With lockdown and shielding forcing us to stay at home, there are fraudsters ready to take advantage of the extra online traffic as well as turn up at your front door. Here's how to keep safe this festive season.
Citizens Advice say that doorstep scams account for about one in 20 scams, with older people more likely to be targeted. In fact, National Trading Standards report that 85 per cent of victims of doorstep scams are aged 65 and over.
If someone arrives at your door, be suspicious of anyone that turns up uninvited that may be trying to obtain money or your personal details to use in a fraudulent way.
Always ask them for ID and then call the company's phone number directly after looking for it online, rather than the number on their badge. If you have any doubts, do not allow them to come into your home and don't be afraid of saying that you're not interested, then close your door.
You may also want to think about smart security devices that were mentioned in Is a smart home a smart choice?
That's a few pointers about staying safe at home, but what about staying safe online?
In it's Annual Review 2020, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has reported that it handled 723 cyber security incidents; 200 of which related to Coronavirus. It also discovered and took down 166,710 phishing websites designed to look genuine but set-up to obtain your personal data.
Unfortunately, there are people willing to capitalise on the online shopping boom and take advantage of those that aren't cautious online.
There are steps you can take to keep yourself safe when you're online.
Take Five is a campaign that encourages you to 'take five' and:
- Stop - by taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information, you could help to stay safe
- Challenge - don't worry about rejecting, refusing or ignoring a request. Criminals will usually try to rush or panic you, but a genuine business will not
- Protect - if you're concerned that you may have fallen for a scam, you should inform your bank immediately
Safe online shopping
There are lots of ways we can all make sure we're being safe online when we're making purchases.
If you're using a website that you haven't used previously, you may want to do some research on websites such as TrustPilot to find out if they have a pattern of negative feedback.
Bigger brands are more frequently imitated by fraudsters who set up fake websites, so make sure you check the address in your browser's address bar to ensure you're on the correct website. Strange looking web addresses with a different spelling than you'd expect could be a sign of a copycat site.
'Too good to be true'
Of course, there's also the mantra that's true in the physical world; 'if it's too good to be true, it probably is'. Unscrupulous sellers may try passing off counterfeit goods as the genuine article, and without holding it to inspect, it can be difficult to know exactly what you're buying. So if the price seems too good to be true, or you've found a stock of something that is sold out everywhere else - especially around Christmas when there's a rush for the 'must have' toy - be careful.
There's a large online market for selling counterfeit goods and these can be hard to spot, even when you've got the product in your hand. But being aware of this and researching what the real thing would cost will give you an idea of when an offer seems too good to be true.
Entering your card details into a website that isn't secure is opening yourself up to having your details stolen as the information you enter could be intercepted over the internet.
- Look for the padlock symbol; this should appear on the left of the address bar, next to the website's address
- Check the website address; if it starts with 'https' your data is less likely to be intercepted
- Don't assume that a padlock or 'https' alone means that a site is trustworthy. Even fraudulent sites implement basic security to promote confidence
Extra peace of mind
Some banks, building societies and payment providers like PayPal are adding extra security when you buy online, including two-factor authorisation. You may even have experienced it yourself when you've been at an online checkout and asked to pass an extra level of security to check that it's really you trying to making the purchase. A popular method of two-factor authorisation is a code sent by text message or email.
If you're using a credit card to make an online purchase, section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act may provide protection on purchases over £100 and up to £30,000. This means the card provider has as much responsibility as the seller for faulty or undelivered items. The same protection does not apply if you use a debit card or a payment provider (even if you're funding the purchase with a credit card). It's worth checking the terms and conditions to make sure you understand whether any additional protection is included.
If you suspect that your card may have been used fraudulently (for example, you've seen purchases on your statement that you can't explain), you should tell your bank straight away so that they can prevent your card being used. You should also tell your other banks and building societies so that they can monitor any unusual activity on your account.
To find out what Secure Trust Bank does to protect your account, visit our Keeping You Safe Online page.