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Brits faced 600 MILLION scam attacks last year - here's how to spot them

Cyber criminals bombard us with dodgy emails, texts and calls: Getty Images
Cyber criminals bombard us with dodgy emails, texts and calls: Getty Images

There were 600 million scam attacks on our phones and emails last year as cyber crooks bombarded Brits with bogus messages aimed at snaffling our personal financial data.

With three-quarters of us targeted and being hit by an average 16 crooked calls or emails in the last year, one bank is taking to the road to help raise awareness of the evil epidemic.

‘Phish and chips’

Santander is giving away fish and chips to scam victims
Santander is giving away fish and chips to scam victims

Santander is giving away a fish and chips lunch to anyone who visits its ‘phish and chips’ van and can show a phishing email or smishing text they’ve received.

The van will be in Manchester on Thursday 5 October and will visit Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, London, Newcastle and Glasgow in the coming weeks.

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Why is the bank doing the campaign? “Consumer awareness is absolutely key to tackling what is currently one of the biggest threats to the security of people’s finances,” says Reza Attar-Zadeh, head of customer experience at Santander.

“Our Phish & Chips van is a way of delivering our key fraud prevention messages in an engaging way while educating people that both banks and consumers have a role to play in keeping the fraudsters at bay.”

Phishing? Smishing? Vishing?

Scammers target potential victims with phishing emails, smishing texts and vishing calls. The terms all relate to fishing for information, with smishing relating to SMS fishing and vishing to voice fishing.

What links them is that they are all ways crooks pose as trusted organisations – such as banks, the police, or tax authorities – to trick you into handing over your personal financial information.

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The fraudster’s aim is simple – to convince you to hand over valuable personal details to steal your identity or your cash. Sometimes the cyber attacks are designed to make you download something that infects your computer.

What are phishing emails?

Phishing means crooks are trying to ‘fish’ for your personal details: Getty Images
Phishing means crooks are trying to ‘fish’ for your personal details: Getty Images

Phishing emails are designed to make you to visit a bogus website. They prey on your fears by claiming that if you don’t click on the link in the email your account may be shut down or you’ll pay some other penalty.

Sometimes they use a carrot approach rather than a stick and claim they’re from a business or agency and you’re entitled to a refund, rebate, reward or discount.

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But if you click on the link you’ll be heading for trouble. You’ll end up at a website which will try and trick you into handing over your personal details before using them to defraud you.

Also avoid downloading any dodgy attachments. They are likely to contain a virus that infects your phone or computer with malware designed to steal personal or banking details you’ve saved or hold your device to ransom to get you to pay a fee.

What are smishing texts and vishing calls?

Vishing is when crooks call your phone and pretend to be from your bank, building society, or a government agency such as HMRC or the police. They will claim action is needed urgently and urge you to call them back to confirm they are who they claim to be.

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But fraudsters remain on the line after you’ve put it down so that you simply end up speaking to them again, or they give you a bogus number. Call back from a different phone and use an official number – you’ll find them on the back of a bank card or on official government websites.

Bogus text messages are known as smishing. They ask you to reply with your personal or banking details, or to call or text a premium-rate number crooks have created to run up a large bill.

How can I protect myself?

IT’s crucial to be wary of emails and texts: Getty Images
IT’s crucial to be wary of emails and texts: Getty Images

Be wary of anyone who sends you an email or text message – or has called your phone or left you a voicemail message: they may not be who they say they are.

If a phone call or voicemail, email or text message asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, be very careful and don’t hand over personal details.

A bank or the tax authorities will never ask you for passwords or other sensitive information by clicking on a lick and visiting a website.

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If you have any doubts, contact separately the company which may have contacted you. Don’t reply to emails or call a number left, but go to the company’s official website to find real contact details.

Dodgy emails often give themselves away by poor spelling or grammar. Another giveaway is an email which begins “to our valued customer” or “Dear [email address]”.

Mark them as spam and ensure your spam filter is on to reduce further emails arriving in your inbox.

Report any attacks to Action Fraud or call 0300 123 2040.

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