Time to get scam savvy and combat cyber criminals

Online scams have become more frequent and sophisticated over the past few years. And with cost of living pressures increasing, fraudsters are looking for new ways to exploit individuals all the time.

The top online scams most consistently reported to Action Fraud in West Sussex include;

Romance fraud – this scam involves people being duped into sending money to criminals who go to great lengths to gain their trust and convince them that they are in a genuine relationship. They use language to manipulate, persuade and exploit so that requests for money do not raise alarm bells.
Sextortion – where an individual is threatened with having sexual photos, videos or information published in exchange for money or even in exchange for the person doing something against their will.
Investment fraud – this is usually where people are contacted out of the blue and asked to invest in schemes or products that are worthless or don’t exist.
Some of the new scams which are now being seen are:

Texts claiming to be from ‘Gov.org’ or the ‘DWP’ inviting applications or claims for cost of living payments.
Bogus emails, texts or calls claiming to be from the local council requesting bank or card details so that council tax rebates can be paid.
Emails, texts, or calls claiming to be sent by energy suppliers offering switching deals, cheaper tariffs, discounts on prepayment meters or rebates.
Advertisements, emails, texts or social media posts offering either non-existent loans or those with incredibly high interest rates, to help you through a period of financial hardship.
A general increase in ‘traditional’ scams offering great deals on tickets, holidays, vehicles, consumer goods, fashion, and other things you purchase online. What you buy is either non-existent or not as advertised.
To help residents combat these cyber crimes, West Sussex County Council has lots of support available to keep people scam savvy.

Duncan Crow, Cabinet Member for Community Support, Fire and Rescue, said: “Scams, whether they’re online, by telephone or in person, are something which have sadly become more common, and unless we stay alert and up to date, fraudsters will continue to prey on the understandable worry and panic that these types of messages can cause.

“To help residents deal with these cyber scams, we have a number of free support options that will educate people on the latest scams and help them understand how we can all prevent ourselves and loved ones from becoming victims of this type of crime.”

Residents who want to stay on top of the latest scams and online safety information can sign up to the Staying Safe Online e-newsletter.

For people who want to learn how to become scam aware and access training online, our Digital Safety Team, alongside West Sussex Trading Standards, run scam awareness webinars, which are suitable for both residents and professionals.

The next ones are listed below, and tickets can be booked for free on the Eventbrite website.

Wednesday 23 November 2022 from 10am-11.30am.
Tuesday 7 February 2023 from 2pm-3.30pm.
There is also a free online webinar running on Thursday 10 November between 10am and 11.30am which will solely focus on romance scams. Tickets can be booked via Eventbrite.

The County Council’s Digital Safety Team also work alongside Get Safe Online to offer free in person support through their Digital Ambassador volunteers. These individuals are able to offer 1:1 online safety support at libraries and can also deliver talks to local groups. For more information, you can email DigitalAmbassadors@westsussex.gov.uk.

West Sussex County Council Libraries also offer free in person and remote digital support. The Library Digital Volunteers can give individuals one-on-one help with computer queries, from how to set up an email, Skype or Facebook account, to downloading an ebook or printing a document.

To find out more or to arrange for some digital support, you can call 0330 222 3455 or email library.digital.support@westsussex.gov.uk.