Close up of a small jar with a christmas tree in, along with some craft supplies.

Fraud Awareness –

Protect yourself against fraud this Christmas

Everyone’s Christmas plans are being affected by the coronavirus pandemic. With more of us having to shop and communicate online, fraudsters are spotting new opportunities to steal our information and money.

Published

16th December 2020

Category

Buying goods and services online

Criminals may try to steal your data or your money by directing you to illegitimate web pages. You need to be alert to scams and to carry out your research before parting with your cash.

Make sure you protect yourself

  • Only make payments on secure websites – a padlock symbol in the browser window is a good indication of this.
    Padlock iconhttps://
  • Only use websites and brands that you trust.
  • If it is a new website or brand – undertake some research, do they have good reviews? Try to establish a physical address and telephone contact details.
  • It’s best to use a secure Wi-Fi connection – avoid public Wi-Fi.
  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. An item drastically under the expected price could be fraud or counterfeit. A savings rate significantly higher than what competitors are offering could be a scam.
  • Beware of criminals posing as genuine companies. Search for the company online (don’t click on any links you are sent) and call the number on the website to verify information you have been sent.
  • Avoid using direct bank payments/transfer to pay for products because you don’t have the same consumer protections.
  • Regularly check your bank statements – are there any transactions you don’t recognise? You will find it easier to monitor your transactions Your bank may send you a text message with a secure code for an online shopping transaction. If you receive one out-of-the-blue, call your bank immediately and do not repeat the secure code to anyone.
  • If you have any concerns, contact your bank immediately.

Protect your online banking

Criminals can use a variety of methods to gain access to your online banking or to persuade you to transfer money to their accounts. They may pretend to be a legitimate organisation such as your bank, the police or an energy or internet service provider. They can contact you out-of-the-blue by telephone or by email. 

Remember:

  • Your bank or the police will never ask you:
    • To transfer money to another account.
    • For your PIN number, online banking password or any passcode/SMS sent to your mobile.
    • To provide your One Time Passcode/SMS code over the phone.
    • To withdraw money and then give it to them for safe keeping.
    • To check the number called from matches their registered number (fraudsters can clone the number displayed on your device).
    • To set up a ‘safe’ account for you without asking.
  • Check any calls with an independent source, such as dialling the telephone number on the company website. Remember that fraudsters can keep the telephone line open, so it is better to call from another phone.
  • Don’t allow anyone to access your computer unless you are absolutely sure they are authorised to do so (e.g. they are from your company’s IT department). If someone does have access to your computer, do not log into online banking or any other accounts.
  • Use different passwords for different applications and online sites. If necessary, use a secure password app to store and create secure passwords.
  • If in doubt, speak to your bank by calling the number on the website, the number on your statement or by using established communication channels.
Close of of a laptop computer next to Christmas decorations

Romance scams

Digital dating websites and apps are often used as a platform for criminals. Romance scams involve criminals creating a perceived romantic bond with someone online before asking for money to help them in a difficult financial situation.

You can protect yourself:

  • Be alert to people who ask lots of questions about you but seem to avoid answering questions about themselves.
  • People who are keen to move communication away from dating websites could be a risk indicator as criminals do not want their conversations recorded on this type of platform.
  • If possible, try to perform a reverse image search to validate who the photo belongs to.
  • Do not share your personal data (full name, date of birth, home address) with people you do not know. In addition, be aware that some fraudsters might pretend to be someone you know to gather information from you.
  • Choose dating websites that allow you to keep personal contact information private until you are ready to share this information.
  • Be cautious about using your webcam - criminals may use any footage obtained against you.
  • Do not send or receive money from anyone you are connecting with via dating websites. Fraudsters will be very good at building confidence and telling convincing stories about why they need financial help.
  • It is important to trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, there is probably a reason.

Remember – not all scams take place online

Whilst online scams may be an increasing threat, it is important to remain vigilant to scams that operate in the physical world. 

 

Courier Fraud

Courier fraud is likely to start with a phone call from someone pretending to be from your bank or from the police. You may be informed that your bank account is being used by criminals and that you need to hand over either your bank cards or large sums of cash to either a courier or someone posing as a police officer. You may be told not to inform anyone in the bank, as bank employees are under suspicion. Criminals conducting these scams can be very persuasive and aggressive and may cause panic in order for you to act quickly.

Another variation is where a courier delivers a parcel addressed to you that you were not expecting. Shortly after, someone from the same courier company comes to your house claiming the parcel was delivered in error asking for it back. This scam involves expensive goods being ordered in your name and address, which are then picked up by a criminal shortly after being delivered.

  • The police or your bank will never ask for your PIN number or online banking password.
  • The police will never ask you to withdraw large sums of money to be given to them for safe keeping.
  • Your bank will never send a courier to your house to collect items such as bank cards, your PIN number, cash or cheque books.
  • Fraudsters may know personal information about you so don’t assume the caller is genuine. Call your bank using the number on the website, the number on your statement or by using established communication channels. Use a different phone if possible.
  • If someone tries to deliver a parcel you were not expecting; refuse to take it so it goes back to the sender.
  • If you have accepted delivery of the item; call the courier company to arrange collection. Make sure to get the courier details and time of collection. Don’t assume that because someone wears the uniform, they are employed by the company.
  • If someone is attempting to reclaim a parcel addressed and delivered to you and you are suspicious; call 999.
  • Don’t feel pressured to act - take time to investigate.
A Christmas wreath with red berries hanging on a front door.

For more information on how you can protect yourself, visit our Fraud Awareness page.