Hacking is when a scammer digitally breaks into a computer, mobile phone or broadband network in order to gain access to personal information such as passwords or credit card details. Once the scammer has access to the target’s computer, they may have the ability to change passwords, view personal information and lock the real user out. This can then allow them to commit identify theft or steal money.

How do they do this?

  1. Malware & Ransomware – Malware is where the target is tricked into installing software that allows scammers to access files and track activities. Ransomware is where the scammer demands a payment to ‘unlock’ the device.
  2. Security exploitation – this is where weak passwords, unsecured WiFi networks and outdated anti-virus programmes are used to gain access to a target’s computer.
  3. Redirection of payments – this is where a scammer impersonates a trusted supplier to give the target updated fake bank details

What should I look out for?

  1. You are locked out of your devices and/or online accounts, or your profile has been signed into from an unknown location.
  2. There are unfamiliar icons on your desktop
  3. Your computer is slower than usual
  4. Your internet and/or phone bill is larger than usual
  5. Money has started to unexplainedly go missing from your bank account or there are unusual transactions on your statement.
  6. You can no longer call, text or access the internet on your phone

How can I protect myself?

  1. Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes installed on your computer.
  2. Update passwords regularly and choose ones that would be difficult for scammers to guess. Don’t use the same one across many sites and don’t save them on a computer or phone. Find out how to choose a strong password here.
  3. If you are sent attachments or links in from unknown sources don’t open them! Delete them straight away.
  4. Avoid free downloads of music, films, games. They may be harmful programmes in disguise.

I have been scammed. What should I do?

If you believe that a scammer has accessed your personal information or bank accounts, you need to report this immediately.

The best place to do this is with your bank. You can find the correct details for all UK banks here.

You may also want to report the theft to your local police department. Keep a note of the crime reference number in case your bank needs it.

Make sure you inform all of your friends and family what has happened. The scammer may be able to use your details to get to them.