Stay one step ahead of fraudsters with this useful guide on how to spot typical scam calls, texts and emails
By Virgin Media
Have you been contacted out of the blue? Have you been asked to share personal details? Is there something about the email or text you’ve received that just feels off? Scammers work in lots of different ways and will use texts, emails and calls to try to steal sensitive data.
In many cases, they’ll seem friendly, polite, and professional – and could convince you they’re working for Virgin Media. As techniques change, we regularly update our website with up-to-date examples. You can find these at virginmedia.com/securityhub.
Check out our tips for the most common forms of scams, and how to spot them.
Tips for spotting email scams
Check who it’s from
It may look like a real email from Virgin Media or another business you use, but if you hover over or right-click the sender’s name, you’ll be able to see the email address it has actually been sent from. The sender’s name may look legit, but often the email address is a random assortment of numbers and letters.
Spelling or grammar mistakes
It’s no longer a given that fraudulent emails will be riddled with errors, but it’s still surprisingly common in phishing emails. Other things to look out for: is the email consistent in how it looks? Is there a mix of US and UK English? Does it use different font styles or even random sizes? These are all things that may signal it’s not genuine.
Small mistakes and style issues
Often scammers will mimic official-looking emails in an attempt to get you to part with your data. But check the little details the fraudsters might have missed. Are the copyright dates correct? Is the brand logo an old or discontinued version (or pixelated)? Does it match the style of previous emails you’ve had from the company or business?
Asking for personal details
Always remember, we’ll never (ever) ask you for sensitive infomation. So if you get an email asking for such details, or requesting you click on a link to supply them, it’s a red flag. Do not provide any personal information or click on any link in an email you’re unsure about. Such links may contain viruses that can infect your computer or even install ransomware.
Your urgent attention is required
Scammers will also stress the urgency of your actions in the hope you don’t take the time to check whether it’s real or not – for example, saying your account is about to be closed, or that there is a payment issue on your account. Do not click the link. Instead, to check the status of your account, visit virginmedia.com/myvirginmedia.
Tips for spotting phone scams
The call comes out of the blue
If you get a call about a problem on your account or an issue with a product, ask yourself, were you expecting this call? If not, it might be a scam. Fraudsters will try to blag as much as possible, so if something sounds too good to be true, or if the call is unexpected, call the business or company back yourself rather than continue the call.
The caller is being evasive
Scammers don’t want conversations that’ll reveal they’re trying to steal your personal information. So, if you question why they’re calling, they might change the subject or try to make you feel bad for asking. If you’re ever unsure about a call, just hang up. We’re always happy for you to call us back instead.
They are threatening
Fear and guilt are powerful weapons, and some fraudsters will exploit that. It may be a threat of legal action, or penalty payments unless you act on that call. It may be an offer that will expire unless you take action now. If a scammer pretending to be from Virgin Media starts to threaten you, please call the police, who’ll liaise with us.
Asking for personal details
We’ll never (ever) ask you for sensitive stuff like passwords, bank details or other personal security info. When you first pick up the phone to us, we’ll ask you if you’re the account holder and to confirm three random characters of your account memorable word. If you don’t have a password on your account, or you can’t provide the three random characters, we’ll ask you to answer a security question, which you’ll have set up yourself.
However, if you receive a cold call out of the blue, and are unsure whether it’s really from us, just hang up. You won’t offend us (if it’s really us), and call us back.
Never assume who’s on the other end
Sophisticated scammers can now clone the phone numbers of organisations they want to impersonate. So just because the number on your caller display matches an official number, or even displays the name of the company you’re calling – it might not be real. If you’re calling back the company, find the number yourself – don’t use the number they supply.
Beware of calling back instantly
If you’re unsure who’s on the other end of the line, hang up. But, it’s important to wait for 20 minutes or longer, because some scammers can keep phone lines open. So while you think you’re on the phone with customer services or the police, you may still be on the line to them. Instead, try to use a different line or call someone else first to clear the line.
Tips for spotting text scams
The text isn’t relevant to you
Have you received a text message that claims you’ve won a competition you didn’t enter? Or a final demand on a bill you’ve never seen? If you get a text out of the blue that either doesn’t feel relevant or too good to be true, give us a call to check it. If it’s real, we’ll help you out. If it’s not, we can escalate it.
The call-to-action is a link
Clicking on a link in a scam text message could expose your phone to malware that may compromise its security, or take you to a fake version of a brand or company’s website to gather personal information. Ask yourself, what is it asking you to do, and is there a way you can find out? For example, if it’s an account-based query, visit your account another way.
The link doesn’t look official
If the link looks dodgy to you, the chances are you’re correct. Links that don’t contain any of the company or brand’s normal URL structure, or use link-shorten tools such as bit.ly, are often giveaways. Equally, if the text message has come from a random unrecognised number, you should be wary about what it asks you to do.
It’s a different style to previous messages
Even if the message appears in the same chain as previous messages from a company or brand, it doesn’t mean this latest one is real – scammers can spoof real phone numbers to make them look authentic. So, does it look like all the others you’ve received? Is the style different? Is it asking you to do something they’ve never asked before?
For example, if previous messages have asked you to log into your account via an app, but this latest one says to click a link, it may not be genuine.
All the usual signs
As with email and phone scams, the common traits are the same for text scams. Does it convey a sense of urgency, often coupled with a threat for inaction. Does it contain spelling or punctuation mistakes? And is it asking you for personal details? If in doubt, give us a ring.
Other online scams
Sadly, there are many forms of scams where victims have had their personal information or worse stolen from them. While many of the above tips are a useful basis for tackling scammers, it’s worth knowing about some recent online scams to be hyper-aware.
Often this is through a cold call to say your account has been compromised or your card cloned, with your money being at risk. The caller may ask for your account details, your PIN or even offer to transfer your money to an uncompromised account. Your bank will never ask you to do any of the above.
Computer repair scams
Here, you may get a call or email claiming to be from somewhere you purchased a computer in the past to warn you about a virus, offering to install some antivirus software. This may be spyware or a remote access tool to take control of your computer. Again, if in doubt, contact the place where you purchased the computer to check its authenticity.
This one is usually via text message and will inform you that you need to either arrange for a parcel to be redelivered, that you missed a parcel or that an order (you didn’t make) is on its way and you will be charged. All of these will have a call-to-action with a link. Do not click this link, and check with the packaging company via normal means.
These messages seemingly from HMRC will use either threatening language (“your unpaid tax bill will result in prosecution”) or an incentive (“you are entitled to a tax rebate”), both of which will need to be actioned under a tight deadline. Currently, HMRC do not contact people in this manner, and you should contact them directly in the first instance.
Social media scams
Here, you’ll be contacted by an official-looking social media account, again, asking you to click a link or seeking your personal information. Beware, and check the source. For Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, is the account verified? Is the company name spelt correctly in its username? Does its follower count seem likely for a major brand?
Remember, never click on unsolicited links. Never disclose personal information on cold calls. Don’t be pressured into doing something. If it’s a real call, email or text, contact the provider themselves and they will assist you.
Worried you might have been scammed?
If you feel like you might have been the victim of fraud – whether because you’ve given details over the phone, or clicked a link in a text or email and provided sensitive details – there are things you can do:
- Contact your bank if you think you may have given out financial information
- Change your account password
- Forward fraudulent texts to us for free on 7726 and we’ll look into them
- Contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040
- Call Virgin media on 150 from your Virgin Mobile phone or 0345 454 1111 from any other phone if you think somebody’s taken out a contract with us using your details
Unlimited online protection with Virgin Media Internet Security
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Staying safe online with Virgin Media Web Safe
Protect every device connected to your home WiFi – no matter which mobile provider you’re with – with Web Safe, which comes with all of our broadband packages at no extra cost. Web Safe protects against malware and phishing scams that try to infiltrate your devices and steal your personal information.
For more tips and advice about nuisance calls and fraudulent activity, head to virginmedia.com/securityhub.