Since the housing market reopened in May 2020 (following the first lockdown) conditions have been ideal for buying or selling a property. Yet, while the property market has been attracting budding buyers, it has also attracted criminal scammers who aim to take advantage of people aiming to buy a property. But what are the most common scams to look out for and what can you do to protect yourself from them?
Pharming scams are where users are redirected to fake websites which appear to be genuine. Scammers who are extremely sophisticated can even replicate genuine sites, tricking users into trusting these websites.
These fake sites can also be used to assist the theft of personal or financial information and in some cases the downloading of harmful software onto the user’s computer.
In order to avoid pharming, it is sensible to always type in website addresses manually, rather than following links. It is important to be vigilant when visiting websites. Look out for things that may seem out of the ordinary. Check if the address in the address bar is spelt correctly and matches the site you intend to visit.
You should be wary if a site asks you for information it hasn’t asked of you before. If you are ever in doubt of a website, check that the website has a lock icon in the address bar. This communicates to the user that is a secure site. If you click on the lock it will display an up-to-date security certificate. And lastly, using security software can help ensure the sites you go to are trustworthy.
Phishing is one of the most common forms of online fraud, a scam where scammers send fake emails to people, with the hope victims will reveal their personal data. This could involve scammers luring people into sending money, downloading harmful software onto your computer or even stealing your details to sell on. Phishing scammers would be attempting to steal any details from bank and card details, your phone number or even login details to websites.
The main aim of phishing scammers is to access your money. If that be through your online banking or other methods, in order to withdraw your money into their own accounts.
Phishing scams rely on emails sent to users which have a huge effect upon the user’s emotions. This could include anything from emails saying you have won a substantial amount of money or attachments with hyperlinks which are harmful.
In order to protect yourself from phisher scams, you should only ever open emails that you know are from a reliable source. Double-check sender addresses. Look out for a difference in spelling in the email address. If you move your mouse over the sender’s email address you will be able to reveal the real address the email has been sent from.
It is important to never send personal information over email. You should also never open any attachments or hyperlinks without checking them first. Files extensions with exe, .msi, .bat, .pif, .com, .vbs, .reg, and .zip extensions are some of the most common file extensions for harmful software.
Vishing is very similar to phishing but this time it is done over the phone. Visher scams will most likely call posing to be a manager from your bank or even someone from the police.
Visher scams heavily rely on verbal scams to lure people into doing things which they believe is in their best interest. This could involve scaring you into trusting and revealing your personal information before it is too late.
A common vishing scam involves informing someone a significant sum of money is being moved from their account. The scammer will then ask that they need to confirm this transaction is you in order to protect your money. This involves the scammer ‘reassuring’ the user that their money can be prevented from being lost if they confirm their details, such as name, password and bank details.
In some instances, these types of scammers have been able to use technology so the caller ID which appears on your phone matches the bank. Also, they could give you a number (which is not genuine) to call back on if you feel unsure if it is real or not.
In order to prevent vishing from happening to you, you should never give out any personal or financial information over the phone. Banks, credit card providers and even building societies will never ask for you to provide full details over the phone and they will certainly never ask for your password.
Try to remain calm and not to fall into a false sense of belief about what you are being told. End the call and ring back on a call you no to be correct and genuine. If you can, ring from a mobile phone or another phone line.
Smishing is a scam where scammers fish for information through text messages or SMS. This scam most commonly involves being sent a text message which contains a harmful link or even instructions to call a particular number.
Out of all the scams currently circulating, smishing is becoming one of the fastest-growing. This is because people tend to trust text messages moreover email messages.
Smishing involves scammers mimicking genuine messages in an approach to trick people. Messages can include asking the user to text or call back, this can result in huge charges to your phone bill. In some instances, messages can include links or even ask for personal or financial details.
In order to avoid smishing, you should never provide personal details over text, despite if it does appear to be genuine. If you are ever in doubt, call the correct number of whoever the message is from and check the authenticity of the message. It is also important to mention numbers can be hacked, even if a message appears to be from someone you trust.
During COVID-19, scammers have been using Coronavirus as a chance to pose as a genuine organisation. This can include these criminals pretending to offer help and guidance. If you are ever in doubt remember to stop, challenge and protect.
Take the moment to stop and think if your money and information is safe. Challenge the situation. Only criminals will ever rush or make you feel panicked to do something. And lastly, protect yourself. If you think you have fallen for a scam, report it to action fraud and contact your bank straight away.