Did you get the thunderstorms at the weekend? I hope you were all OK if you did. I have a friend who once had his computer zapped by lightning through the phone cable – and then after he’d mended it, it happened again a few months later.
So much for lightning not striking twice!
But I heard from someone who had a different kind of shock lately.
This person suddenly found out that someone had taken £5000 from their bank account, without them even knowing.
They’d been caught out by a complicated kind of online scam.
The thing is, most of these con-schemes aren’t terribly new – they’ve been going on for quite a few years now. And I don’t like to repeat myself too often.
(I’m tempted to write “And I don’t like to repeat myself too often. And I don’t like to repeat mys…” here – just my daft sense of humour.)
But it’s still worth mentioning these schemes – after all, they might not all be new, but if you haven’t heard of this kind of thing, or don’t know what to do to avoid them, it’s new to you.
My biggest advice is to be wary of anyone online who you don’t already know… or someone who is saying they’re someone you know but who isn’t acting like they normally would.
Many of these scams start with a phone call saying they’re from the bank or your broadband company or Microsoft. They almost certainly aren’t.
Similarly, if you get an email asking for any personal details and it’s saying it’s from one of them, ignore it. Even if the bank it says it’s from actually is your bank.
You might wonder how they do that, by the way – it’s nothing clever, they simply send out millions of emails one month saying they’re Barclays bank. Some of the people who get those emails will bank with Barclays and will be tricked. Then next month they send out emails saying they’re from HSBC, then next month Lloyds and so on.
If you’ve ever left thinking “But what if this one’s genuine?”, don’t panic. Just don’t click on any links in the email. Instead, log into your bank account in the way you normally would, if you use online banking. If you don’t, then go into your local branch (might involve a bit of a trip, I know) or ring you bank up and ask about it. Better than taking the risk.
For example the other day at work we got a call saying it was from BT, that our broadband had been attacked by hackers and we should press 3 to be connected to an “engineer” – it’s just a scam run by crooks who have nothing to do with BT. Luckily everyone we have on the phones here knows about these kinds of scams and weren’t taken in!
Above all, don’t just think “Oh, it won’t happen to me” – it does happen, so keep your wits about you and don’t give out details to people unless you know who they are!
All that was a bit negative, I know – sorry. It’s worth it, though, to avoid the scams out there. But the internet can be a really positive thing too – especially when it’s helping you stay in touch with people you’re close to – or have more fun with them.
Which is a neat reminder of our new books. More detail about what’s covered here.