Top tips to avoid falling foul of online fraudsters

Cyber crime has grown in its capability to do serious damage to both businesses and individuals.
Cyber crime has grown in its capability to do serious damage to both businesses and individuals.

With numerous businesses being targeted by cyber criminals in recent weeks and a continuous rise in threats from social engineering, keeping our personal and private information out of the wrong hands whilst working and socialising online is becoming increasingly difficult.

Cyber crime has not only grown in its capability to do serious damage to both businesses and individuals, it has also become so sophisticated that the difference between a legitimate request and a downright scam isn’t quite as apparent as it once was.

Jason Fry, IT security specialist and managing director at leading IT services and solutions company PAV i.t., provides his top tips for spotting the spoofs and staying one step ahead of the fraudsters.

It’s not always what it seems – even when you think it is

Believe that text is from your friend/boss/work colleague? Think again! Not content with creating mock email addresses to target their victims, cunning cyber criminals have discovered a way to send you a text that imitates the same telephone number as a person already listed in your contacts.

Jason says: “The fraudster is relying on the fact that because you ‘know’ the person on the other end you are much less likely to refuse any requests they make and be more reluctant to question their motives. This is particularly the case if it is someone in authority such as your boss.

“Always approach any text requests for money or fund transfers with caution – even if you think you know that person or they are telling you it’s ‘urgent’. Call and speak to them first to verify the message. Real urgency will nearly always come in the form of a phone call first rather than a text.”

Social scamming

Social media has become a revolutionary tool for connecting, networking and doing business, but with every new invention comes fresh ways for the con artists to catch their prey.

Jason says: “It may seem obvious but pay attention to the information you share on your social media pages. Particuarly your LinkedIn profile where you connect with colleagues and are more likely to display a contact mobile phone number. Fraudsters are actively searching for information so that they can piece the puzzle together and use it to their advantage. Be careful what you share and make sure you check and set your privacy settings accordingly to avoid getting caught out. Likewise, never connect with people you don’t know however genuine they may seem.”

Wifi witchcraft

Free public wifi is now a regular part of our daily lives. From coffee house to health club the convenience doesn’t come without risk.

Jason says: “Accessing sensitive information, such as bank accounts, over a public network should be avoided altogether. Because the information being shared on public networks is available to access by everyone, criminals can take advantage of this by intercepting data, such as passwords, as the information is being transferred from one computer to another.”

For more information about fighting online fraud, download PAV i.t.’s free cybersecurity booklet at www.pav.co.uk/cybersecurity.