver Jones