Festive Fraud Online Scams by Heather Hilder on December 18, 2020 “Festive Fraud – Online Scams” Protect against online scams Even in the face of social distancing considerations and household bubbles, most people will do their best to celebrate the Festive Season in an attempt to bring some joy into what has been a tough nine months for all of us. But one thing we must be fully aware of is festive fraud and online scams, which will ruin our Christmas and New Year. Shopping at this time of year is always different as it’s as much about buying things for others as it is for ourselves. With so much pressure on us to ‘do the right thing’, whether that is wearing masks or cutting back on unnecessary travel, online purchases are likely to be a bigger deal than ever, but sadly with the convenience of ‘click to buy’ and ‘delivery to the door’ comes the extra risks of being scammed. My guests on the latest edition of my radio show ‘Let’s Talk Property’ know all about the dangers as Mike Haley is CEO of Fraud Prevention Service Cifas and Paul Davis is Retail Fraud Director at Lloyds Bank. Online Scammers “I think scammers look forward to doing this for a living and they’ll stop at nothing to get us to part with our cash,” Paul begins. “But I think the advice we can give to consumers is actually quite straightforward, and I think if we all take good care then we can keep ourselves safe at Christmas time.” New research carried by Lloyds Bank revealed more than a third of UK consumers have lost money to fraudsters as a result of buying from social media sites. This, I found shocking – was Paul himself surprised? “I think to a certain extent I wasn’t. I mean, we looked at people’s Christmas shopping habits, this year we found that more and more of us are doing our shopping online and I can recognise that myself. About two people in three are doing all or most of their Christmas shopping online this year, and that’s about double the previous year.” “I think what I was most surprised by was that 3.6 million people out there are using websites and online shopping for the first time this Christmas,” Paul adds. “And so there are lots of people for whom it’s a new thing, and hence why we’re really keen to be talking today about what we can do to keep ourselves safe.” Protect against Phone scams Working in fraud prevention means that Mike knows all about the dangers of falling victim to a scam. “Paul would probably tell you from the banking perspective that a bank would never send the link for you to log on to your account, and never transfer any money from there. So I think online banking overall is very safe,” he explains. “But fraudsters will try anything they can, particularly at this time of year, to get your money. So do be careful, take a bit of time. If you got a letter you’d read it a couple of times, you’d look where it came from, so think the same thing with emails.” Sophisticated on-line phishing “We’ve seen an explosion in what we call phishing emails. They’re spoofed emails, they seem to come from the delivery companies, from big e-retailers like Amazon, or from the Royal Mail,” Mike tells me. “Perhaps they talk about a parcel that’s not being delivered in this day and age because of so many people going online for shopping. You’re expecting deliveries, maybe you opt-out from the shops, so it seems very pertinent that you get such an email.” “But I think you have to look at who sent it. You can hover over an email and see where it comes from. And sometimes you know that that will show that it’s not coming from the source that you expect it to,” he adds. “If you’re going on the website, we say there are a few things you can do. Two very simple things, look at the address bar, is there a padlock there, and does it say HTTPS? “S” means secure. So you’ll see the address line now, and it will start off with that. If it’s got a padlock and secure, then I think you’re dealing with a genuine website. If it hasn’t got those, then it’s likely to be a scam website.” Genuine banking “Preventing fraud and keeping our customers’ money safe is a top priority for us, we’ve been investing millions to try and do that,” says Paul. “We use the latest technology to spot payments that are out of the ordinary, and where we see our customers spending money moving it in unusual ways for them, we pause those payments and take a moment to reach out to the customer to check that firstly if it was really them and secondly that they really want to make that transfer.” “Another thing we’ve been doing lots of is making sure that our customers are getting the right information about scams at the right time so they don’t fall victim,” he adds. Threat tricks As there must be so many tricks that scammers use I ask Mike what the main ones to look out for might be? “First of all, they do this impersonation so they try to impersonate an email or your text message coming from your bank,” he says. “They know that’s where the money is and that’s why the fraudsters go after the banks, of course. Because they’re not robbing banks anymore, they’re trying to make sure they rob us of money in our account. So they’ll impersonate bank accounts with emails that look very similar to the bank’s ones, and also text messages you’ll get sometimes will purport to be from your bank.” “If you get those, please contact your bank directly. If they’re asking you to transfer any money, that’s highly likely to be a scam. I’m almost certain it’s going to be a scam, Mike warns. Small scams Not many people bother to check their bank accounts every other day, so are small scams the biggest worry? “I think that’s definitely true,” says Paul. “Certainly, when I’m moving large amounts of money in my life, paying for a holiday or buying a car, I think you do stop and think perhaps a bit more, don’t you?” “Whereas when it’s small amounts, you maybe don’t. Fraudsters know that too and they know they can make a living by doing lots of low-value fraud. So, keeping an eye on your bank account, checking your bank statement, and being super vigilant whenever you are moving money is a good way to manage your finances,” he adds. Festive fears With Christmas almost here, what are the two top tips to avoid falling for a scam? “I would repeat, look for the padlock and look for the “S” in the browser line. That means you are on a secure website,” Mike simply says. Paul adds: “I’m like a stuck record on this! My top tip is if you are shopping online, pay by card and don’t rush.” So there you have it, real advice on how to stay safe online from two top industry experts! Of course scams aren’t limited to the festive season. You can apply Paul’s and Mike’s ‘festive fraud – online scams’ advice throughout the year. Santa has security tips of his own – read them here! Merry Christmas to all.