Dangerous scams to watch out for

Melanie Wright
Fraudsters are coming up with increasingly ingenious ways to part us from our cash through online scams.
Fraudsters are coming up with increasingly ingenious ways to part us from our cash through online scams.

We asked the security experts for some of the most dangerous scams to watch out for. Here are their top five...


One of the newest online scams is crypto-ransomware, a cyber-attack which evades anti-virus software and locks your files, holding them for ransom.

Clinton Karr, senior security specialist at IT security company Bromium said: "There are no tools or solutions that can unlock these files after attack, so the only defence is protection. Users should avoid clicking on suspicious files, e-mail attachments and URLs. The impact of the attack can be minimised by frequently backing up your files on an external hard drive."

Copycat sites

Copycat website operators often set up fake social media profiles to try and make their services appear legitimate, even though they are selling counterfeit goods.

Haydn Simpson, director of Brand Protection at NetNames, the online brand protection and domain name management specialist, said: "Social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, now provide consumers with additional opportunities to buy products online. However, the meteoric rise of these platforms has also created new opportunities for cyber criminals.

"Indeed, the UK Intellectual Property Office's 2014 IP Crime Report found that the sale of online counterfeit goods via social media platforms rose 15% from 2013-2014, and this is set to rise further still in 2015."

According to Mike Andrews of National Trading Standards, around 20% of reports from consumers to National Trading Standards, made via Citizens Advice, are internet or e-crime related. He said;

"We've seen around a 400% increase in complaints about social media since 2010 and the latest figures continue to show an upward trend."


Spearphishing is when specially targeted emails appear in your inbox purportedly from senders or businesses that you know, requesting personal information. Messages are likely to be personalised rather than addressed to 'Dear Sir/ Madam'.

Orlando Scott-Cowley, cyber security expert at cloud-computing company Mimecast, which specialises in e-mail management and security, said: "Over Christmas thousands of students in the UK were targeted by fraudsters pretending to be from the Student Loans Company. Emails were distributed during a period when, generally emails from the legitimate company increase ahead of the January instalment. The cybercriminals therefore were able to direct students to a hoax site asking them to update their bank details without raising suspicion. "

TV-related scams

Raj Samani, spokesman for security software company Intel Security, claims that TV-related scams are likely to increase this year, with cybercriminals are making the most of our obsession with series such as 'Game of Thrones' and 'House of Cards'.

He said: "Now that 2015 is here, TV fans can look forward to new series of many of their favourite TV programmes. Shady websites offering free TV episode downloads often unknowingly promote and spread malware as well as other viruses."

Social media malware scams

Social media users will continue to be a prime target for fraudsters. Many scams involving social media aim to spread malware, which is software designed to steal personal information.

Charlie Svennson, an IT Security Expert at international IT security consultancy Sentor, said; " "As with all social platforms, the spread can be likened to any epidemic - a single compromised account can spread malicious links to potentially millions of people. A small subset of those may click it, and become infected, which in turn exposes all their followers to the same risk."

Always resist the temptation to click on that video of a scandalous celebrity or a super cute animal performing a hilarious trick.

Carl Leonard, principal security analyst at Websense, said; "If the video says "OMG! you have to see this" then it is probably best that you don't."

If you're a victim

If you think you have been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud, the UK's national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.

If you have identified a website or social media profile you believe is a scam or selling counterfeit or unsafe products, report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service by calling 08454 04 05 06.

Social media fraud has to be reported to the companies involved by e-mail, as they don't have telephone contact centres. Hacked Twitter accounts can be reported using this link, while you can report Facebook hacked accounts here. You can contact Skype about hacked accounts via its Customer Support team.

Catalin Cosoi, chief security strategist at online security firm Bitdefender said; "In the 'physical' world, victims should call the police and the bank to report their losses, if any.

"In the 'virtual' world, stop any communication with the scammers, change all your passwords immediately and even turn off devices to prevent further data leakage and damage. An IT professional can then clean up computers and other devices, install security solutions, and keep victims away from future attacks."

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