Online Scams #SolicitorChat with The Law Society.

The Coronavirus pandemic has presented cyber-criminals with opportunities to take advantage of individuals and businesses, with cases of scams increasing significantly in recent weeks. But what can someone do to protect themselves and their business from online scams? And how can a solicitor help someone who is a victim of an online scam? We discussed this and more during #SolicitorChat

Join The Law Society and other firms discussing a different topic each week on Thursday mornings at 0900-1000.

What types of coronavirus related scams and frauds are taking place?

Scammers and fraudsters have always been able to adapt to different scenarios and opportunities. For these criminals, Covid-19 had provided them with a near on perfect platform to undertake frauds and scams. The risk is heightened within companies as many are operating on limited staff and those staff are all working longer hours and under significant pressures, possibly leading to staff not spotting a digit changing in bank details or a misspelling of a name for example. Scammers and fraudsters often commit offences in what we consider to be simple ways where the human eye may not pick it up. A lot of scams and frauds are occurring because firms do not have secure remote working processes. Train and engage your staff as much as you can to be extra vigilant, it really can be the smallest of things that cause the wider impact.

How safe are video chat systems, such as Zoom and Houseparty?

There has been a lot of talk recently about these platforms and the risks of being hacked. Consider how you are using these systems both professionally and personally and consider having two accounts, one for each. Consider your cyber security on your business and personal devices where you are accessing these platforms. Keep your contacts up to date and be mindful as to who you are accepting, have a whitelist of safe addresses and if you are unsure do not accept those contacts. When using any of these platforms, think about what information you are passing via the platform, and whether they are being recorded. In the event that a session is being recorded do you know where that recording may be sent on to, i.e. LinkedIn, you tube, etc. If you do not wish for your content to be used then you should not participate. Zoom and Houseparty may be secure – the jury is currently out, but as with any platform that you access, the wider security measures of your devices needs to be thought about.

How can someone spot if a text or an email is a scam?

The scammers come out with new ways to scam all the time, so as fast as you spot one way, they will be looking at another way to get in. With texts, be suspicious – it they purport to be HMRC or SRA then do not reply. Always use a verified number, not a number they give you in the text of email. With emails, check the email address by hovering over it to produce the real one. You will often find that it has an additional letter or number in the email address or they will for example change You to Yov something very similar which again to the human untrained eye will not pick up.

If you are in doubt about a scam or virus, speak to your IT department, don’t forward it on as it’s giving another access point for the scammers to use. Ask IT to log on to your machine and destroy it effectively.

How can a solicitor help a victim of an online scam?

There are various ways that a solicitor can assist victims, it’s not a one size fits all and advice will always be dependent on the set of circumstances. It’s best not to see generic advice and use a specialist firm/solicitor.

How can a solicitor help people to protect themselves and their business from online scams?

As detailed above there are ways of protecting yourselves as much as you can. What you need to remember is that the fraudsters/scammers are highly intelligent and it can be easy for them to hack into your systems once the scam has got through your lines of protection. Consider accreditations like the government backed Cyber Essentials.

The contents of this article are intended as guidance for readers. It can be no substitute for specific advice. Consequently we cannot accept responsibility for this information, errors or matters affected by subsequent changes in the law, or the content of any website referred to in this article. © Mundays LLP

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