Following last month’s blog post on holiday scams, this month covers some of the other scams that seem to come around at the same time each year.
The scam merry-go-round.
Those of us who follow online security matters have noticed, over time, that some types of scam seem to follow patterns in their appearance. Some appear to crop up over and over again, at different times of the year, like the scam where ‘Microsoft’ are supposedly calling you to fix a problem you never knew you had, especially if you use a Mac! Other scams follow specific patterns and appear at certain times of the year, or in response to certain external influences. With this information in mind we can be on the lookout for these scams.
January and April are common times for HMRC related scams to appear online, either linked to payment deadlines for the self-employed or for the end of the financial year and the need to complete online tax returns. Be very wary of messages purporting to be from the HMRC asking you to confirm information by inputting your personal details to ‘update your account’ or to receive an online tax rebate. HMRC will not contact you in this way.
September, being the start of the academic year, is a popular time for scams related to student loans and higher education fees and charges. Be vigilant of ‘update your account’ messages, as the Student Loan Company will not contact claimants in this way.
Remember, most if not all of the bonafide companies and departments that scammers claim to be contacting you from or on behalf of, clearly state on their web sites that they will not ask you to update or provide personal information via emails.
Summertime brings its own series of events and hence scams.
Holiday related scams, such as credit and debit cards used abroad, foreign exchange related scams, flights, and accommodation and car hire related scams.
Music and other festival based scams around tickets, either ones you may have bought, or offering tickets to events that may be sold out, plus travel and accommodation.
Then there are regular scams that coincide with current affairs or popular causes.
News events can create their own scams, preying on people’s good will when there is a disaster requiring relief aid. So unless you have signed up to an official email or online newsletter, always go to the official charity web sites for details on how to support their causes.
Financial scams linked to, or based around, the mis-selling of financial products such as PPI or CPP. Once such a financial news story breaks, then the scams follow on soon after.
These events provide the scammers with a hook to base their communications as people are aware of the details and are therefore more likely to do what the scammers want them to do.
The rules for dealing with such emails are the same as for any other scam. If you have concerns about how genuine an email or message may be, then contact the company directly. Do not use any links, numbers email addresses or any contact details sent to you in the message. Instead go to the company’s web site from a known bookmark or typed in URL (watch those spellings!) and use the contact information on their web site. Often credit cards will have a fraud line number on the reverse for you to call.
You can check the ‘real’ address of a link by hovering your mouse pointer over the link and the ‘real’ address will pop up in the bottom left corner of your browser window. Try it with this example http://www.westminster.ac.uk/ or this one https://www.barclays.co.uk
Remember the adage ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is’ as scams are trying to influence you into doing something for the benefit of the scammer, not you!
IT Security Officer