Scams and fraudulent activity are notoriously hard to spot – that is, after all, why they work so well. Scammers are malicious, quick to adapt and are always coming up with new ways to pose as trusted organisations, concealing their real agenda from their victims.
Here at Your Finance Team, we have recently seen growing numbers of our clients contacting us to help determine whether communications they have received are legitimate or fraudulent. Worryingly, many of these have turned out to be the latter. Despite every effort from the government and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), vast numbers of scammers are still at large and can pose a real risk to you and your business if you are not aware of the red flags to look out for.
Tips for Spotting a Scam
1. Offers and Threats
Usually, scam communications will use either an offer or a threat to encourage engagement. For example, the latest HMRC scam plays on the economic struggles caused by the COVID 19 pandemic – it offers tax rebates to individuals and businesses to aid them during these difficult times. This email or text comes with a clickable link that then requires you to input your personal details to receive your rebate. Any communication that is offering or threatening something unexpected is likely to be fraudulent, and any interaction should be avoided.
2. Personal Details
One overarching rule for spotting a scam is the attempted data collection of personal details. Legitimate organisations, like the HMRC, will never ask for your personal information or the details of your business via email or text, something that scam or phishing material is well-known for. If any communication via a usually trusted organisation asks for personal details to be given digitally, treat it as a warning sign that this may not be legitimate.
3. Misleading Email Addresses
To pose as a trusted organisation, scammers will attempt to mimic the details of that organisation almost identically. Commonly, they will use a replica email address with just one missing or added letter, hoping that this will go unnoticed by an untrained eye. Always check email addresses carefully before communicating.
4. Vague Contact Details
Fraudulent communications will likely not want you calling to complain about their services for fear of being discovered. Instead, they will provide vague contact details like 09 numbers or PO boxes to avoid further communication with you. A quick Google search will reveal if contact details are legitimate – always check before you make contact.
If you are unsure in any way about a text, email, phone call or any other form of communication from a usually trusted organisation, you should contact HMRC or the organisation directly to check for legitimacy. In the meantime, you should not click links, open documents or enter details into anything you are suspicious of.
If you are concerned about scams and feel that your business may be vulnerable to this kind of activity, please do not hesitate to get in touch.