2020 was a scary year for everyone, full of uncertain times and health paranoia. People have taken many questionable steps out of pure fear to keep themselves safe, regardless of whether these steps were backed up by science. While the coronavirus has been spreading around the world, so too have online scams. People have been so preoccupied with trying to keep their health safe that they’ve opened themselves up to a whole world of online scams.
A rise in online scams
2020 saw a huge rise in reports of scams targeting victims online. Research has found that in 2020 Authorised Push Payment (i.e. when you authorise payment by typing in your details) fraud accounted for £479 million in losses, up 5% from the previous year. However, the good news is that banks were able to return £206.9 million which was over three quarters more than what was returned in 2019. Banks were also able to block £7 out of every £10 of attempted unauthorised fraud, saving £1.6 billion of losses.
Impersonation scams have almost doubled in 2020, which is the largest increase of all scam types. You may have seen emails claiming to be from the government offering support but needing you to sign up with your details, or texts requesting payment before receiving a vaccine.
Another incredibly common scam has seen people receiving fake delivery notification texts from scammers pretending to be Royal Mail or various other parcel delivery companies, attempting to cash in on the rise in online shopping. While you would assume that people would think “but I haven’t ordered anything” and ignore the message, it’s not that simple.
The aim of these scams is to catch people that are actually waiting for deliveries so that they’ll believe it and click on the link without thinking. It’s also an issue for companies or freelancers that sometimes receive packages from clients with no prior notice, such as sample packs. This all leads to delivery notifications being a very effective scam.
It’s easy to get caught out
With a huge surge in the number of scams over the past year, as well as an increase in the variety of different scams, even people that consider themselves tech-savvy are being caught out. Some scams, like paying for a COVID-19 vaccine are meant to prey on the elderly or more naive, but others (particularly delivery scams) are catching out people that thought they were immune having grown up as the smartphone generation. So, how do you avoid getting scammed?
First of all, stop and think. It sounds obvious, but if you’re expecting a parcel you’re probably so used to getting texts from the delivery company that you would just click on the link without thinking, and that’s exactly what the scammers want you to do.
First of all, does the text read right? If you can, compare it to previous texts from parcel companies that you know are real. Usually, the delivery notification says what parcel the company is from and will give a time for delivery. Check the number that the text is sent from – parcel companies usually have a shorter number or the text will say “Royal Mail” or “Parcelforce” rather than a number. If it begins in 07 it’s not definitely a scam but it could be. If you’re unsure, check your email to see if you’re due any parcels. If not, ignore the text and don’t click any links.
Email scams have also been on the rise in the past year and are also catching out the tech-savvy generation, simply because they aren’t checking for fraud before clicking the link and logging in. If you receive an email from anyone, whether you think it’s real or not, you should check the address it’s sent from. It should always match the domain of the company it’s claiming to me from – @paypal.com for example. Check for any subtle spelling mistakes like “paypall” Or paypai” because scammers are hoping that you’ll look quickly and assume it’s genuine. If an email ever asks you to log into your account to check something then go directly to the website from your browser and log in, rather than clicking a link in an email.
Always double check before you go ahead
If you’re planning on using a new website or online service and you need to enter in any of your personal details, always check they’re legit before you go ahead. It can be easy to assume that a website that looks good is the real deal, but realistically it could have been set up by anyone and you don’t want to be sharing your bank details with any service unless you are sure.
Promises of great bonus offers and promotions sound enticing, but you should also check user reviews to confirm the iGaming site you’re using is one that other people have had success with. A quick search on Google or even social media platforms will tell you if people are talking about the service you’re looking to use. People often want to shout out about a bad service or experience they have had so if the website you’re interested in has a dodgy past you’re likely to be able to find people talking about it when you search online.
There’s no doubt that online scams are getting more sophisticated and harder to tell apart from genuine emails or texts. No matter how convinced you are that it’s a genuine email, you should always stop and think for a second. Does the email address look right? Does it read as you would expect it to? Is your gut telling you that something isn’t quite right? Scammers are getting better at what they do but it is possible to avoid them fairly easily, just as long as you don’t click on anything or hand over details without looking.