Charlie Shakeshaft was inspired to get involved in fighting scams by his grandmother Patsy Lees, who was at her wit’s end receiving up to 30 nuisance or scam calls a day. “They were essentially calling her to the point of harassment,” said Charlie. “She had to pick up the phone, because it could be grandchildren or kids.
“I sat down with her and Googled what we could do to improve her security. There were two simple things. I signed her up to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) [the UK’s only official ‘Do Not Call’ register for landline and mobile numbers]. And we installed a call blocker from BT which blocks unwanted calls on her landline.”
The next day she stopped getting the nuisance calls. Charlie, 26, wanted to help others, so four years ago he started Individual Protection Solutions (IPS), along with rugby legend Austin Healey. The idea was to empower consumers to “take control of their data and reclaim their right to a quiet life”.
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Scams have been on the rise during the pandemic, and iMoney has been inundated with messages from readers who have fallen victim to them.
Recently there’s been a nasty new wave of delivery text scams sweeping the UK: what starts with a text about a fee for a parcel can end up with fraudsters emptying your bank account.
Criminals have also been using the Covid vaccine rollout by sending emails using NHS branding to dupe victims into giving their personal information for fraud.
They are increasingly evading banks’ advanced security systems by targeting people directly using increasingly sophisticated methods, such as telephone number spoofing. Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud – when a person or business is tricked into sending money to a fraudster posing as a genuine payee – amounted to £479m, up five per cent on the previous year, warns industry body UK Finance.
Not just older people falling victim to scams
Membership of IPS has exploded and there are now 100,000 people signed up. There is a free offering and a premium service.
The free service includes signing you up for the TPS and other services to stop junk mail including the Mailing Preference Service (MPS). There is also a data breach checker and an email help tool which provides advice in minutes on whether a suspicious email is safe or harmful.
There are also newsletters with information about keeping yourself safe from scams and nuisance marketing, and a community where people can share advice.
The premium membership includes services such as password management software, anti-virus software and a virtual private network (VPN), which enables users to protect their online privacy and prevent their internet service provider from tracking their browsing activity.
Charlie, from Surrey, says that it is not just older people who are falling victim to scams. “It happens to everyone,” he said. “Younger people can be more exposed because they typically use the internet more and so put their personal information out there more.
“The concept behind IPS is we want to provide simple, straightforward solutions to help the large majority get protected without having to become cybersecurity experts. The thinking is to use language that my grandmother would understand.”
Calls for better protection from Government
The new online safety bill announced in the Queen’s Speech will “lead the way in ensuring internet safety for all”, according to the Government. But experts warn it will fail to protect millions by leaving people at risk of falling victim to cloned websites and adverts paid for by fraudsters.
Charlie says the new law “could have gone further”. He said: “It doesn’t include cloned websites and we’ve seen how fraudsters have cloned the NHS website many times for a number of different scams. And it won’t include emails, when over 300 billion emails are sent every day, 55 per cent of which are spam and scam emails.”
Indeed, other finance experts have said the bill’s focus on user-generated content, such as social media posts involving romance scams or fake investment opportunities, left a loophole for criminals.
UK customers lost £78m to cloned firm fraud in 2020 – that’s £214,000 a day, showed Action Fraud data.
MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis said the Government had “stumbled at the first fence” by not making tech companies responsible for the scammers’ adverts they are paid to publish.
Charlie’s tips for protecting your data and money
- Sign up to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) to combat nuisance callers
- Stop junk mail using a service such as the Mailing Preference Service
- Use IPS’s email help tool to check whether a suspicious email is safe or harmful
- Download a password protection manager – the best ones have a password generator to create strong, unique passwords to ensure you aren’t using the same password in multiple places
- Use a virtual private network (VPN) – sensitive data can be hacked on unsecured Wi-Fi networks such as in cafes and other public venues
- Use a data breach checker to see if your personal information has been compromised – hackers access and sell online information including usernames, passwords, social security numbers, addresses and even payment details to criminal groups
- Avoid saving your card details on websites if you can – this increases opportunities for your details to be hacked
- Use multi-factor authentication on devices – an extra layer of security using methods such as fingerprints
- Remember that banks never ask you to move money into a “safe account”
- Be aware that scammers can call on a number that mimics your bank’s number or other authorities’ – hang up and call back from another line
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