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Avoiding Scams in the Digital World

Updated: Mar 14


Welcome back to my monthly column designed to help you navigate the digital world safely. This month - recognising and avoiding online, e-mail and telephone scams.

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected the risk of falling victim to online, e-mail and telephone scams is growing.  Scams come in various forms, but they typically aim to trick individuals into providing personal or financial information, clicking on malicious links, or sending money to fraudsters. These scams often prey on emotions such as fear, urgency, or curiosity to manipulate victims.

Common types of scams

  • Phishing e-mails or messages: Fraudulent emails or messages disguised as legitimate messages from trusted organisations including Banks, HMRC or the NHS. These usually request you to send sensitive information or prompt you to click on malicious links. These links take you to fake, but increasingly realistic websites where you are asked to enter your personal details or even bank details or passwords. A few years ago I would have said that these e-mails and messages are fairly easy to spot because of obvious errors in spelling or grammar, but scammers are now employing AI (artificial intelligence) to create e-mails, messages and websites for them making them virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.

  • Malicious e-mails: Some e-mails, known as spam or junk may have a link or file attached for you to click on or open. Opening these links or downloading the files may harm your device. Often these files are disguised as invoices, orders or receipts. If you receive an e-mail from someone that you don’t know or weren’t expecting be cautious and if in doubt just delete it.

  • Grandparent scams: Fraudsters often impersonate a grandchild, child or friend in distress, claiming to be in trouble and urgently needing financial assistance. They often exploit the victim's emotions and urgency to extort money. These scams can come by e-mail, text message or other means. Often they will request that you send them money digitally or purchase Amazon or other gift cards.

  • Fake websites: Scammers create fake websites which look official and persuade you to provide personal or financial information. For example, a scammer might create a fake website for the bank you use, and ask you to update your account or security information on it. Often, these websites can look very convincing and only a few details might be different. There are also websites set up to look like a copy of services offered by government websites and other organisations. For example, websites that offer to help you apply for a passport renewal or a new driving licence. Although they aren't illegal, these websites charge extra money if you use them, rather than going directly through the official government department where the service is free.

  • Lottery or prize scams: Scammers inform victims that they have won a lottery or prize but must pay taxes, postage or fees to claim their winnings. In reality, there is no prize, and the victim ends up losing money.

  • Tech Support Scams: Unsolicited phone calls or pop-up messages claiming to be from tech support services or anti-virus software, warning of fictitious computer problems or viruses and urging the victim to click on a link or provide remote access to their device or pay for unnecessary services.

  • Romance Scams: Predators create fake online profiles on dating websites or social media platforms to form romantic relationships with older adults, ultimately exploiting them for money or personal information.

  • Phone calls: Scammers call pretending to be from Microsoft, BT, banks, credit card companies or even The Internet! You might think it too much of a coincidence that a call from your own bank is from a scammer but remember these are sometimes entire call centres phoning tens of thousands of people a day in the hope that the person who picks up the phone banks with the institution they are pretending to be from.

In conclusion trust your instincts. If you receive an unexpected or suspicious call, email or message don't give out your details or open any links or documents. If they claim to be from an organisation that you use phone them directly using the phone number found on their official website or paperwork that you already have and confirm whether it is legitimate.

About Me

I'm Chris Walton, I live in Marnhull and I can help with many of the problems that people experience with personal and home technology. I have over 35 years' experience teaching people of all ages and all skill levels to use a wide variety of technology and software both in the workplace and at home. I provide patient and friendly training carried out at your own pace, in your own home and at your convenience.  You can find out more at www.oakdigitalsolutions.co.uk  or on my Oak Digital Solutions Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61555622983424

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