Scams have been around for a very long time, in fact dodgy deals done by wheeler dealers are almost part of our heritage. For those of a certain age the names ‘Del Boy’ or ‘Arthur Daley’ spring to mind. Those camelhair coated fictitious rogues who could sell dubious products to an unsuspecting public were willing to cut corners and use any information they could obtain in order to make an ‘honest’ bob or two.
In fiction this is fine and we are all usually on the side of the wheeler dealers believing that underneath it all they do have a heart of gold and are just working in a way that only fractures the law, as opposed to snapping it completely. In the real world scams of any nature are upsetting and can lead to all manner of financial, professional and personal woes. Consumer TV shows for years have talked about the unsuspecting public being duped by tradesman, by door to door sales people, even by criminals pretending to be charities. Scams in all forms continue to finesse their offerings, making it harder and harder to see through them.
We are all aware of internet based scams which is one form of cyber-crime and like their real world counterparts continue to refine their pitch. Most online scams are only successful if the scammer has some element of information about their target that resonates with them. Perhaps an offer on a holiday, similar to the one they recently went on. Or perhaps a new car, just like to the one they purchased a couple of years ago. If they know where you go, where you shop, who your family are, when you celebrate then they can target you with almost pinpoint accuracy.
So are we all doomed? Have they won? Well, actually it is down to a bit of common sense to make yourself less of a target. Sadly, common sense does seem to go out of the window when discussing online activity.
With over 140,000 victims of identity theft in the UK in 2015, which is 57% higher than the year before, it does seem that common sense is not in abundance, or is it that individuals are just not aware of what they may seem as innocent online activities are leaving themselves open to scammers, criminals and identity thieves. So here are just a few tips on what not to do and hopefully may get you to question your actions online.
The summer is upon us, finally, and many folks are off on holiday. Feel free to post holiday snaps in order to make us all jealous, but before you do just check that you are not posting anything too personal. There have been reports that in order to get the ‘we are off’ photo that is perfect for sharing, some individuals have posted a pic of their passport! I kid you not. Their passport number, their passport photo, their address, date of birth. Ask yourself would this be of interest to a potential thief? Of course it would.
With cameras on phones of HD quality, you may not be aware of the sheer detail that is being captured. Never post pics of any form of personal identification documents. They can easily be used against you.
They day you pick up a new car is a wonderful moment. You drive home, feeling like king of the road and want to share the glorious luxury of your new motor to your social network. Here’s a tip, don’t show the registration number, even if it’s a personal one! This is unique to your car and is registered to you at your home. Even a bit of rudimentary digging on the internet using a cars registration number can pull up information that a thief may find of interest.
Of course, your car is usually out in public, but remember that thieves operate in many cases from overseas, so there is a far greater chance of them stealing this information when it’s online, as opposed to snapping a pic of your car as you leave the Asda car park.
What about your birthday? Would you now put that online? How many times are you asked for your date of birth as validation of your identity? Some social networks openly publicise your birthday, but you can prevent this. What’s more important to you? Lots of ‘happy birthday messages’ from your network, or staying safe? This goes for your phone number too and your email address.
Some social networks also allow you to identify family members, like your Mum or your Uncle, so if your privacy settings are set to ‘open’ it’s not too difficult to determine your mother’s maiden name! All of these pieces of information in isolation may seem inconsequential but when aggregated together a picture of an individual can easily be created.
The bottom line is not to make it easy for a scammer to harvest information about you. Use common sense, tighten up your privacy on social networks, don’t post pics of items that are personally registered to you and don’t freely give away personal information.
Anything you put out online is available across the globe, the internet knows no physical boundaries, so you are open to a global audience of scammers and thieves. Scamming has moved on a great deal from somebody in a market trying to fleece you for £20 for a Rolex that fell off the back of a truck!