With Halloween just around the corner, you don’t want to take a wrong turn and come face-to-face with a money-stealing monster. Fortunately, our tips can help you prepare for tricky scams disguised as treats this winter.
Here are the top three online scams which are giving us nightmares right now—and simple ways you can fend them off.
Shapeshifting monsters- Identity theft
Identity theft is one of the most common types of fraud. A whopping 1 in 4 of us have fallen victim to this type of scam. Like a shapeshifting monster, the techniques used by fraudsters are constantly evolving and can involve phone calls, emails, text messages and even QR codes.
But don’t let the clever tactics confuse you: all these scams work in the same basic way. They are about convincing you that you are dealing with a legitimate organisation – such as your bank, HMRC or GOV.UK, instead of a scammer. They will then use fake websites, calls or online forms to trick you into handing over sensitive personal data. This could include your account numbers, passwords, or even more basic information such as your date of birth and postcode.
Once the scammer has pieced together these different bits of information, they can use it (and other stolen information) to fraudulently apply for credit cards and mobile phone contracts. In extreme cases, they may even register a company or set up fake businesses using your details. This can be especially difficult to untangle.
How to Spot the Scam
While garlic won’t scare off scammers like it does vampires, fear not. There are some simple steps you can follow to stay safe:
- Beware of unexpected requests to confirm or give out your personal data, especially through links sent in text messages or emails.
- When entering your details on a website, always check the website address matches the one of the organisation. You can use tools such as Google Safe Browsing to check if a website is who you think it is.
- Never tell anyone your PIN, online banking password, or full card details. Our team will never ask you for this information.
- If a call or email feels suspicious, hang up. You can then call/email the business back using the number published on their website.
Phantom Package- Parcel Delivery Scams
As we near the festive season, many of us will be shopping online more. Even if you are not a massive shopaholic, it can be difficult to keep track of all the couriers, delivery companies, tracking numbers, delivery slots and alerts by text and email.
The next scam is designed to take advantage of this courier confusion. It involves sending you an SMS text message alerting you to an undelivered package or missed delivery. Often, it will ask you to provide payment details to have the package delivered.
Don’t remember ordering anything or are unsure what the delivery could be? That is because the package doesn’t exist. It is a phantom package that only exists for the purpose of scamming you out of your money. This scam is all about getting you to hand over your card payment details to fraudsters posing as Royal Mail, DPD or another legit delivery company.
How to Spot the Scam
- You may receive an email or SMS text message if you want to receive your package. You will be asked to sign up or provide your details by an authorized organization, such as DPD.
- They will direct you to a fake website or force you to download a virus.
- You will be asked to enter sensitive information, such as your credit card information, by clicking the link.
- Keep careful track of your online purchases. You can refer to the original confirmation email to check when it is due to arrive and any other delivery details.
- Most legitimate delivery companies don’t charge for re-delivering an item if you are out. If you get an SMS text message or call asking for payment, you should be immediately suspicious.
- Don’t click links. Instead, use a search engine such as Google to go straight to the genuine website of the delivery company. There, you will be able to enter your postcode and other details to see if there is actually a package on its way to you.
Zombie Stores- Online Stores Scams
With many of us looking to snag a bargain, the other risk is ‘Zombie’ online stores. These are legitimate-looking online stores which display the products (often at unbelievably good prices) and take your payment, address and delivery details. So far, so good. But like a zombie, though these websites may look alive, they aren’t all they seem.
After taking your money, you will find the goods you purchased don’t ever arrive or are completely different to what you thought you were buying. In some cases, that is because the goods never existed. These are ‘zombie’ websites – websites which pop up overnight and which look alive but are, in reality, dead behind the eyes…spooky.
How to Spot the Scam
- Be cautious about buying from online stores you aren’t familiar with. This especially the case if they are offering prices that seem ‘too good to be true’ or which are far below what you know the product is worth.
- Check Google Reviews, TrustPilot and other independent review websites to find out about other customers’ experiences.
- Always pay using a debit (or, ideally, a credit) card via a secure payment website. After, check your online banking to make sure the transaction went through with the correct amount.
- A legitimate website will never ask you to pay by making a bank transfer or by sending your card details over email or text.
This October, let’s make sure spooky season is fun and safe. With scammers and cyber-monsters using increasingly crafty tricks and the news full of terrifying tales of people falling victim to fraud, you may end up afraid of your own shadow or decide it’s best to simply hide under the bed!
But Halloween doesn’t have to be dominated by fear of gremlins hiding in your computer screen. By arming yourself with the knowledge and following some simple steps to protect yourself, you can avoid a nightmare before Christmas and have an autumn full of treats, not tricks.