Malware is where the scammer tricks an individual into installing software on their device from which they can access files and track activities. Ransomware is very similar but includes a demand of payment to return control of the device or accounts.
How do they do this?
- In most cases scammers will send emails or messages containing links claiming to be related to something topical or interesting.
- This link will then direct the target to a fake website. The website may look very realistic and feature the logos and branding of the legitimate company.
- In order to view the content, the target is asked to download software to enable them to watch that specific format. This download will infect the computer or device.
- From here, the scammer is able to access all the target’s files, view personal details and track activity. This allows them to change passwords on the target’s accounts, make unauthorised purchases, open new accounts or even take out loans.
- Once the computer or device is infected and under the scammers control, the target will be sent a demand for ransom.
- This is usually displayed on the device itself.
- Scammers may attempt to convince the target that they have done something wrong or illegal and pose as the police.
- Even if the ransom is paid, there is no guarantee that the scammer will unlock the device.
What should I look out for?
- You receive an unexpected email or message containing a link to something topical or interesting. It may specify that a software download will be required to view it.
- There are unfamiliar icons on your desktop.
- Your computer is slower than usual.
- Pop-up boxes begin to appear on your computer screen.
How can I protect myself?
- If you are sent attachments or links claiming to be from your bank or another trusted business, don’t open them! Delete them straight away.
- Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes installed on your computer. You can use this to do a virus check in case you think your device might be infected.
- 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.
- Only use trusted and reliable sources to access information about topical or interesting news.
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.