Staying safe online
Since the first lockdown of the pandemic, we’ve grown increasingly comfortable conducting our lives online. But should we be?
For many of us over the last couple of years, being able to socialise and shop online have been a lifeline. But the shift from cash to digital transactions has also proved a boon for scammers.
UK Finance reports that impersonation fraud has almost doubled to nearly 40,000 reported cases over the last year. This is where criminals pretend to be a legitimate company and get in touch asking for personal information from you, including your bank details.
Examples include text messages pretending to be from Royal Mail asking you to click on a link and enter your bank details so you can pay additional postage or delivery fees. If you received that text and were actually expecting a delivery, how easy would it be to assume that message was genuine?
While some links in emails or text messages take you to websites that ask you to make payments, clicking on others installs hidden malware on to your device that can steal your passwords, giving criminals access to all areas of your life, including your bank account.
How do I know if I’ve been scammed?
While every scam is different, every scammer has one common goal – to separate you from your money. Sometimes, though, it’s not immediately obvious that you’ve been scammed. The following could be signs that you have been:
- You’ve transferred money for investments or financial services and you’re unable to retrieve it
- You’ve transferred money to a person or company and now they can’t be contacted
- Items you’ve purchased don’t arrive.
Identity fraud means you don’t even have to engage directly with the scammer – watch out for the following tell-tale signs:
- You find unexplained transactions on your bank account or credit report that you don’t remember actioning
- You’re rejected for credit even though you’ve got a good credit history – it’s worth checking your credit history regularly just to make sure no-one’s trying to take out credit in your name.
While banks are working closely with the police to beat online fraud – together they managed to stop £45.3 million of fraudulent transactions leading to over 200 arrests in 2020 – you must still be vigilant.
Always think before you part with money or personal information online. If someone you’d just met in real life asked you to invest in the same thing, would you believe them? Be just as circumspect online. And, remember, it’s OK to reject or ignore any unsolicited requests – only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
Can I get my money back if I’ve been scammed?
The simple answer is sometimes, but not always.
The first thing you should do is to call the bank that the money was taken from. While there’s no guarantee that your bank will reimburse you, they will investigate on a case-by-case basis.
If you bought something for more than £100 on a credit card, you’re covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This means your credit provider is jointly and severally liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation of goods with the retailer. So if the retailer won’t refund you, then your credit provider should.
You won’t be covered by Section 75 if you used your debit card, but you could try to claim your money back under the chargeback scheme, an extra layer of protection offered by some debit providers to support victims of scams. Rules vary between providers.
Unfortunately, if you transferred your money using sites like PayPal, Western Union or Moneygram, you generally can’t get your money back once it’s left your account.
- Safety tips
- Don’t click on links in text messages or emails – check URLs online to see if they’re genuine
- Contact companies directly using a known email or phone number
- Forward suspicious emails to email@example.com
- Forward suspicious texts to your mobile network provider
- Never give remote access to your computer following an unsolicited call or text
- And finally, if you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, call your bank immediately and then file a report with Action Fraud at reporting.actionfraud.police.uk