Brits to be ‘vigilant’ about energy bill scam ’emptying’ bank accounts

Rip Off Britain: Scam victim on knowledgeable' fraudsters

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With living costs on a steady incline, fraudsters are known to be taking advantage of it. Energy bills have been on the increase since the start of the year and while the Government issues a range of new household benefits to support families, it appears this is the new target topic area for scammers to strike.

The most recent scam, which targets people on the energy bills support scheme, is a legitimate-looking text message with a link to a Gov.UK website informing people they are eligible for financial support and taking their bank details.

Experts at Dojo are urging people to stay vigilant over these new phishing scams “that could see people emptying their personal and business bank accounts”.

Naveed Islam, chief information security officer at Dojo said: “Scammers are getting more creative with their deceit. With the rise in e-commerce accelerated by the global pandemic, seasoned fraudsters are seizing the opportunity to exploit the vulnerable and less-tech savvy.

“For the many people adopting technologies such as online banking and shopping for the first time during COVID-19, these frauds are incredibly convincing and traumatic.

“One of the more concerning aspects about these latest scams is that scammers are making it less obvious by not informing you about fees or payment until you click through on the link, meaning more people may unknowingly fall for the scam.”

However, while this rise is being monitored and managed by the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, Action Fraud, there are some ways Britons can protect themselves and minimise their risk of digital fraud in the short term.

Look out for 11-digit numbers

In most instances, text messages from legitimate businesses are sent from the business telephone number and do not come from unidentified mobile numbers.

Experts at EZ Texting said: “This is true even if the text body includes the name of the company, so don’t be fooled if a strange number claims to be from a recognized company.

“If you’re contacted by an unfamiliar number, we recommend ignoring, deleting, or blocking the number from your mobile device. This is the easiest way to avoid unwanted or unwarranted text messages from potentially stealing your important information.”

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Check the sender’s email address

Often scammers will use a suspicious email address that includes words that don’t relate to the company they impersonate or lots of numbers.

Mr Islam said: “Check for poor spelling and grammar, or mistakes to the company’s name. Although some fraudulent emails are highly sophisticated, many of them can be poorly worded and there are some tell-tale signs they’re not legitimate.”

Check the formatting of the email

A lot of companies send legitimate emails from a templated third-party system.

Mr Islam said: “Your favourite brands will often spend a lot of money making their emails branded and it can be difficult for scammers to replicate these email templates.

“So if you see plain-text emails with no branding – or brand logos replicated in low resolution, look back at your inbox to see if this matches the company’s typical communication designs.”

Don’t rush to action demands

Generally, scammers will try to create a sense of urgency and panic within the recipient. They tend to use scare tactics or threatening language to make them rush into doing something.

Mr Islam said: “Whether it’s clicking a suspicious link or providing personal data, you should take some time to review the email and research its legitimacy before taking any actions.

“If you’ve already clicked the link, check the URL straight away and do not login anywhere as scammers can capture your details to take over your account.”

Never send sensitive data via emails, or click online links from emails or SMS

If someone suspects they’ve been sent a phishing email, it’s advised not to click on any content within the email – and even not to open the email at all – especially if using a work email.

Mr Islam said: “Scammers often leave malicious links within the email that once clicked allow them to enter your computer’s system.”

In the instance the email is clicked, Mr Islam advises: “You should change your passwords immediately and check your bank accounts regularly to make sure no money has disappeared. If this happens, alert your bank immediately and they will guide you on further action.

“If you’re concerned about your work email account or laptop, you should contact your information security team straight away and flag your concerns. It’s always better to be cautious and vigilant when dealing with online security.”

Contact the company implicated

If people are sceptical that they may have received a fraudulent email or text, Mr Islam advises to reach out to that company to inform them and see further information. The company will be able to let people know within an instant if the communication received was legitimate.

Mr Islam said: “Often large brands will have dedicated teams investigating frauds affecting their customer base and damaging their brand reputation, so they will undoubtedly appreciate any information you can provide that can stop these fraudulent activities going forward.”

Mr Islam continued: “Ultimately if you have any doubt about the authenticity of a text message or email, it’s probably a scam.

“Your bank, or any other business or organisation, will never ask you to share personal information over email or text.

“Take a minute to think about the message; were you expecting it, have you checked for spelling mistakes and double-checked the sender’s address? If the email address from the sender doesn’t look like it’s from a genuine address, don’t click on it.

“If you think it is a scam, forward the email as an attachment to Action Fraud who will investigate. You should also report suspicious emails to report@phishing.gov.uk.

“Additionally, if you receive a suspicious SMS message, you should forward the message to 7726 so that the network provider can investigate the origin of the text and arrange to block or ban the sender if it’s found to be malicious.”

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