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14 May 2020

Internet health

We are living in a time where the internet has become more essential than ever before, with many working from home, ordering essential items, and using it for entertainment purposes. It’s important we check in every now and then and ask ourselves, how healthily am I using the internet?

The digital movement

Many have taken this time in lockdown to utilise the digital channels available to them including online banking, video conferencing, steaming services, and more. If you find yourself online more than ever before there are a couple things to consider to keep you safe:

Enable two factor authentication: This is where you set up multiple steps for logging into your accounts. For example, you enter your password correctly then use a separate verification code which was sent directly to your mobile device. This way if someone hacks your account they would need both your password and your physical device to access your accounts.

Keep your PayPal empty: Keep your PayPal empty and link a virtual card - hackers are looking for PayPal accounts with balances to target. If your account has no balance then the hackers will find your account less attractive and they may move on to another account.

Talk to someone you trust: If you find yourself in a situation where someone is asking you for information or financial details you can simply do the very archaic thing of calling up your friend and confirming the situation before transferring large sums of money.

Consider a secure VPN connection: Using public wifi can be extremely dangerous as you have no control over the security. A VPN (virtual private network) enables you to have a secure connection between your device and an Internet server that no one can monitor or access the data that you are exchanging. 

Keep Your Antivirus Program Up To Date: Internet security software cannot protect against every threat, but it will detect and remove most malware—though you should make sure it's up to date. Be sure to stay up to date with your operating system's updates and applications you use.

Can you spot a scam?

A lot of current scams are preying on the fear and stress caused by the pandemic, but the style of many of these scams are seen time and time again.

Spoofed messages purporting to be from internet, mobile phone providers or TV subscription companies are common. The more advanced smishing (text scams) messages can often spoof the number of the genuine organisation. These messages feature convincing language, and website URLs which appear genuine. Most will contain links encouraging the recipient to enter personal information which can be used to perform account takeovers or harvest personal information for other frauds e.g. Identity frauds.

How to spot a scam message:

  • If there are spelling and grammar errors it is most likely fraudulent – however these days it is more common to see a real lack of consistency with the presentation of the email, which may include several different font styles, font sizes and a mismatch of logos.
  • If there is a sense of urgency attached – this is a commonly used tactic to get recipients to enter their details without stopping to think about what they are doing first.
  • Check the email address - A scam email usually has a fairly bizarre email address behind what looks like a genuine sender name.
  • Does the 'contact us' information at the bottom of the email link to anything? Is it clickable? Are the websites it links to genuine?
  • If an email is asking you to update or re-enter your personal or bank details out of the blue, it is likely to be a scam.

Think before you buy

During lockdown users will spend more time online using various platforms including online shopping for new deals and products. Shopping scams can come in all shapes and sizes, including fake ads on social media sites and fake websites.  

This form of scam we see is fairly common and we see it in different forms throughout the year, with many scams now capitalising on the Covid-19 narrative. Scams that were offering free beer before, may now be offering hand sanitiser or protective face masks. For such adverts the following is advised:

  • If it looks too good to be true then it probably is - anything free, extremely discounted, or with unlimited availability.
  • Be wary of links that direct you to different sources and asking you to accept various terms and conditions which could be indicative of some form of contract (scam or otherwise).
  • Often these links are meant for data collection to harvest personal details which can be used for subsequent frauds or sold to other companies. ‘Quizzes’ or ‘raffles’ on social media sites can looks innocent but can be fraudsters collecting your personal data.
  • Always go to legitimate channels to verify if the advert/offer seems genuine. See a good deal? Type the company into google and scroll down past the ads to their genuine site and double check.

Whenever you’re in doubt take five. If you believe you have been the victim of a scam you must contact your bank or financial service provider immediately and report the fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or

Check out other Cifas blogs on this topic:

Are you using your social media safely?
Digital footprints online – what we leave behind

Posted by: Duncan McLellan

Duncan is a Fraud Intelligence Analyst at Cifas.


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Posted by: Duncan McLellan

Duncan is a Fraud Intelligence Analyst at Cifas.