I’m getting a bit fed up of spam and scam emails, calls and texts. Pfft. It’s incessant. And it shows no signs of slowing down/stopping soon. I can enter a code thing on my landline to block repeated calls from nuisance numbers, but only when they’ve already rung me once. My mobile is very good at detecting spam callers and I can block them with the touch of one key. Email is where it gets trickier.
Scams by email are cyber-crime. According to Action Fraud, Fraud is when trickery is used to gain a dishonest advantage, which is often financial, over another person. Cyber-crime is any criminal act dealing with computers and networks.
I’ve got good filters on both work and personal emails, and (I think) good blockers set by my ISP (internet service provider), BUT, I do still have to regularly check my junk folders because sometimes legitimate emails go in there for one reason or another.
Tip – some ISPs/email filters don’t like the word FREE so don’t use it in your email subject line or body copy if you can avoid it.
Most spam/scam emails, or maybe the ones that have been around for a while, are easy to spot.
Someone asking you to send money due to an unfortunate incident overseas – scam.
A lengthy tome explaining how you are the lucky beneficiary of an inheritance from a wealthy war veteran – scam.
Your bank/online shopping/favourite retailer has been hacked and you need to change your password – quite probably a scam. (Tip – Do check for ‘If you didn’t ask to reset your password, you can disregard this email’.)
Others are much harder to spot.
Check the email address – is it a long string of letters and numbers? A Gmail, yahoo, Hotmail address? A legitimate business name but with the addition of letters and numbers? – probably scammers.
Is it asking you to download something via a web link with an unusual URL? – probably (maybe) scammers.
Is the copy full of typos and/or written in clunky English? – probably scammers (though legitimate businesses do of course make occasional mistakes!)
Does the copy contain an offer that sounds too good to be true? It probably is and therefore – probably scammers.
Just before Christmas, I got the most sophisticated piece of scam or spam email I’ve ever seen. It was from a legitimate organisation. The email address matched the organisation name (cuffs and collar is a good thing to check too). It was asking me to submit a pitch, for an area of work that I’m suitably qualified to, and asked me to download something from a link as the file size was large. This is not unusual in itself. The link though was blocked my ISP and came with a warning. I contacted the company, by email, by tweet, by phone (tenacious as ever), and got nada nish reply. I still don’t know if they were hacked or what/how this spam/scam landed in my inbox but heck, I did try to tell them, and in the end I decided to let it go.
HMRC are doing a good job of letting people know about the increase in scam emails, calls and texts and say “If someone gets in touch claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or that you’re owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, please don’t respond. You can forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC email@example.com and texts to 60599.”
The National Cyber Security Centre also has six essential steps to keep you and your business secure online at CyberAware.gov.uk.
Everyone is susceptible and vulnerable when it comes to cybercrime – bookmark this and keep safe online.