The COVID19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way our world works. We’re socialising online more than ever before and communications have increased significantly since lockdown was implemented in March. Many organisations have moved their business online in order to reach people and scammers are taking advantage of this shift in behaviour. The list of possible scams is endless but there are some commonalities between them, making it possible for you to identify when fraudsters are at play.
A hacker or scammer can reach you through a number of channels including, but not limited to:
• Phone calls
• Any form of text message, SMS and WhatsApp.
• Social media platforms – through direct messages, posts, and comments.
• Malicious websites
• Pop-up ads
The most common form of scams is “phishing” which is the forgery of an email address in order to retrieve sensitive information, often used for financial gain. However, scammers can reach you in a number of ways and no channels are exempt. Keep this thought in mind, next time you’re scrolling through the Facebook comments of a public page, answering an unknown number or responding to a text message.
Scammers are known to exploit people’s goodwill by posing as fake charities, or capitalising on their need to save money during a time of financial instability with “specials”, “deals” or “vouchers” that are typically too good to be true. If you’re tempted to act on any deals or click on any links, ask yourself the following questions:
• Is this deal realistic? Trust your instinct and do thorough research – if the deal is legit then chances are it will be featured on the company’s website or social media pages. If that is not the case, call them using their number that you gained through a trusted source.
• Is this a recognised organisation? Once again, doing research is important. Every industry is different but chances are they will need some form of accreditation to operate legitimately or to claim a certain level of quality. Charities are required to register with the Department of Social Development and you can also source legitimate charities through platforms such as For Good or Back a Buddy.
• Am I being made to feel anxious about missing out? One of the biggest warning signs of a scam is that it’s written with an urgent tone making you feel like you would miss out if you didn’t take advantage of the deal immediately.
• Do I know this person? Scammers often imitate organisations using similar email addresses – always check that you are receiving the call or message from the correct email address, correct phone number, or social media page.
1. Never be hasty. Always double check the source of information, confirm the company’s contact details, and inspect all links by before clicking them. The best way to ensure you are visiting a legitimate website is to search for it yourself. However, you can also hover your mouse over the link – you should see the URL in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen. What does the link say and does it look legit?
2. Always look for the little padlock. Websites that are safe to enter sensitive information such as your banking details or contact information should feature a small image of a padlock in front of the URL. This means that the website is secure and can be trusted.
3. Never share your personal information. If you’re being asked for login details, banking information, passwords, or One Time Pins (OTP), then the chances are it is a scam. No legitimate organisation should ask you to share personal information of this nature.
Remember scamming is a criminal act – if you fall victim to a scam or suspect that someone is trying to scam you – report it to the relevant authorities and share your experience with others. Have you recently fallen victim to a scam? Email us at email@example.com and share your story with us.