Don't be blagged by the hi-tech blaggers

North Devon Gazette

Recently, I received a phone call from someone claiming to be from the fraud department of the bank which holds my current account. He stated that someone in Scotland had attempted to pay a bill using my credit card details. Â

Firstly, he wanted to know if I had made the transaction. When I gave a negative response, he claimed that my credit card had now been stopped and that I would receive a new one in three to five days. Â

He then said the first few numbers on my card and asked if I would confirm the rest of the numbers. By this time I began to realize that this wasn’t a genuine call as banks are extremely careful not to ask for personal details of accounts or credit card numbers on the phone. Â

The caller had sounded very convincing and obviously had fine-tuned his approach and many people could easily have revealed the details that this criminal sought. Unfortunately, cyber crime is on the increase and we all need to take real care not to reveal our financial details to these fraudsters. Â

There are many different ways where unsuspecting residents may be manipulated into handing over confidential information, such as a PIN or password. One that has been tried on me a couple of times is known as blagging. Â

In these cases, a sob story was sent to me by email asking me to send money. The email appeared to be from a friend telling me that they were abroad and in trouble, lost their passport, become ill and needed financial help. Of course, it wasn’t true but the criminal had hacked into their system and sent an email to all their friends.Â

Another common method used by the fraudsters is known as phishing. When a person clicks on the links in these emails and logs in, it sends their username and password to someone who will use it to access their real accounts. This information might be used to steal a person’s money or identity, or the email may contain malware. Â

A phishing email pretends to be from a business and is looking to gather personal information. They can often look convincing, but may contain spelling errors or URLs that do not match the business's website. Â

Be aware that banks will never send emails asking for personal information or usernames and passwords. If someone receives an email that they think might be phishing, they should report it to the business the sender is claiming to be from. It is important to be very cautious about opening an email from someone you don’t know. Â

Apart from keeping our anti-virus software up to date, regular changing of our passwords is advisable. It is sensible to have a password that is six or more characters long, which includes upper and lower letter case letters, numbers and symbols and avoids information that may be easy to guess such as relatives’ names or birthdays.Â

Councils have to be alert to possible ransomware attacks. Attacks on public and private institutions, including councils, utility companies and banks, have become increasingly common. Ransomware hijacks the data on a computer system by encrypting it and demanding that the owners pay money for it to be decrypted. Â

In the case of Councils, the demand is usually for millions of pounds. Obviously, having up-to-date anti-virus software and educating users to not open suspicious attachments helps to protect from this criminal activity. However, we can expect more sophisticated attacks in the future and organisations need to be prepared. Â

There have been numerous ransomware incidents impacting UK public bodies in recent years. These include damaging attacks on Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and Hackney Council in 2020. Â

The good news is that with this is mind, NDC applied for and have been successful in being awarded £150,000 from Central Government Local Digital Cyber Fund to further enhance our Cyber Security protection. Hopefully, the added protection will prevent NDC from becoming a victim of these criminal gangs.Â