Protecting yourself from fraud and scams

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Recently I attended an online seminar on how you can protect yourself from fraud and scams. This was organised by my bank and had input from a detective who investigated frauds and scams and a psychologist. These are my “take home” notes.

We are all capable of being duped by increasingly sophisticated frauds and scams. The psychologist repeatedly said that her number one tip was to avoid the assumption that you are too smart, or too worldly wise to notice if you are being targeted as a potential victim of a scammer. It could happen to you!

Frauds and scams can come from multiple directions. In person, online, by phone or in shops and restaurants.

Our background and emotional state results in us believing things from our own point of view. How can it be otherwise? We don’t see the wider context and tend to match information we get with information we know.

Scammers often take advantage of current events. Desirable products and services are also used as hooks to grab our attention. Often things that look too good to be true are not true.

If you get a one time passcode from a source you must NEVER give this to someone else.

We unwittingly give away data and information about ourselves all the time via websites, accounts, and social media like Facebook. Data can be breached by companies.

We are duped into letting our guards down by certain factors that increase our vulnerability.

CONTEXT – The information we are given makes sense to us and makes us expect certain things and makes us feel safe about us taking various actions. Eg a family member asking for help.

AUTHORITY- We tend not to question this. Eg the Police or your bank contacts you about a matter.

URGENCY- We are propelled by fear or worry or sympathy to solve the problem or grab that offer immediately. We suspend thinking things through ourselves, checking facts independently or talking it over with a family member or friend.

EMOTIONAL- We are engulfed in strong emotions such as panic, fear or excitement so that we don’t think.

Although we tend to think that certain groups are more vulnerable than others, such as the elderly, because they are unfamiliar with technology, scams are also inflicted on young people because they want to fit in with their pals or are inexperienced. Middle aged people are targeted in romance scams. We all want something. We all are fearful of losing things. And our personal vulnerability is not dependent on our intelligence and is not a steady state.

Our vulnerability can depend on such matters as the time of day or night, if we have been bereaved, had a baby, are exhausted or we are overwhelmed with information. During times when we feel depleted we tend to take short cuts.

Environment has been shown to be more important than individual factors for most of our actions.

Push payments happen when we are urged to freely give money to someone. No one has an actual gun to our heads but we are convinced at the time that we are doing the right thing. Romance fraud and ” your bank account details have been compromised” frauds are examples here.

These have nothing to do with our personal intelligence or knowledge. Technology can’t protect you against this because you willingly over-ride the systems banks put in place to warn you. To be forewarned is forearmed, so accept that you COULD be a fraud victim and take your time, think it through and talk to other people about what is going on.

Make sure you have a UNIQUE password for each of your accounts. If you do this you don’t need to change it that often. If you don’t then one password breach can mean multiple accounts being breached. It is like having a lock on every room of your house. You won’t lose everything.

Use password managers. Your phone number is public information. Whatsapp is a favourite site for Mum and Dad scams. Again, take your time to think clearly. If a child has “lost their phone”, e mail and phone them to make absolutely certain of their circumstances. Set up code words or questions with your family so you know it really is from them.

Banks will NEVER ask for you PINs, passwords or personal information.

A site called “Have I been Cloned” will show any data breach.

“Last Pass” is another helpful site.

Having two factor identification is really helpful.

Cookies from vendor sites are generally safe. They are usually there to improve your shopping experience. Have anti virus software in your computer though.

Always shred any documents that have personal information on them before you put them in the bin. These can give away information that can be sold onto scammers.

Happy New Year!

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