The last few months have seen a huge surge in parcel scams in particular, which is no real surprise when you consider some of the chaos that’s been caused by a rapid change in customs rules between the UK and the EU, due to Brexit.
Thousands of people (us included!) have received scam or phishing text messages, phone calls and emails from scammers impersonating large businesses and couriers such as Royal Mail, DHL and Hermes. These messages often report of supposed unpaid customs or VAT charges for goods being imported, or even mail sent within the UK that has a surcharge to pay. The amounts can range from a few pounds to hundreds, and often these scams can be used to capture card details as well as scam people directly out of their money by paying for ‘charges’ that are fake.
As ever, the best way to avoid these scams is to be aware of them. Keep up to date with your trusted news sources, and make sure to report any suspicious emails or texts. Many email providers like Gmail have a feature that allows you to report a potential scam or phishing attempt; the same goes for text messages. Rather than simply deleting the message, see if there is an option to report it. Modern Android- and iOS-based devices have a function that allows users to report potential scam or phishing numbers to their provider, which in turn can help prevent these scams from ever getting to potentially more vulnerable users. Keeping your devices up to date with the latest security patches will also help to keep them secure.
Keep in touch with elderly or more vulnerable relatives; some older people can be more susceptible to scams. If in doubt, always contact someone you know and trust for advice first.
If you receive a message but are unsure of its authenticity, do not click on any links or open any files that are attached, even if the message has the company logo or similar on it – these are things that are easy to fake. Instead, contact the company directly by typing their address into your browser or calling them directly using a known legitimate number.
Never provide passwords or authentication phrases, or financial details, to anyone who calls, texts or emails you.
If you’re in doubt, or are worried that you may have clicked a phishing or scam link, don’t panic. Close any browser tabs you may have open, and cancel or freeze any bank cards you have used to make a payment, then contact your bank.
In the coming months, we are very likely to see an increase in travel or COVID vaccination-related scams, simply because people are eager to be able to travel again, and scammers are always ready to exploit a new weakness. Make sure you triple-check any details and verify the authenticity of the company you’re dealing with before you part with any of your personal or financial information.
Remember to question everything – Never take a message at face value, no matter how legitimate or urgent it may seem.
If you’re worried your device has been compromised, contact an IT professional.