Fraud is a problem that’s been with us for as long as people have been trading with one another. Thanks to the modern internet, however, it’s easier to commit fraud than ever before. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, there were 3.8 million incidents of fraud for the year ending March 2019, an increase of 17% over the previous year. Where cybercrime is concerned, the situation has only worsened thanks to Covid-19. 

Fortunately, there are steps that savvy organisations and individuals might take to limit their exposure to fraud, and to fend off the majority of attackers.

Think about key risk indicators

While key performance indicators will tell you how well your business is doing, key risk indicators will warn you against future losses. The latter is vital where fraud is concerned. Take the time to learn more about key risk indicators.

Beware of correspondence ‘from HMRC’

For fraudsters, imitating HMRC is a relatively safe tactic. Everyone has dealings with HMRC, and the prospect of a tax rebate might be just plausible enough to tempt many into clicking on a link or continuing a phone call. There’s reason to be very cautious when it comes to communication of this kind.

HMRC provide guidance on how to distinguish genuine correspondence from the fake kind – but the best idea generally is to err on the side of caution. If you do receive something from HMRC, check the sender’s email address as the first port of call. If not, you can always give HMRC a call to confirm.

Be mindful of financial red flags

When you’re speaking to someone who claims to represent a particular organisation, there are certain questions that should raise immediate red flags. If someone asks for your password for any reason, then you should discontinue the conversation immediately. The same goes for your PIN number – this is, in fact, top of the British Bankers’ Association’s list of things that a bank will never do.

Don’t let anyone rush you

If someone is telling you to do something immediately, then it’s time to stop and think about whether things really are as urgent as they seem to be. Fraudsters like to get you in a rush, because they know that urgency will impair your better judgement. Another common tactic is to forbid you from hanging up – this, again, is to rush you and to not give you the time to calm down and think logically about the situation.

Take caution with cryptocurrencies

Scammers in foreign countries prefer to take payment in cryptocurrency – such as Bitcoin – because it’s impossible to trace. HMRC do not. You can see this principle in action in this video, where an uber driver’s passenger is scammed out of $3,000.

Change your passwords

Everyone knows that they should make passwords that are long and difficult to guess, comprising a combination of numbers, letters, and other characters. A better idea is to use a password manager service to generate and remember strong passwords on your behalf. Google provide one that works automatically with its Chrome browser, but there are alternatives available that will do the same job.

Also, be careful not to use the same password in multiple places. If there’s a data leak that leaks your email address and password to one place, the rest of your accounts could quickly unravel.

Use multi-factor authentication

Even the longest and most complicated password can be guessed through brute force methods. But if you use more than one means of identifying yourself, you’ll enjoy far greater protection. Typically, authentication on the internet is two-factor. You’ll be asked for something you know (the password), and you’ll need to possess something (your smartphone). In some cases, like with banking apps, you’ll need to also provide something you are (your fingerprint or Face ID).

Check if your email has been compromised

Large-scale data breaches have put millions of email addresses at risk over the years. It might well be that your details have been leaked, including your email address. There are, fortunately, online tools that will tell you whether your email address has been compromised. If so, then check which site(s) is/are affected, and change your password.

Install and update your antivirus

Malware can often help fraudsters to gain access to sensitive information. A good piece of antivirus software will regularly scan your system to determine if there are malicious programs present. It should therefore be considered indispensable. But an antivirus that isn’t kept updated offers little, if any, protection; make sure that yours is updated regularly.

If someone contacts you out of the blue asking for money, then it’s worth being extremely sceptical. Whatever they use to motivate you – whether it’s an offer that seems too good to be true, or a time-sensitive penalty that seems terrifying, then you might well be about to fall victim to fraud.