Happy Holidays: Tips to stay safe from scams

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of our member from everyone at IPS. We hope you avoid scams and enjoy your holidays. 

Last week we shared some practical steps you can take to protect yourself from scammers.  This week we thought we would follow up with some simple reminders of basic tips and tricks to help stop you ‘falling for it’ while you are busy over the holiday. This is an IPS classic but worth reiterating because it has not changed, even with a new generation of scammers trying the same old thing. 

Top Five IPS Tips

TIP 1 – You can avoid the bait and therefore the scam by ignoring it completely 

In any scam your reaction or interaction gives the criminal something to work with.  If you do nothing, they get nothing.  Start with that as your main defence.  This can mean not clicking on an email or opening it.  It can mean deleting an email immediately.  It can also mean not opening the door to an unexpected caller, sending suspicious post straight to the shredder and sending phone calls straight to voicemail – or let them ring out. 

Scammers try to get through to you on their terms and the time they prefer.  If you ignore their attempts to reach you, they are more likely to give up and try someone else. 

 

TIP 2 – If you recognise the brand but suspect a scam, end the conversation and contact the brand directly  

If you are being contacted and asked to hand over details, but you recognise the brand contacting and you think there is any chance the contact is legitimate: 

  • hang up the phone/get off the email/get off the text 
  • go to the brands official website to make contact and double check.  

If the contact was genuine, the brand will have no problem with you checking and that simple action can reassure you.  It breaks the scam cycle and gets you out of the moment where they ‘have your attention’. 

 

TIP 3 – If you are cold called, tell them that your ‘phone calls are being recorded for security reasons’.  This is a quick and easy way to unnerve unwanted callers.

If the caller is a scammer, this small action will make them nervous, as they won’t have heard that much before.  We want them to give up on you and try their luck elsewhere. Do not use it as your only defence as many scammers have incredible confidence and nerve.  If the caller does not hang up and you are suspicious, then continue to treat them with caution and do not give your data away. 

 

TIP 4 – Take a moment to think before you do anything 

Not everything is a scam and we do not want you to ignore all the wonderful things the internet or your telephone or your local community has to offer.  When scammers do get through to you they typically try to get you to do something in a hurry before you have time to consult with a trusted friend or do any research yourself. They try to confuse you, get your heart pumping and get you to a ‘hot state’ where you are more likely to make a rash decision you will later regret. 

Make a promise to yourself right now that you have no need to rush into any decision. 

If someone tells you that your phone line is about to get cut, or you need to pay a fine immediately or that you must confirm some payment details…STOP.  Say you are busy doing something else and that you would like to take a few details to call them back.  Do not be the one in a hurry.  End the conversation.  When you are back in your real life you can think more clearly. 

  • You can decide to do nothing. 
  • You can do some research yourself (it is amazing how many results you will find if you type ‘HMRC scam’ or ‘Amazon Prime scam’). 
  • You can phone a trusted friend or family member and allow them to be the one to say out loud ‘don’t fall for that old trick’. 
  • Or you can log into the account you hold with BT or Amazon or PayPal (or whoever they claimed to be) and take a look to see if there has been any unusual activity.  Usually it will be just like you left it last time and there is no burning issue to worry you. 
  • You can even call that company yourself and get through to their customer service agents using the number you see on their website.  Do not use any of the details from the call, text or email you suspect of being a scam.  They will likely set up fake numbers to take your call and continue the scam. 

 

TIP 5 – If it’s too good to be true, it usually is.  If it’s too bad to be true, it usually is.

Fraudsters use extreme behavioural triggers to push their targets towards that ‘hot state’. 

Good news scams cover a range of wildly exciting possibilities. They want you to make a bad decision caused by excitement, including: 

  • You’ve won a lottery somewhere.  Send a payment to unlock further details.  DO NOT. 
  • You’ve been left some money by a long lost relative.  Send a payment to unlock further details, or details to unlock the payment.  DO NOT. 
  • You’re about to get some inside information on a horse, a team, a company, an investment…… This sounds wrong already.  Send a payment to unlock further details.  DO NOT. 
  • Someone you don’t know loves you/desires you.  Send a payment to unlock further details.  DO NOT. 
  • HMRC are about to send you a tax rebate.  They have sent you a text message.  Provide further details to unlock the payment.  DO NOT. 

Do you see the pattern there? It is horrible to use the word, but do not be a ‘sucker’. Do not fall for news that is just too unexpectedly good to be true. It is not true. 

 

Bad news scams try to get you to make a bad decision caused by fear and anxiety, including: 

  • Your details to an online account have been compromised. Confirm who you are and we will fix everything.  DO NOT CONFIRM. 
  • Someone is using your PIN and we want to stop them. Tell us your PIN.  DO NOT. 
  • Send a payment and we will deliver an important package to you.   DO NOT PAY. 
  • HMRC are going to prosecute you and you will go to prison unless you pay a fine immediately.  DO NOT PAY. 

 

Be careful out there and keep this list in your inbox in case you hear these very words and want to check out what we said.  Better still, share it with a friend. 

 

Enjoy your holiday, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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