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Protecting yourself from being a victim of cybercrime

Solicitors and people buying or selling property are being increasingly targeted by fraudsters trying to access some of the billions of pounds being transferred in relation to property transactions each year. The methods these criminals use often involve nothing more than an email or phone call containing bank details and the amounts to be sent.

Using identity theft, intercepting emails, and persuading people to transfer sums to bogus bank accounts by impersonating solicitors and banks, fraudsters are making the lives of some people very miserable.

So if you are buying or selling property, be extra vigilant around this time for example:

  • Do not discuss your house move on any social media sites or reveal any details about the professionals you are using to assist with your transaction.
  • Do not open or view any suspicious or unknown emails or attachments.
  • Fraudsters can clone telephone numbers, or give bogus numbers to call people back on, so if you receive a call out of the blue and are suspicious about who has made it, call the person you normally speak to on the usual number you have for them and also use a different phone line if you can.
  • You should always check your bank statements regularly and notify your bank immediately should if you see anything unusual or that you don’t recognise.

Gullands Solicitors has recently teamed up with Matt Leipnik of Chalk Circle Ltd, a specialist technology security company and experts on preventing cyber crime.

Matt provides his general advice on how to avoid being a victim of cyber crime:

"Anti-virus and anti-malware can only stop known threats. Everyday there are volumes of variants and unknown threats created, so there is roughly a 48-hour delay before the anti-virus and anti-malware catch up and some brands are much much better than others. I also recommend using anti-exploit software as well. A lot of people use anti virus software and think this means they are secure, but that isn’t always the case. You should take a layered approach, for example in your home you have locks, deadbolts, alarms and cameras, so why only rely on one security method online?

If you are using cloud e-mail like Gmail, you can increase security by enabling two factor authentication. This means you can't log in with just a username and password, you also need a one-time code that is sent by text to your mobile phone. That way if some one does obtain your password information, they would need your phone as well to log in.

Anti spoofing records (SPF records) on an e-mail domain, this is a simple change which stops e-mails from appearing as if they were sent from inside the same company or domain. For example an email could look like it is from the Managing Director of a company to a junior finance person requesting a payment to a new account. The use of anti-spam and email malware prevention services for businesses is a must and heavily reduces the volume of nasty emails received.

Be aware that it isn’t just what you post on social media, but also be careful of fake videos, malware links shared from friends and even adverts on websites, which can be as problematic as email virus’.

Ransomware can lie dormant and undetected on your computer for up to six months before it kicks in. When it does, it will encrypt all of your data on any storage it can see (including portable disks, flash cards and USB sticks across a whole network). Unless you pay for the key, it remains encrypted forever. As it lies dormant it can reside in backups, meaning you can unknowingly restore data only for it to deploy again.

User education and awareness is really the key to avoiding cyber crime. Better understanding of risks and potential outcomes will shape behavior and improve awareness.”

If you have any concerns or questions about receiving communications from anyone here at Gullands then please don’t hesitate to get in contact with your usual contact to discuss it.