Protecting your mobile phone from  scams

22/01/2019

I'm tech savy, and cautious with my data. I generally ignore scam calls. I have a healthy sense of paranoia, and spend a lot of time writing about staying safe online. I seldom share warnings, as many are fakes, but I am writing about this one, because it almost caught me.

I am also self employed, and yesterday spent a long time talking to a lovely lady at the HMRC about my tax bill. When I received a call this morning saying that the HMRC had issued an arrest warrant for me it gave me an enormous fright. What's worse, it came from the HMRC's phone number, so aside from the automated American accent, seemed very legit. I was too stunned to speak, and the caller hung up.

When the panic subsided, and logic kicked in, I followed my usual strategy for potentially dodgy calls, and discovered it is in fact a scam. Phew!

So, here are some ways to deal with these type of calls:

  • Google the phone number to discover if it is genuine. You often discover it is in fact a scam line, and that it has been reported. I discovered through this search that this is a known scam, and they have 'spoofed' (Found a way to look like they are calling from the HMRC) the HMRC phone number, so it seems real.
  • Block the number on your phone (I can't do this in this instance, as it is the real HMRC number)
  • Register with the Telephone Preference Service if you have not already done so: 'The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is a free service. It is the official central opt out register on which you can record your preference not to receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls. It is a legal requirement that all organisations (including charities, voluntary organisations and political parties) do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS unless they have your consent to do so.
  • Any callers who continue to contact you can be reported and prosecuted.
  • Ensure you have anti virus protection on your phone. I like AVG, and they have a free version you can install from the Google Playstore. This is especially important if you use your phone for banking etc. (I don't do banking on my phone)
  • Never part with any cash as a result of a phone call, unless you are certain the company is legitimate, and that it is going to them - I'd get the bank details from the company directly in writing, and not over the phone, and insist on a proper bill too and receipt too. Using your credit card can help to protect you from some scams.
  • If you're still not sure, and the call seems to come from a legitimate company, phone that company and verify the information. Don't do this by returning the call!  I would go so far as to use a different phone, preferably a landline!
  • Post and share with care, especially because Facebook Messenger has access to all your phone data. Sharing inaccurate information and memes, warnings can also give hackers access to your data, so be really careful about what you post and share. What's worse, is you can also allow access to your friends' data when you share and repost. Check before you share.

In this day and age your data is a valuable commodity - Facebook / Google etc are all free because they use your information for targeted advertising. Scammers can collect your information and use it to relieve you of cash, take out accounts in your name, and cause a lot of problems if you are not careful.