There doesn’t seem to be a day goes by, that the Computer Man doesn’t hear about a computer scam, where someone wants to get access to your computer and details. These scammers tend to rely on people who know very little about computers. A typical scenario is where someone pretends to be from a computer company such as Microsoft, claiming your computer is infected with a virus and they need access to your computer so they can fix it. The perpetrators then direct you to a fake website where they can gain access to your computer. Once this is done, they then have access to your documents and pictures, can delete files and even lock you out of your computer and demand money to unlock it.
There are many who would instantly recognise a scam phone call or email, but my concern is the less computer savvy people, who may be conned or bullied, especially over the phone. The Microsoft telephone scam happened to one of my older clients recently and this is what has prompted me to write this blog.
First things First
No stranger over the phone or otherwise, will never be able to tell you that your computer has a virus. If someone tells you that they need to fix your company because of a virus or Windows problem, do not give them any information and simply hang up the phone.
- A company such as Microsoft or other company, will never call you asking you to confirm your account, bank or other security details in full. If you are being asked for too many details and you have suspicions, do not give out any information. if necessary you can phone the company back and confirm it was them.
- If you end up phoning a company back to confirm that it was them phoning you, make sure the phone line is clear before you dial. Some scammers do not hang up straight away and can pretend to be the company you are phoning. They can be very clever and persuasive, so bare this in mind.
- Do not take everything the other caller says at face value. If you weren’t expecting a call from the company in question, be cautious and do not give out sensitive information.
- If you have any doubt in your mind, take the callers name and what department they are in and call back the company in question to very that you received a genuine call or not.
The more popular term for spam/scam emails is called Phishing (similar to the popular outdoor activity). Scammers are actively trying to deceive you by pretending to be from a reputable company and asking for account information and passwords.
There are email scams for every big company and popular website such as Facebook, Ebay, Amazon, Paypal etc... They can even come in guise of fake parcel deliveries, winning the lottery, account suspensions, password recovery, medical supplements, dating websites, the list is endless.
Spotting email scams
- A classic sign of a scam email is poor wording or grammar.
- Do not click on any links or pictures if you are unsure.
- Many scam emails are designed to panic or frighten you into clicking the links in the email, which then can lead you to a fake website. Examples of this are missed payments for credit cards or account suspension from somewhere like Ebay or Paypal. These are all false.
- Do not click on or open any attachments.
Examples of Phishing Emails
There are thousands of scam emails and it would be impossible to list them all here, but I've included a few examples to show what they look like.
Example of a scam tax refund email
Example of an Online Banking Phishing Email
Example of a TalkTalk Phishing Email
Example of a Paypal Scam Email
Example of an Ebay Scam Email
The hacking of customer details and banking details from TalkTalk, has been one of the biggest data breaches from an internet company to date. TalkTalk has advised all customers to change their passwords whether it be for emails or access to the Talktalk website. Please also monitor your bank accounts for any unusual activity or amounts that have been taken from your account, not matter how small. It is also advisable to talk to your bank and let them know you are a TalkTalk customer and have concerns about the data breach. They can monitor your account for any suspicious activity. Please also follow the advice in this blog to stay safe and to not respond to phone calls or emails that may claim to be from TalkTalk.
To summarise, the Computer Man advises caution and be very suspicious of phone calls and emails asking for sensitive account information. No matter how genuine something might seem, if you are unsure, do not give any information and phone the company back in question to be sure. The same goes for emails, if you weren't expecting contact from a company, even if it seems legitimate, treat it with caution. A little bit of extra caution will do you no harm and you will be wiser for it . Do not be intimidated by fear or the scare tactics that these criminals use.
The Computer Man's advice is to stay strong, be sensible and cautious. Tell your family and friends to be wary of any scams you come across and together we can make using the our computers as safe as possible.
Useful Web Links
The Action Fraud Police Website
The WHICH Guide to Email & Phone Scams
The Little Book of Big Scams by The Metropolitan Police (PDF File)
This has some good information on scams and frauds to watch out for.