Beware of ‘Phishing’ Emails
A ‘phishing’ email scam has been brought to the attention of the OFT. It involves private individuals being contacted by email and being advised that that they owe hundreds of pounds to UK firms. The firms involved have been inundated with phone calls from worried members of the public.
Worrying, features of this particular scam are that the spelling and grammar used in the emails are good and that the fraudsters appear to already know some of your personal details. Often the spelling and grammar used by fraudsters in emails is poor and they are generally unlikely to know your real name, so the email may address you in vague terms, for example ‘Dear Valued Customer'. ‘
Phishing’ is a method used by fraudsters to access valuable personal details, such as usernames and passwords, which can have a monetary value to criminals. It can also involve sending malicious attachments or website links in an effort to infect computers or mobile devices. Criminals send bogus communications: emails, letters, instant messages or text messages. Very often these appear to be authentic communications from legitimate organisations. Embedded links within the message can direct you to a hoax website where your login or personal details may be requested. You may also run the risk of your computer or smartphone being infected by viruses.
Once your personal details have been accessed, criminals can then record this information and use it to commit crimes such as identity theft and bank fraud.
Phishing messages generally try to convince the recipient that they are from a trusted source. Criminals will use personal information to earn trust and lower the intended victim’s defences, increasing the chances they may open attachments or embedded links.
A computer expert in the UK has said that these particular emails bear the hallmarks of previous phishing attempts from gangs in Eastern Europe and Russia.
Clicking on the link in the email may install ‘ransomware’ that will encrypt files on Windows-based computers and then demand a fee to unlock them.
Anyone receiving such an email is advised to delete it and report it to Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre Action in the UK (http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/; 0300 123 2040)
Advice on how to deal with phishing and other scams can be found on the Action Fraud website. There is a lot of advice out there on how to avoid becoming the victim of a phishing email scam, but the OFT offers the following basic advice: NEVER click any attachments or links in a suspicious email.
Anyone with concerns about suspicious emails or telephone calls can contact one of our OFT consumer advisers on 686500.