New data from Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has revealed that an average of 8,000 phishing scams a month were reported last year.
According to the report, more than 68% of people who reported a phishing scam said that they received it in the form of an email. This compares to 12.5 % of who said they were contacted by phone, 8.9% of by text message and the rest saying they were contacted in another way.
Phishing is the attempt by fraudsters to acquire sensitive information by using an electronic communication such as email, pop-up message, phone call or text message to hook victims into their scams.
A recent report by Verizon found it takes cyber criminals just 82 seconds to trap the average victim in a phishing scam and in most cases 23% of people will open a phishing email.
The most common phishing scam in December was either from a bank or from HMRC, followed by online payment merchants and utility companies.
In one month, 31% of all phishing scams reported to Action Fraud contained a potentially malicious hyperlink.
Phishing emails use specific subject headings as a way to compel readers to open them such as ‘Attention’ followed by other titles such as ‘Your account has been revoked’, ‘Hello’ and ‘Important Notification’.
Deputy head of Action Fraud, Steve Proffitt, said: “The new figures show that phishing is a problem which is not going away; it is a means for fraudsters to test the water with potential victims and see how many people they can hook into a scam. For the fraudsters, it is a low risk way of casting out their net and seeing what they can catch.
“If their emails are convincing enough they can yield high returns and people can easily be persuaded into parting with money or to click on links which then infect their computer with malicious software. “In order to avoid becoming a victim we urge people to be cautious when opening emails and ask them to follow our protection advice in order to make it as difficult as possible for fraudsters who are simply casting around for their next victim”.
The Financial Ombudsman Service is also warning that scammers are falsely using its name to get people to reveal details about their personal and financial circumstances.
It said that fraudulent emails or phone calls had been made by scammers claiming to be from the service.
The ombudsman said that it would never contact people directly for money or pay compensation directly.
If you’ve received a suspicious email or call from someone who says they are from the ombudsman service you can call it on 0300 1239123 to check.
How to protect yourself
Never reveal any personal details unless you’re absolutely sure that the person you’re dealing with really is who they say they are.
Don’t open attachments or click on the links within any unsolicited emails you receive.
Never respond to emails that ask for your personal or financial details.
An email address can be spoofed, so even if the email appears to be from a person or a company you know of, but the message is unexpected or unusual, then contact the sender directly via another method to confirm that they sent you the email.
Never give out any of your banking or credit card details unless you know for certain that the request is genuine.
If you receive an email which asks you to login to an online account, for example due to suspicious activity on your account, instead of clicking on the link provided in the email go directly to the website yourself.
Never give anyone your security information.