Advice for avoiding scams and fraud
While it might feel difficult to avoid internet scams and fraud, there are measures you can take to protect yourself.
- Update your computer and phone: ensure your operating system and antivirus software is up to date prior to going online. Patches and updates can sometimes contain important protection against scams.
- Strong, unique and changing passwords: avoid the temptation to use easy-to-remember passwords that are duplicated across sites. If your password is hacked and you have used it across multiple sites, you could be leaving yourself more exposed. Also, change your passwords regularly and make them strong, such as including numbers, letters, capital and sentence case letters and unique characters e.g., -*&_#, etc. You could use a trusted password generator such as LastPass.
- Don’t give personal information: such as your password, PIN or national insurance number. Most genuine companies will request only a part of your password to ensure it remains secure. Also, be wary if you are asked for abstract personal information such as primary school or first pet as these details can be used to guess passwords or password reminders to hack into your accounts.
- Avoid clicking or downloading: from an unrecognised source as this could infect your computer with a virus. Visit their website to access it from the source. Some antivirus software can scan to see how safe attachments are.
- Check website security: if you are online and about to enter personal details ensure you are on a secure site by checking the address has "HTTPS://" in front of the "WWW" not "HTTP://" as this indicates a more secure data encryption, which is required for processing personal data. An easy way to remember this is to remember that the "S" stands for "secure."
- Secure Wi-Fi and VPN: never join a public Wi-Fi connection that you are unsure of and doesn’t require a password as these are likely to be less secure than your own network i.e., 3G, 4G or 5G. You could add another layer of protection by initiating a Virtual Proxy Network (VPN) which hides your browsing information and makes it difficult for others to monitor your online activity. These are software-based and can be purchased from a variety of online services or sometimes included in your browser.
- Check company registration or trusted reviews: when purchasing from an unfamiliar online retailer, check if the company is registered on Trustpilot or on GOV.UK. Trustpilot is especially helpful for checking reviews of a company or retailer. Avoid relying on reviews listed on an unfamiliar retailer’s website as these may be fake and planted to give the impression of a trustworthy retailer.
- Sign up for Telephone Preference Service: which will screen out cold callers, helping you identify that any unknown number is more likely to be unsolicited.
- Find out about recent scams: which will help you identify the signs to look out for. Subscribe to the Trading Standards email alert service and Action Fraud’s service to keep up to date.