Sharp rise in internet scam victims

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The Independent Tech

Computer users were urged today to be wary of online fraudsters after it was revealed that internet scams are on the increase.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and Get Safe Online have joined forces to warn people about becoming duped online.

The warning is part of the OFT's Scams Awareness Month, an annual campaign aimed at providing consumers with information to spot and avoid scams.

Some 23 per cent of UK internet users surveyed said that they, or their friends and family, had fallen victim to phishing, a scam linked to credit card identity fraud, in the last year, compared to just 8 per cent the year before.

Around 16 per cent fell prey to other scam emails or websites.

Three of the most common email scams which consumers should look out for are phishing, bogus foreign lotteries and advance fee scams.

Phishing works when an email appears to come from your bank, a company you regularly do business with, a Government Department or from your social networking site and directs you to a mocked-up website asking you to provide personal data such as account details, passwords and credit card numbers.

The site is fake and your details can be used to commit identity fraud.

Bogus foreign lotteries are the second commonest scam. They work by claiming you have won a foreign lottery but to claim your winnings you must send off money to cover administrative fees.

Often your personal details will also be requested and used to commit identity fraud.

Finally, advance fee scams operate when someone asks you to help transfer a large sum of money out of a foreign country in return for a share of the spoils - but they are just looking to empty your bank account.

A recent variation involves being asked to part with money for "taxes" and "visas" in relation to a fake job offer.

Mike Haley, OFT director of consumer protection, said: "Using the internet can be safe and easy but we are urging the public to be vigilant to the dangers of ever more sophisticated online scams.

"Never respond to offers promising vast lottery wins or 'get rich quick' opportunities and never disclose personal details to people you don't know."

Tony Neate, managing director of, said: "At the moment, many of us will be particularly worried about our financial security and we shouldn't be surprised to see online scammers trying to turn this to their advantage.

"Don't let this deter you from using the internet, however - as long as you make sure you know the warning signs to look out for and how to protect your computer properly, and use your common sense, you can enjoy the web safely, as millions of people do every day."