Q&A Internet scams and how to avoid them: AbilityNet Live

Thanks to everyone who joined our AbilityNet webinar on How to spot a scam and avoid it. 

Unfortunately, we couldn't answer all the Q&A during the session and so here is a brief Q&A based on the questions that came through. 

1. How do you define a victim?

The panellists discussed this question, and you can watch a recording of the webinar. It's a good question. Often, we don't know we have had personal information stolen, or have clicked on a link we should have avoided. As Katie Lips' from Which? Said, the best advice is to "trust your gut". If you're worried you make, have clicked on a fake banking email then find an official communication from them such as a printed bank statement and give them a call.

Also, to echo the advice from Sarah Sinden of Take Five, your bank would rather hear from you, so give them a call as soon as you have a cause for concern. 

2. Reporting a scam is not made easy by the various organisations- I found lots of time that the various websites tend to pass you on to someone else if it not their "type" of scam.

You're right; it's a tricky area to navigate. If you think your financial information has been compromised then call your provider straight away. 

Other useful contacts referenced in the webinar include:

AbilityNet:  Call us on 0800 048 7642 during UK office hours, Monday – Friday or contact us by email: mailto:enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk

Scams factsheet: abilitynet.org.uk/factsheets/internet-scams-and-how-avoid-them

We continue to recruit volunteers to use their IT skills to help people in their homes. www.abilitynet.org.uk/at-home/join-our-volunteers 

Adapt your tech with My Computer My Way: https://mcmw.abilitynet.org.uk/

Action Fraud: You can report and get advice about fraud or cybercrime by calling 0300 123 2040

Age UK Useful resources:

Friends Against Scams: is the National Trading Standards awareness campaign. Become a friend by completing the awareness session online or watching the eight-minute scams video. 

GetSafeOnline: is an authoritative resource for individuals and small businesses to help them stay safe, secure and confident online. The not-for-profit organisation has close ties with many police forces and MoD organisations. 

Take Five: Take Five offers straight-forward and impartial advice throughout the UK to help everyone protect themselves from preventable financial fraud. takefive@ukfinance.org.uk.

Which?: Which? Offers free advice and support to protect you from scams and get your money back if you’ve fallen victim. We have articles on all sorts of scams, how to spot them and what to do if you suspect a scam. We also offer a free weekly Scam Alert Service via email where scam alerts are delivered directly to your inbox.

3. I often hear this advice to check the English/grammar on emails. That’s really difficult for ESOL learners, any tips to help them?

What a great question. You could paste the text into a document such as Microsoft Word with a built-in spell check and see if there are lots of spelling and grammar errors. An easier spot might be that scammers will often use capital letters, and exclamation marks to create the sense of urgency we discussed in the webinar. If alarm bells are ringing, don't respond straight away.

Is there someone who can look it over for you? Is this someone who you'd normally expect communication from? If so, find an official number and call them. And, if it's an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

4. The scammers are now using geographical 01 numbers and mobile style numbers as well.

You're right. Scammers are incredibly sophisticated in their techniques. With a call, ask if you were expecting someone to call you? Do you have a relationship with them? You can always hang up and call back on a number you have. If they're the real company, they won't mind. If it's an unsolicited call and they are pressurising you to do something you're not sure about then politely hang up. 

5. Does “Which” publish a newsletter?

As above, Which? has a scams alert newsletter you can sign up for. 

6. I have worries about allowing remote access

This is completely understandable. The risk, however, lies not with the software but with the scammers who abuse this (as they do other available technology) as a way of exploiting vulnerable people. We do not stop using email because we may get a rogue one. AblityNet ahs had great success supporting people remotely using TeamViewer, for example.

As with the other tips, it's about whether the organisation is known to you and if you were expecting a call; if you weren't, alarm bells should ring. 

Should someone call claiming to be an AbilityNet volunteer and you have any concerns then call our Helpline using the number on our website, and listed above. 

None of our volunteers will remotely access your computer without your permission, and if you're not comfortable receiving support this way, we'll try and resolve the issue without it.

7. I've seen a lot of budget phones sold on amazon/EBay/wish running the likes of android OS; they have excellent specs for such a low cost. These phones have been delivered and in the purchases hand. Would you consider these phones to be a security risk as the software can be built into the OS and not be removed? And have you seen any issues like this?

Image shows a smartphone. It is turned off and there is nothing on the screenI'd separate this question onto a few parts. In terms of buying second hand, it's a big market, and there are many legitimate sellers. On Ebay you can check feedback and sellers' ratings. By law, you have more rights buying from a company (many specialise in refurbishing technology) than you do in buying from a private seller and so you may wish to buy from a company trading on Ebay. 

As mentioned in the webinar, don't be lured into paying by a means not recognised within the platform.

It's less prevalent now, but there was a time when lots of scammers lurked on Ebay and tried to get you to pay via Western Union and used this as a means to scam individuals. I'm not aware of phones being sold with spying or erroneous software on them, but they may be vulnerable if the previous owner was hacked. 

Refurbished phones will probably be reset to factory settings, and if they aren't, we'd recommend you do this, yourself.

8. My computer skills are not good; perhaps that is why I over worry, and in my city, there is no provision for pensioners to get tuition.

AbilityNet volunteers offer FREE support to older and disabled people. Call our Helpline on  0800 048 7642 during UK office hours, Monday – Friday or contact us by email: mailto:enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk. 

A tip from the Q&A

The Metropolitan Police have published an e-booklet which contains lots of good advice about specific threats and how to prevent them.