by Helen Hollick

A few village residents have mentioned a higher level than usual of 'Spam' email and those wretched nuisance calls.
These are usually harmless if dealt with sensibly - but can invite viruses into your computer and can, in some cases, cause very distressing fraud.

Here are a few tips to protect yourself
(some serious followed by a lighthearted look at the problem!)

Internet 'attacks' are called 'phishing'
It is important to avoid 'spam' e-mail.
  • Do not open any attachments from emails unless you explicitly trust the source.
  • Do not directly open links from emails (manually type the address if possible.)
  • Always check hyperlinks by moving your mouse over the link to determine the actual address.
  • Bad grammar and spelling are often a good indication that the email is fake.
  • If the email is purporting to be from a reputable source a clear indicator that it is spam is if it’s addressed to ‘Dear User, Customer’ etc. A reputable source - and genuine email will use your name.
  • Most genuine companies will NEVER ask for your password in an email
What is a typical 'hoax' mail?
  • emails saying your bank/PayPal account has been tampered with.  If you are concerned, phone your bank or log in direct to Pay Pal (do NOT use the link in the email)
  • emails from a friend saying "Help I'm stuck on holiday and need some urgent funds:
 a) is this friend really likely to, out of the blue, ask you for such help?
 b) if this was genuine wouldn't it be more likely that your friend would phone you?

These mails usually mean the friend it is supposed to come from has had his or her own email account 'hacked'. Delete the email, then open a new email and alert your friend to change his/her password immediately.

  • Don't be tempted to reply.
  • Don't use unsubscribe links - they are probably just a means to verify your email address and then you'll get even more spam.
  • Use a spare or common email address when signing up to services, keep your main one clean and away from spammers.
  • If you’re only getting a negligible amount of spam, you may simply want to delete the messages. 
  • If you’re getting a lot of spam, check your spam settings or speak to your email provider for help to control spam email.
  • NEVER give your passwords or details of your phone number, address, or bank details to ANYONE who contacts you first. If in doubt, contact your bank or the company direct.
many of the above equally apply.
  • If it's too good to be true... then it's too good to be true!
  • Genuine companies will NEVER ask for your password or Bank Details
  • You can usually tell that a phone call is a nuisance call because the caller has a very distinctive foreign accent (usually Indian or American)
  • In some cases you can hear a computer clicking preparing a pre-recorded message (something like "Hello! I'm calling about a recent accident you've had. Have you had an accident recently?" (pause - you say 'Yes') "I am passing you to our support centre". 
  • Believe me, these messages are recorded! If you are not sure answer with something like "Sorry, I didn't catch that". A real person would alter their tone of voice and say something different. An automated message will simply replay. (I had one recently that had an error in it which then replayed. I took great delight in mentioning this to the eventual "support centre" guy who insisted that the introduction had not been automated!)
  • Many of these calls are sales calls, trying to get you to buy something - double glazing, PPI, etc or to make an accident claim. Most are hoaxes. If you want solar panelling go to a solar panel expert of your choice! 
  • Some calls are for "You have won XXX" (often a holiday or a large amount of money) Again - if it's too good to be true then it IS too good to be true!
  • If you have the time and you are not sure if such a call is genuine or not then keep on the line and ask the caller questions: Where are you calling from? What did you say your company was called? What did you say your name was? Where did you get my number from? You usually find they hang up.
  • On NO ACCOUNT give ANY personal informtion!
  • NEVER call these people back. It could be a hoax telephone number that will cost you a lot of money. If you are suspicious and the call was about your bank, for instance, then  wait at least ten minutes and then call your bank direct. (see below)
Spot The Scammer!
  • Bank details: if you have received a call and been asked for your bank details, this is likely to be a scam.
  • Dialing correct numbers: ensure you get the number from a trusted source - such as the official website or your latest bill or statement. If you get a call that feels suspicious, hang up  wait a few minutes then dial the official number.
  • You should always ensure the fraudster has hung up before you dial as sometimes they keep the line open to try to trick you. If you are in any doubt you should phone a friend or a trusted number first to make sure it goes through correctly.
  • Premium rate numbers: start with 090 – used especially when it comes to ‘prizes’ or ‘offers’, do not dial an 090 number.
  • Persuasive sellers: anyone that’s rushing you into a service or product and wants to take your bank details could be scamming you. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured or bullied.
  • If they say it is a FREE offer then ask for some money... well it isn't a free offer is it? Hang up.
  • Scam technical support: more scammers are calling people trying to gain remote access to their computer so they can gain access to personal information. You shouldn't be asked to pay for viruses to be cleared from your computer or to fix any issues over the phone. If you are, don’t give them any details - hang up. Windows, Apple Mac etc will NEVER call you to say you have a virus! (think about it... how many millions of people worldwide use Windows? Is the company really going to call you personally to say "we've found a virus on your computer?" Of course not!
  • Scam website: scammers may direct you to a website that looks like it could be an official site. Make sure you are definitely on the right website and not on a scammer site. Scam websites will often have poor quality of logos and general design. If you are in any doubt then leave the website.
Common phone scams:
You've had an accident recently  :  PPI Insurance
Solar Panels  :  Double Glazing
Your computer has a virus.  :  You have won a prize
Government research

Never give any personal information.
GENUINE companies DO NOT call you on the phone!

What to do for a bit of fun!
you can just hang up... or if you have a few moments (and this is not official advice!) put your feet up and have a bit of fun at the caller's expense (assuming they have called you of course!)
      a) it annoys them
      b) it wastes their money
      c) it stops them calling another person
I've kept a scammer talking for over twenty minutes. Ask questions, repeat back what they say, spin them along... (but again DO NOT give personal information!)

genuine e-mail will have your name and will not ask for personal information
Telephone calls - it it's too good to be true then it is too good to be true

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