How can we spot online fraud and identify it?
The main rule to avoid being a victim of cyber-fraud is one of the general rules of life; if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
If your gut instinct tells you there is something a bit ‘fishy’ about a friend request; or an offer that you need to respond to within 10 minutes or it will expire, then listen to your gut.
Cyber-criminals socially engineer us by putting us under pressure to perform in a certain way, to benefit them, within a short time slot.
If this happens, you should adopt the Take Five approach.
This could be waiting five minutes, five days or five weeks, before reacting to the pressure, while you take all the time that you need to consider if it is a genuine offer or not.
Does the website address take you to where it says it is going to take you, or to a long-winded address you have never heard of?
When we look up items and information online on Amazon, for example, we can often find that when we open another tab to check our Facebook or Instagram page, an advert pops up that is relevant to the exact thing we have been looking at buying on the apparently unrelated Amazon website, just moments before.
This can appear to the untrained eye as just being ‘a bit spooky’.
But it is not a coincidence; it is engineered through code and you revealing your own shopping behaviour.
It is all part and parcel of the internet keeping cookies and traces about you and your interests through your browser history and it can make life easier for cyber-criminals who can access your data.
Your browser history traces where you have been and whom you have bought from previously. Fake websites can mimic the popular online shopping ones and lure you in to make transactions.
We can get used to the fact that we get offers that are very relevant to us. In turn, because we are so used to this happening, it no longer comes as a surprise if someone phones us up out of the blue and starts to talk about things we are interested in and we then make a ‘connection’ with them.
But this stranger on the phone, claiming to share common ground based on random tit-bits of information to gain our trust, may actually be a hacker trying to steal our assets. They could have connected up to us as a friend, through a few mutual friends, on Facebook or Linkedin for example.
Who can honestly say that they really know all their friends, colleagues and contacts on all of their social media sites?
A combination of a quest for more contacts, frequent interaction and openness on social media platforms, has allowed this to happen. So when we find that criminals are now tracking us too, a lot of the blame comes down to ourselves.
You don’t leave your car unlocked, or your front door open for burglars.
You shouldn’t leave your internet channels open and without unique and secure passwords either.
If you leave your social media settings open, without attending to the privacy settings, any cyber-criminal, anywhere, can possibly find out where you live and work and access your identity and potentially your passwords too.
When it comes to stopping criminals taking our assets and preventing companies from tracking us to target us for sales, a lot of the responsibility comes down to ourselves.
Fraud and cybercrime have been rising during the Covid 19 pandemic.
Some of this is because burglaries and drug dealing have become harder for criminals in lockdowns, when most people have been confined to their houses and movement has been restricted.
If you want to make sure you are completely cyber-safe, you should look at how you can completely lockdown your social media life to strangers.
If you want to stay on social media to maintain contacts, it could be best to filter them down to the select and trusted few.
And adjust your privacy settings on every platform that you use, especially if an app has been upgraded because sometimes the privacy settings change.
For example, the Facebook app on your phone can change every two weeks and they can alter areas that affect your privacy settings.
Why not have a ‘spring clean’ of your social media contacts? There are bound to be a few in there that you don’t really need.
Take the time to check all of your privacy settings on all of your devices and all of your accounts. Make sure they are closed and secure from strangers.
Treat internet security in a similar way to home security; you make sure all of the windows and doors are locked before you go to bed, so make sure all your accounts are safe and secure as well
Detective Constable Gareth Jordan has been a police officer for 13 years and prior to that, was employed in the IT and Pre-Press and Print sector.
Gareth is now based at Police HQ in Carmarthen and has been involved in investigating all forms of crime that have a cyber-element to them.
He has a wealth of knowledge regarding Cyber Security and continues to expand this by being involved in the day-to-day investigation of cyber-based crimes.
Gareth knows about the latest cyber scams and can explain how they are carried out – and more importantly – how you can avoid falling foul of them.