As we approach Black Friday and the busiest online shopping period of the year, the industry leader in digital innovation, Liberty IT, is encouraging the Northern Ireland public to err on the side of caution and be more cyber security aware.
The Office for National Statistics recently revealed that there were 2.7 million incidences of cyber-related fraud targeting organisations and private individuals in the UK in the 12 months to March 2022 and Liberty IT Director of Engineering, Simon Cowan, is urging people to take extra steps to protect their details.
“Fraudsters and criminal gangs are creating ever more sophisticated ways for people to inadvertently share information. They are leveraging current news stories, for example the current cost of living crisis and the fuel and heat allowance, as they know people are anxious about both, they then play on this anxiety and unfortunately people let their guard down and this is when their details are stolen.”
Thieves are using a variety of phishing methods to steal personal information – the most common are email, text and calls, and these people are smart in their efforts. You could receive an email or a text that may seem like it’s from a company you are familiar with, for example Amazon, and if you click on the link it will start taking you down a path looking for address, personal identifiable information and/or bank accounts. By completing, what looks like an email from a trusted retailer, you are handing over this information to scammers.
Or you might receive a call which can usually be without caller ID, although more frequently these calls are now showing a caller ID as this helps to bring more authenticity – or so people are led to believe. The calls are well rehearsed to mimic a customer service call you may get from your bank or insurer for example. If in any doubt, call them directly to verify the ask is legit.
“It is more important than ever to be extra cautious and speak to family and friends, especially those who may be more vulnerable – particularly with phone and letter forms of communication. You should also be mindful about what information you share on social media – including any personally identifiable information such as birthday, address and phone number. Never accept friend requests from people you don’t know and refrain from doing quizzes and games that require access to your profile or request information that could be your security question responses on protected accounts, like ‘what was your first car’,” Simon added.
Liberty IT has detailed some key points for people to be aware of and steps to take: • Financial institutions will never ring customers out of the blue asking for your bank details. If you get a call from a bank, insurer or store and you’re in doubt about it, hang up and contact them directly. • Make use of registered banking apps and sites that have you authenticate your details • Delete any emails which look suspicious • Never click on any links in emails that are in your Junk email folder. It’s called junk for a reason
Simon continued: “Ahead of Black Friday, I would urge people to be extra cautious. Only shop on reputable sites which inform you how they treat your data and privacy; if possible, use a credit card instead of a debit card as there are protections there which in the unlikely event of funds be taken from your account they can be reclaimed; only complete mandatory fields (usually highlighted with a red Asterix); make sure to use strong passwords for your important online shopping and financial sites and watch for suspicious emails from online shopping sites and financial sites. If in doubt, trust your gut feeling and don’t proceed.”