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Listen up! This is serious...

Security expert and friend of Good Joe offers some timely advice for the buying season. 

Whether you’re transacting via the Internet, the phone or the till, you need to watch out for anything suspicious that could be fraudulent.  But what does “suspicious” mean and how do you spot it? Strengthening the way we protect ourselves against fraudsters means not only knowing our enemy but also understanding our own weaknesses.


The human hot button

We all have one or more “hot buttons” that can make us do something we shouldn’t. These are things that fraudsters know about us and exploit.

For example, we will happily do something for others if they do something apparently beneficial for us. We’re also inclined to act like sheep, blindly following what others have seemingly done. Another of our buttons is how we automatically obey people who look like authority figures - doctors, suited and booted business people, and even people wearing yellow fluorescent jackets. Then there’s how we like and instantly trust people who seem to have a connection with us - have the same name or birth month, or similar tastes in films, hobbies and sports.

In fact many of the “hot button” techniques used by fraudsters resemble those used by sharp sales people. They know we value things that appear to be scarce, such as special “limited edition” and “one day only” offers. That we’re driven to be happy, to help others, to experience new sensations, and that we can lose our self-control.

In other words, they know how to press our buttons. So what can we do about it?

Spot the signs

Whether in person, on the phone, by letter or on the Internet, be suspicious of

  • anything unsolicited, unexpected or unusual
  • a request for an up-front payment
  • a sense of urgency or pressure to make a decision
  • unsettling or threatening tones
  • compliments, flattery or flirting
  • apparent innocence, simplicity, disbelief, blundering
  • being asked to keep things secret
  • transient contact details such as mobile numbers or PO boxes
  • signs of discomfort or annoyance whenever you ask questions
Disarm them

They have their own buttons so use them.

  • Turn the tables. Ask probing questions. Fraudsters, like all liars, hate this because it pressurises them to bolster their story and can force it to unravel.
  • Respond, don’t react. When reacting, you do so in an emotional, uncontrollable manner and without thinking.  When you respond it’s in a more logical and controlled way, giving yourself pause for rational thought. Reacting can make a bad situation worse, responding puts you back in control. Be more Mr. Spock than Scotty!
  • NEVER reveal your PIN. You’ve probably heard this a hundred times but only ever tell your PIN to a machine by typing it into a keypad. That is, bank cash machines, or card machines at point of sale. No other device and definitely not your phone or computer keyboard.  And never tell any other human being your PIN, or part of it, under any circumstances. Bottom line - anyone who asks for your PIN IS a fraudster.
  • Act fast to report it. If you think you’ve been defrauded or approached by a fraudster then call the ActionFraud helpline on 0300 123 2040 for help and advice. Also contact your bank if you suspect your PIN or password has been breached, money has been taken out of your account or someone else has used your credit card.
Above all, learn to recognise risk

Uncertainty signals risk so always be wary whenever you feel unsure. Keep asking questions to regain control. If you feel uncomfortable, end it. Put the phone down, close the email, shut the door, leave the room, walk away or ask them to put it in writing.


And remember, if it looks too good to be true then it probably is.


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