Community police teams offer tips on how to deal with online fraud and scammmers – and how to avoid becoming a victim

Criminals commit online fraud in a variety of ways – online banking and shopping, auction websites and online identity theft are just a few examples.

A police spokesman said: “Criminals commit online fraud in a variety of ways – online banking and shopping, auction websites and online identity theft are just a few examples.

“The ease, speed and convenience of online transactions can sometimes lead consumers to exercise less caution than they would when dealing with someone face-to-face.

“Action Fraud provides useful advice on avoiding becoming a victim of online fraud or cybercrime. Go to www.actionfraud.police.uk/individual-protection to find out more.”

Online Shopping

○ When shopping online, make sure the retailer is reputable; research them and make sure they have an address and phone number.

○ Look out for secure ‘https’ links in the address of the website to ensure the site is secure in its payment/form-handling methods.

○ Paying online by credit card can offer greater protection than other payment types.

○ Try to use different passwords for different websites.

○ Fake scam versions of corporate sites may be set up that look almost identical to the original site – yet are completely fake. Always check the web address of the page and ensure it is the official website.

Phishing, vishing and smishing

This relates to any website, online service, phone call or text message which poses as a company or brand you recognise, such as a bank.

Any contact like this is designed to convince you to hand over valuable personal details or your money, or to download a virus to infect your computer.

The three terms are all plays on the word ‘fishing’, in that the fraudsters fish for potential victims by sending emails (phishing), social media messages or text messages (smishing) or making phone calls with urgent messages (vishing) in the hope of persuading someone to visit a bogus website.

Holiday Fraud

While travel has been limited in recent months, fraudsters are still targeting people searching for ideal getaway.

Fraudsters may use fake online adverts, bogus sales calls, emails and text messages offering cheap rates, or steal images of accommodation from other travel websites.

○ Don’t reply to unsolicited emails, texts, social media or calls with holiday offers. Links and attachments in emails may lead to malicious websites or download viruses.

○ Book a holiday directly with an airline or hotel, or through a reputable agent. Check whether they’re a member of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).

○ If you decide to deal directly with the property owner or a letting agent, ask them questions about the booking, room, location and area.

○ Don’t book on websites that don’t have a padlock icon (https) in the address bar.

If you think you’ve been victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud online or call 0300 123 2040.