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Keeping yourself safe online

Personal cyber security

In the face of Covid-19 global pandemic cyber criminals are using this as a way to target vulnerable people.

In recent months we have noticed an increase in Covid-19 related scams, with a spike of 400% during March.

We are alerting the public to be aware of phishing emails.

Fraudsters are sending a message containing malicious attachments or link designed to collect personal information, logins and passwords. The victim is prompted to open the attachment or the link disguised as latest information about infections in their area, fake newsletters, investment schemes, tax refund etc.

This fraud can cause severe financial losses as the emails look like they have been sent by the government bodies, NHS, HMRC or other reliable sources.

To minimise becoming a victim make sure you follow police advice:

  • only get your information from reliable sources by visiting their pages directly, like the Government website or NHS website
  • do not click on attachments or links from companies or people you don’t recognise
  • make sure that your anti-virus is up-to-date and your firewall is active, these programmes have a way of recognising and flagging suspicious messages
  • never feel rushed into making any kind of investment – legitimate companies will never make you transfer money on the spot

If you believe you have been a victim of a fraud or you are currently being targeted, please report it to Action Fraud.

Business advice and working from home

As more and more employers and businesses encourage their staff to work remotely or from home, the risk of ransomware attacks also increases.

Never before has the country faced such a large number of people either self-isolating or social distancing and working from home.

Understandably, many workplaces don’t yet have the existing infrastructure in place to support this.

This leaves devices and systems at increased risk of being a target for cyber-criminals.

The risk of being targeted can be lowered by following simple advice:

  • make sure to only use secure devices approved by your IT team
  • do not click on suspicious links and do not open attachments from unknown sources
  • make sure you create strong passwords, which are different for each separate account, and do not share them with anyone
  • do not connect your work device through public Wi-Fi, if possible always use a secure connection or VPN
  • never leave your devices such as mobile phones, laptops or data storing devices unattended
  • make sure your software, especially antivirus protection, is up to date

 

Although it is impossible to 100% protect yourself and your business from ransomware and malware attacks, these simple steps can increase the security of your data and your finances.

Online shopping scams

In today’s circumstances, people may also be at heightened risk of becoming a victim of online shopping scams.

A number of scams have been reported where a person orders a large amount of facemasks, hand sanitisers, disinfectants or other goods in short supply and, following payment, their order is never delivered.

If anyone approaches you online claiming to collect money for a charitable cause, make sure you check their details and that the charity is legitimate.

If in doubt, when shopping online please follow police advice:

  • if a deal looks like it’s too good to be true, it probably is
  • only shop on legitimate websites or research the shop thoroughly before transferring money
  • use a service such as PayPal or a credit card to make the payment
  • you can look up registered charities online on the government website

 

Doorstep scam and cold calling

Opportunist thieves may see this period as a time to carry out distraction burglaries, as vulnerable adults and elderly people are spending more time at home following government guidance.

The police are asking for your support, by encouraging you to remind your elderly and vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours to take extra care when answering the door to people they do not know.

The force has been made aware of people knocking on doors, claiming to be selling vaccines and supplies for Covid-19. Please do not fall victim to these scams, such items do not exist. For any information on Covid-19, including medical advice, please refer to the NHS website.

Please remind others of the below advice:

  • where possible, only answer the door if you know a family, friend, carer or pre-arranged tradesperson is visiting. Consider installing a door chain and always keep it on
  • if unsure of the visitor’s identity, always ask for their ID first and telephone the company they are purporting to be from. Use the telephone numbers listed in your local directory or provided independently by your service provider
  • if someone is offering a service, make sure you discuss any work you feel needs carrying out on your property with a relative or friend who can help you find a reputable trader
  • never agree to any work or sign anything on the spot. Do not be pressured into having any work carried out.

Please report any suspicious behaviour by visiting our online reporting system or by calling 101.

You can find detailed fraud advice through a number of websites:

There is bespoke advice about COVID-19 fraud on the Action Fraud website.

You can report  fraud to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to and texts to 60599. Check HMRC-related phishing, or bogus, emails or text messages against examples published on GOV.UK

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