How to avoid phone and email scams

30 June 2023


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There is an adage that is so true about modern technology – no risk, no reward. As we become all the more connected to technology and a good share of our lives get easier thanks to the internet or devices, the more we open ourselves up to risk from people using that against us. Indeed, we’ve all heard the stories – innocent and unsuspecting people getting caught up in elaborate schemes designed by crafty scammers. It’s a tale as old as time.

As scams have become increasingly prevalent, posing a significant threat to our personal and financial security, scammers have developed sophisticated techniques to deceive us through phone calls, text messages and emails. From phishing to vishing and Wangiri scams, here we’ll delve deeper into how these work and explain the measures you can implement so that you can safeguard your personal information and avoid falling victim to fraudulent activities.

What are scams?

Simply put, scams are deceptive strategies individuals or organizations use, designed to defraud people of their money or personal information. Scammers prey on our trust, often employing psychological tactics to exploit our vulnerabilities. This is why it’s important to gain a better understanding of their motivations and methods, so that we can become more adept at recognizing and avoiding scams.

The who, what and how of common scams

Wangiri scams

Have you ever received a call from an unknown international number, only to find they’ve hung up after one ring? That’s a classic sign of a Wangiri scam. The scammer hopes that you’ll call back, connecting you to premium rate services and racking up hefty international call fees that go straight into their pocket. So remember, if you don’t recognize the number, just don’t call back.

Phishing scams

Phishing scams usually come in the form of emails masquerading to be from reputable companies. These emails trick you into revealing your personal information, such as passwords or credit card numbers. Look out for telltale signs like poor grammar, unofficial email addresses and requests for personal details. And when in doubt, verify with the company directly.

Vishing scams

Vishing or voice phishing, is when scammers call you pretending to be from a trusted organization and will try to persuade you to reveal sensitive information or make a payment. Recognizing the red flags of vishing calls and implementing preventative measures will help you steer clear of these manipulative tactics, which means that you should be particularly wary of unsolicited calls.

How to protect yourself

So how can you navigate this tricky landscape? Here are some handy tips.

Recognise and avoid fake emails

As mentioned above, phishing emails are designed to appear legitimate and often, these could appear to be from companies just like GO or even large international companies like the likes of Apple and Facebook. Be careful of emails which state that you have won a prize and now need to give details to receive it, your bank account has been compromised somehow, your social media has been hacked or that you have unpaid bills and the service will be cut off. Naturally, there are several more variations, but these are some of the most common. If you receive such an email, check the following:

  • Verify the sender: check the sender’s email address carefully and look for any suspicious or unusual elements
  • Examine email content: be cautious of emails that convey a sense of urgency, contain grammatical errors or request personal information.
  • Hover before clicking: hover your mouse over links in emails to view the actual URL before clicking. Be wary of shortened or unfamiliar

Man holding mobile smiling

Recognise and avoid untrustworthy calls

We’ve all experienced Wangiri calls on several occasions. The kind of calls that tend to be very short and which usually occur at unusual times of the day, while they come from a number with a different country code or often 9 or more digits. If you’re not sure where a call originates from, take a look at our full list of country codes. And here is what to do when you receive such a call.

  • Do not interact: resist the temptation to answer or call back immediately. Consider letting the call go to voicemail and assess whether it is genuine or suspicious before taking any action.
  • Be cautious with premium-rate numbers: familiarise yourself with premium-rate prefixes to identify potential scams and get a better understanding of the costs associated with calling these or international numbers.
  • Make use of call-blocking features: install a reliable call-blocking app or enable call-blocking features provided by your phone’s operating system. These can help filter out known scam numbers and minimize the chances of receiving unsolicited calls.

Some additional expert tips

Practice smart online behaviour: be cautious while sharing personal information online and use secure websites for financial transactions.

Employ strong passwords: use unique and complex passwords for different accounts and consider using a password manager for added convenience and security.

Enable two-factor authentication: do so whenever possible to provide an extra layer of protection for your accounts.

Act promptly: contact the relevant authorities and financial institutions to report the incident and take necessary steps to mitigate the damage.

Monitor your accounts: regularly review your financial statements, credit reports and online accounts for any suspicious activity.

Implement safeguards: consider freezing your credit, using identity theft protection services or setting up fraud alerts for added security.

Remember that we would never ask you for your PIN numbers or banking login details nor would we ask for card payment details, particularly over the phone or email. Also, we would never require you to install software, such as Teamviewer so that we can gain access to your device.

Ultimately, knowledge is power. By understanding how these scams work, you can better protect yourself and your loved ones from falling prey to them. So stay vigilant and stay safe. Here are some further tips on what phishing, malware and viruses are and how to keep your personal data safe.