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Scam alert – protect yourself online

by Guy Murphy

From banking to shopping, and streaming to social media, people are spending more time than ever online. It’s important we stay safe and secure online.

There’s a few simple steps – Stop Challenge Protect – we can all take to protect ourselves online and prevent us from falling the victim to online scams.

Stop  – take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or sharing information could keep you safe. Ask yourself if the message is claiming to be from someone official, have you been told there is limited time to respond, does the message make you panic, fearful, hopeful or curious? Check the message is genuine. If you have any doubts, contact the organisation directly. Don’t use contact details contained in the message.

Challenge – could it be fake? It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore requests, particularly around sharing your personal or financial information. Don’t feel pressured – only criminals will try to push or panic you. You can contact the company the sender is claiming to represent directly via phone rather than replying to their email. Remember banks will not ask you to reply to emails with personal information or details about your account.

Protect – contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve been scammed or report it to Action Fraud online or call 0300 123 2040.

Fake direct debit emails

Scammers often pretend to be someone or an organisation you trust.

You might receive an email claiming to be from your bank informing you that a new direct debit has been set up. The email will look real, and will include links to click on to confirm your details.

This email is a fake email known as phishing. Criminals use fake messages to get you to click on links in order to get sensitive information such as your bank details.

You should always question unsolicited calls, texts or emails requesting your personal or financial information (name, address, bank details, email or phone number).

Instead, contact the company directly using a known email or phone number.

What to do if you receive a suspicious message

If you receive a message and it makes you suspicious, you should:

Stop – don’t click on, or use any numbers or addresses in the message

Contact the organisation directly – go online and use the details on their official website

Report the suspicious email to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or use their online reporting tool.

What can I do to protect myself online?

Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed. Ensure your browser is set to the highest level of security and monitoring to prevent malware issues and computer crimes.

Always install the latest software and app updates on all of your devices. Protect your email account with a strong, separate password and enable two-factor authentication (2FA) where possible.

Use a strong password. Combining 3 random words that each mean something to you is a great way to create a password that is easy to remember but hard to crack.

Do not use words that can be guessed (like your pet’s name). You can include numbers and symbols if needed. For example, “Hippo!PizzaRocket1”

More information

You can find out more about keeping yourself safe online, or reporting scams on the following websites:

Action Fraud

National Cyber Security Centre – report internet scams and phishing – GOV.UK