How to Avoid Online Scams

My Data Protection Diary: “How to Avoid Online Scams”

Welcome back to the new instalment of My Data Protection Diary. I am excited to write this page enjoying the fabulous sunshine over UK at the moment. Soak up the sunshine and start to write new data protection nuggets, this is my mantra for this fascinating topic.

The Databasix team have just concluded an interesting networking session organised by Mike Foster and Ben Thompson, where Kellie Peters was a guest speaker. During this session, our Data Rockstar presented different tips to avoid online scams. Seeing the interest from a lot of the networking members, it took me a second to decide on my topic for my fourth data protection diary of 2021. Now I’m sharing more details about 'how to avoid online scams'.

Pen in hand, I immediately start my chat with Kellie and not just her... ☺

G.P.: What is an online scam and how can it present itself to users, Kellie?

K.P.: I love this topic and it is my pleasure to provide you with more information.

Providing an overview of what a scam is, represents an important step to understanding the topic properly. An online scam is an attempt to steal sensitive information or large sums of money from unsuspecting victims. These scams can take place through different avenues such as Doorstep (in person), Mail, Email, Phone and Text, or focus on particular areas such as Relationships, Identity theft, Investment and Pension.

The similarities between the fake source and the official one is so subtle that as an expert let me say that sometimes it is not that easy to recognize.
Online scams are now present across the digital and non-digital world, and with the pandemic, scam statistics have reached staggering numbers.

Flexible working or working from home has been a staple food for dark web pirates, especially if data protection systems were not updated in a timely manner during the transition.
Here are two or three examples of potential online scams:

  • Someone you do not know contacts you unexpectedly.
  • You suspect you are not dealing with a real company – for example, if there is no postal address.
  • You have been asked to transfer money quickly.

G.P.: What a useful answer, thank you. It is particularly important to identify the most 'popular' scam methods, because from your response and from one of our podcasts it emerged that online scams have reached impressive statistics and awareness can help reduce the risk of being caught out.

To provide more accurate statistics in relation to this topic, we welcome Jennifer Tonner, insurance expert, from the John Morgan Partnership Ltd.

G.P.: Jennifer during the Data Rockstar Coffee Pod, (episode 35), you mentioned an increase in some statistics regarding online scams. Which sectors are most affected? And what are the most impressive numbers?

J.T.: It is a pleasure for me to contribute to your blog. Here are three statistics on the sectors that are particularly affected, all showing higher percentages compared to previous years:

  • The NCSC reported more than 2,000 online scams related to coronavirus; 471 fake online shops selling fraudulent coronavirus related items, 555 malware distribution sites, 200 phishing sites seeking personal information such as passwords or credit card details and 832 advance-fee frauds. https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/news/public-urged-to-flag-covid-19-threats-new-campaign
  • Charities have been heavily targeted during the pandemic. One in three charities suffered a cyber-attack during the first 10 months of the pandemic, according to Ecclesiastical Insurance.
  • Looking at the ‘Tenable Research 2020 Threat Landscape Retrospective Report’, Healthcare registered the highest number of data breaches of any industry sector between January and October 2020, accounting for almost a quarter (24.5%) of all reported data breaches, ahead of technology (15.5%), education (13%), and the government (12.5%).
    As you can see Giulia, the numbers are impressive, and the monetary value is not far behind. For further tips about cyber attacks click here: (add podcast link).

G.P.: Thanks Jennifer for contributing to this instalment.

As the numbers shared by Jennifer are impressive, I just have to leave my last 'question' for Kellie.

What are the 5 tips you would share to help individuals avoid becoming a victim of a scam?

K.P.: I am passionate about data protection and I love helping people to secure their data, and therefore I can share with you the 5 best tips for avoiding scams online:

  • Always question unsolicited calls, texts or emails requesting your personal or financial information.
  • Listen to your instincts and be wary of unsolicited calls, emails or online ads offering deals that sound too good to be true.
  • Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected email or text.
  • The best way to contact a company is to use a known email or phone number, such as the one on the back of your bank card.
  • Installing, or enabling, antivirus software on your laptops and computers will protect them from viruses and hackers.

Let me tell you Kellie and Jennifer, what an interesting chat and very useful information for us all.

The statistics relating to online scams are incredible, but our expert's top tips are essential pills to reduce them!

I hope you enjoyed your cup of tea full of data protection tips.

Always a pleasure to see you!

Bring people and data together.

See you soon, Giulia xxx

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