How to avoid being caught out by online scammers

Credit: PA

Cyber crime has risen 30% in the past 12 months since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Action Fraud.

The criminals are increasingly clever at duping us, so how to we protect ourselves from online fraud and scams?

ITV News asked Grahame Mace, Cyber Protect Officer at Devon and Cornwall Police, for some useful tips. He said it is easy to get caught out.

"People are getting tricked more by these sort of criminals," he said.

"Criminals have moved online as well because they know they can commit crime in a sort of bigger scale.

"If you imagine the traditional criminal might go in and rob a jeweller's or something. Instead of doing that now, a criminal can actually do millions of crimes at any one time by sending out emails."

  • Take your time

If you are shopping online or using an auction site, just take five minutes to think about what has been offered. Does it sound too good to be true? It probably is.

  • Research the seller or the website

Check out the feedback and search for reviews. The consumer review website Trustpilot can be a useful starting point.

  • Try a reverse image search

Credit: Google

This might sound complicated but it is just as easy as searching for anything online.

If you go to Google Images, for example, you get a little text box where you type the subject you want to search for. There is a camera icon to the right.

Click on that and you can copy and paste the picture or link it to the image on another website and it will search that image for you.

Grahame explained: "I've done this before. We all want a holiday apartment at the moment, don't we? Somewhere hot next year or when we are allowed to go.

"I actually came across one that was too good to be true. I searched the image but I found it on multiple websites and when I looked into that, I was able to see that these were just fake.

"It's a good way to spot these fraudsters online."

  • Should we look out for bad grammar or misspellings?

Not necessarily. Grahame continued: "Criminals are going to try every tactic they can and they've become very good at it in the last 12 months.

"We used to say to people, 'Look for that spelling or grammar on email or on that fake website', actually they've got very good at it now and they look really real.

"People come to me and say, 'Is this real?' and I say, 'Do you know what? I've got to look into that'.

  • Report it

Any cyber or fraud crime needs to be reported to Action Fraud.

This is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, which you should contact if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber crime.

You can go to the Action Fraud website or ring 0300 123 2040

  • Useful websites

Action Fraud - this is not only the place to report offences, it also provides information about cyber crime. Check out its A-Z of Frauds - it will give examples that may help you identify what has been happening to you.

Cyber Aware - the Government's advice on saying safe online. It suggests six steps to improve your online security.

Take Five - To Stop Fraud - national campaign offering straightforward and impartial advice to help everyone protect themselves from financial fraud. It includes some of the latest scams to look out for.

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