BY JOHN ELLIS, FINANCIAL ADVISOR
WHEREVER there is even the slightest opportunity of making some easy money, you may be sure that criminals lie ready to pounce. The internet opens up many such opportunities, and charlatans appear to be waiting around every virtual corner with the latest online scam.
Especially at Christmas time when our minds are full and busy we can easily be taken in by a seemingly great opportunity or special online offer. According to recent bank research people looking for games’ consoles, bicycles and clothing are at a higher risk of encountering a scam.
Payment in advance scams
Social media platforms, online marketplaces and auction websites are increasingly being used by criminals, where a customer pays in advance for goods or services that do not exist and never received. More that €27m was lost to these frauds in the first half of this year.
Phishing is one of the most common cyber threats around. Phishers take on the guise of someone trustworthy – a bank, finance company, even friends or colleagues – in an attempt to get you to hand over information, usually financial details, or get you to click a malicious link via email or messaging apps.
Smishing (phishing by SMS)
The Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection are the two highest-profile public organisations that have been impersonated in recent months as part of phishing attempts made via SMS (text messages). You receive a SMS from an unknown number telling you are entitled to the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment for instance.
When you click on the link, you are then asked to provide your bank account details., which you do and what little you have disappears!
Many are genuine but be very careful as cyber-criminals are creating their own versions, which contain a virus (malware) that will embed itself onto your device without your knowledge and then silently collect personal data.
You receive a call from a number that is vaguely familiar, quite like your own in fact or from your bank or a Government department and you call it back and find you are calling Guam! You hang up at a small financial cost but behind it all is a software package that masks, and changes numbers making tens of thousands of calls to people every day and each little victory rakes in hundreds of thousands of euro for the scammers.
Tech support scam
Tech support impersonators contact you to tell you that your computer or device is infected. Then prompt you to download an application that lets them control your computer remotely. These cybercriminals download actual viruses or give the illusion that something is wrong with the device. Then, they ask for money to fix the problem.
How to spot and deal with the scams.
Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information. It is OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or stress you.
Remember Microsoft, Google, Apple etc will never ever call you to tell you that something is wrong with your computer.
Banks will never ever call and look for your online details especially passwords and usernames.
Review your emails and texts carefully. Look for inconsistencies like misspelled names, especially poor grammar in the text and links that don’t lead to the place they should.
Similarly, beware of any tech support that charges large sums of money to fix your PC or Mac. The costs are often half or more of what your device is worth. Better go to your local computer whizz for support.
If you think you’ve fallen for a scam contact your bank immediately and report it to the Garda Fraud department.
Use the likes of PayPal or Revolut for online payments. Revolut will issue you a virtual card and when used is destroyed and replaced with a new card for your next transaction. Give yourself a Christmas present, a comprehensive protection solution like Norton 360 which will add layers of protection to your online banking, social media and internet browsing.
Remember the old adage: “If it is too good to be true, then it usually is.”
John@ellisfinancial.ie – 086 826263