North Wales residents urged to watch out for online scams over Christmas
People living in North Wales are being urged to be on their guard against online scams over Christmas.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin and the North Wales Police Economic Crime Team are calling on the public to take some simple steps to protect themselves from internet-based fraud.
They are asking people to:
Stop – Take your time and think twice before clicking links or opening attachments.
Challenge – If you receive any contact that is unusual or unexpected, contact the individual or organisation to make sure it is genuine.
Check – Check your credit score and bank statements regularly to spot any irregularities.
Shopping and selling online
Criminals regularly target victims who shop online, both as buyers and as sellers especially at Christmas, and there is a wide range of tactics criminals use to target their victims.
This fraud type can include fake or cloned websites that are designed to mimic a legitimate company.
Fraudsters may also set up companies offering inferior or counterfeit goods for sale online at high prices which may include fake reviews or unrealistic claims.
Auction sites are regularly misused by fraudsters in a number of ways, so it is always recommended that people check the auction sites payment policies before making any purchase.
Consumers should be wary of any seller requesting a large deposit or even payment in full direct into their bank account, rather than using PayPal or other similar services.
Text, WhatsApp and email scams
Criminals can contact their victims by sending official looking emails or text messages that appear to come from legitimate companies and organisations.
These are designed to lure people in by promoting discounts or special offers, requesting they update their account details or advising there is a problem with bills or banking that they need to address.
Clicking on links in fraudulent emails may also result in a computer virus or malware being downloaded onto a person’s device so it is important to be wary, especially if the email or text message is unexpected.
Hacking is the term used when a criminal accesses a computer system or network, usually to gain unauthorised access to personal data. Hacking is often a precursor to fraud taking place.
Criminals will use a variety of techniques to access the data they want. Fraudsters can use social engineering to manipulate people into handing over passwords voluntarily.
They may receive a fraudulent email, text message or visit a fake website with a link, where they will be asked to supply personal information or enter a password.
This information is harvested by the criminals who use it to commit fraud or identity theft.
Andy Dunbobbin, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales, said: “At this time of year, especially with the financial pressure we are all under, it is easy to be tempted by a great deal online.
“But it’s vital when shopping online this Christmas that you take a couple of moments to stop, challenge, and check.
“If we all follow a few simple tips, we could all save ourselves a lot of trouble further down the line. At Christmas it’s important to remember that all that glitters is not gold.”
PC Dewi Owen of North Wales Police’s Cybercrime Team said: “We want everyone to enjoy this festive period and simple steps like taking your time and thinking things through before you buy something or clicking on a link can stop you becoming a victim of a fraud.
“Wherever possible use a credit card or PayPal-style payment system as these can offer additional protection when shopping online.”
What to do
Should the worst happen, and you fall victim to fraud, here are the steps to take and who you should contact.
Protect your accounts
If you have given out your bank details, even if no money is missing, contact your bank immediately.
They can then act to protect your account and replace your bank cards to prevent fraudulent transactions.
If you have lost money, you may be entitled to a refund from your bank under the Contingency Reimbursement Model.
For details visit www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk to see if you can make a claim.
Report a crime
If the fraud is in progress and there are suspects present report direct to North Wales Police on 101 or if it is an emergency dial 999.
Otherwise, you should report the matter to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk.
Action Fraud are the national reporting centre for fraud across England and Wales.
Check your credit
If your personal information has been disclosed, it is recommended that you check your credit score.
This will show you if your details have been used to open credit accounts in your name.
It is good practice to check this periodically even if you haven’t been the victim of fraud.
If you are still concerned about identity theft you can join the CIFAS Protective Register.
For a small fee you will be made aware if a credit account is opened in your name as additional security checks will be made directly with you. Find out more information at www.cifas.org.uk/pr.
Report suspicious calls, text messages and emails
You can report fraudulent phone calls, text messages and emails directly, even if you haven’t lost any money.
This information is used by the National Cyber Security Centre and Ofcom to protect others.
To report a scam call text the word ‘call’ followed by the suspect number to 7726, which spells out SPAM on your keypad.
To report a scam text forward the message to 7726. More information can be found at www.ofcom.org.uk.
You can also find out further advice on staying safe online this Christmas from Get Safe Online, the UK’s leading source of unbiased, factual and easy-to-understand information on online safety: www.getsafeonline.org/christmas
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