Call for North Wales public to protect themselves from internet fraud with some simple tips!
Most people are online daily whether to shop, carry out online banking or to stay in touch with friends and family.
Although the internet is convenient and more accessible than ever, there are risks associated with its use.
As the sales start, and many people take advantage of special offers and deals online, North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin and the Economic Crime Unit at North Wales Police have joined forces to call on the public to make a New Year’s resolution to protect themselves from internet-based fraud by following a few simple tips:
Stop – Take your time and think twice before clicking links or opening attachments.
Challenge – If you receive any contact that is unusual or unexpected, contact the individual or organisation to make sure it is genuine.
Check – Check your credit score and bank statements regularly to spot any irregularities.
Shopping and Selling Online
Criminals regularly target victims who shop online, both as buyers and as sellers, and there is a wide range of tactics criminals use to target their victims. This fraud type can include fake or cloned websites that are designed to mimic a legitimate company. Fraudsters may also set up companies offering inferior or counterfeit goods for sale online at high prices which may include fake reviews or unrealistic claims.
Auction sites are regularly misused by fraudsters in a number of ways, so it is always recommended that people check the auction sites payment policies before making any purchase. Consumers should be wary of any seller requesting a large deposit or even payment in full direct into their bank account, rather than using PayPal or other similar services.
Criminals may also approach sellers who are offering high value items for sale, such as mobile phones, tablets or laptops which they then offer to purchase. Once the price has been agreed the fraudster sends a fake email, that appears to have been sent by PayPal, stating that payment has been made and that the item can be posted. Victims of this crime only realise the PayPal email was fraudulent once the item has been sent but no funds have entered their PayPal account.
Text, WhatsApp and Email Scams
More and more of our communication now takes place online and fraudsters have found several ways to exploit this. Criminals can contact their victims by sending official looking emails or text messages that appear to come from legitimate companies and organisations. These are designed to lure people in by promoting discounts or special offers, requesting they update their account details or advising there is a problem with bills or banking that they need to address.
Clicking on links in fraudulent emails may also result in a computer virus or malware being downloaded onto a person’s device so it is important to be wary, especially if the email or text message is unexpected.
WhatsApp can also be used by criminals to trick people into parting with their money. A common fraud involves scammers sending a message, claiming to be a family member with a new mobile number. The criminals, pretending to be a family member, then message to say that, because their old phone has been lost or damaged, they are unable to access their bank accounts and need the recipient’s help to pay an urgent bill. People should always be cautious when someone contacts them asking for money, even if the request seem genuine.
Hacking is the term used when a criminal accesses a computer system or network, usually to gain unauthorised access to personal data. Hacking is often a precursor to fraud taking place.
Criminals will use a variety of techniques to access the data they want. Fraudsters can use social engineering to manipulate people into handing over passwords voluntarily. They may receive a fraudulent email, text message or visit a fake website with a link, where they will be asked to supply personal information or enter a password. This information is harvested by the criminals who use it to commit fraud or identity theft.
Hackers may also use a ‘trial and error’ method also known as brute forcing where they use a computer program to try to guess someone’s password which they can then use to access their account. If people use the same password repeatedly then the criminals can commit identity theft and take over all their online accounts.
Andy Dunbobbin, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales, said: “I am delighted to work with North Wales Police’s Economic Crime Unit on getting the message out there about how the people of North Wales can stay safe while shopping online. Cybercrime is an area of special interest for me, as I am also deputy lead for economic and cybercrime for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.”
“Unfortunately, if an offer looks too good to be true, it often is. I know that many people are struggling with rising prices at the moment and will be tempted by that great deal online.”
“But it’s vital when shopping online, that you take a couple of moments to Stop, Challenge, and Check. If we all follow a few simple tips, we could all save ourselves a lot of trouble further down the line.”
PC Dewi Owen of North Wales Police’s Cybercrime Team, which forms part of North Wales Police’s Economic Crime Unit said: “Ensuring that the public of North Wales are able to keep themselves safe and secure online and defend themselves from Cybercriminals is very important to us at North Wales Police’s Cybercrime Team.”
“We urge everyone to take a few minutes as the New Year approaches to ensure that they have strong passwords on all their accounts.”
“The secret to a strong password is having a long password and a simple way of ensuring this is to join three random words together to create a password that will be very difficult to hack.”
“We also encourage everyone to turn on 2-Step Verification (2SV) on their accounts as this adds an additional level of security to accounts. With 2-Step Verification turned on even if a Cyber Criminal has your password, they still won’t be able to access your accounts.”
“To find out more about staying safe and secure online visit the North Wales Police Cybercrime Team’s Facebook and Twitter pages.”
Tony Neate, CEO at Get Safe Online, the UK’s leading internet safety website, commented: “The internet is an amazing place, providing us with the opportunity to connect, have fun, shop and much more online – but it’s always sensible to be cautious of potential threats.”
“So, why not take the time to browse our comprehensive website and have a read of some of the useful tips and pieces of advice our experts share so you can use the internet safely and with confidence in 2023. Discover all you need to know at www.getsafeonline.org.”
What to do
Should the worst happen, and you fall victim to fraud, here are the steps to take and who you should contact.
Protect your accounts
If you have given out your bank details, even if no money is missing, contact your bank immediately. They can then act to protect your account and replace your bank cards to prevent fraudulent transactions.
If you have lost money, you may be entitled to a refund from your bank under the Contingency Reimbursement Model. For details visit www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk to see if you can make a claim.
Report a crime
If the fraud is in progress and there are suspects present report direct to North Wales Police on 101 or if it is an emergency dial 999.
Otherwise, you should report the matter to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk. Action Fraud are the national reporting centre for fraud across England and Wales.
Check your credit
If your personal information has been disclosed, it is recommended that you check your credit score. This will show you if your details have been used to open credit accounts in your name. It is good practice to check this periodically even if you haven’t been the victim of fraud.
If you are still concerned about identity theft you can join the CIFAS Protective Register. For a small fee you will be made aware if a credit account is opened in your name as additional security checks will be made directly with you. Find out more information at www.cifas.org.uk/pr.
Report suspicious calls, text messages and emails
You can report fraudulent phone calls, text messages and emails directly, even if you haven’t lost any money. This information is used by the National Cyber Security Centre and Ofcom to protect others.
To report a scam call text the word ‘Call’ followed by the suspect number to 7726, which spells out SPAM on your keypad.
To report a scam text forward the message to 7726. More information can be found at www.ofcom.org.uk.
You can report a suspicious email by forwarding the email to email@example.com. More information can be found at www.ncsc.gov.uk.
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