Credit card giant Visa shares five dangerous tricks online criminals use in texts and social media

Visa encourages people to learn more about the language of fraud by helping them spot common strategies often used by fraudsters that could help them feel more confident when shopping online.

New research commissioned by Visa shows that four in five UK consumers (80%) now shop online at least once a month.

However, with the majority (55%) of those who have received fraudulent messages increasing over the past year and the average internet user being targeted twice a week by online scammers, it is more important than ever that people are able to spot a potential scam.

Persuasive language and unusual spelling and grammar are widely recognized as common signs of fraud, but a new analysis by researchers from the Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics (AIFL) has identified the communication strategies used by fraudsters in short and timely messages.

Of the fraud examples analyzed, which included text messages, emails and social media posts, it was found that inviting the recipient to click on a link was the most common technique (87%).

This was followed by asking the reader to solve a “problem” (72%), such as rearranging package delivery times or paying late fees and highlighting unique offers (32%).

Supporting these findings, researchers found that “click here”, “account information”, and “gift card” were the most common phrases used in fraudulent communications.

To better protect customers, Visa has partnered with AIFL researchers to analyze the language of fraud and create the upcoming “Fraudulese Report”, a collection of the most common words, phrases and tactics used by fraudsters in short and timely messages.

Dr Marton Petyko, from the Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics, said: “Our analysis is the first study of its kind that provides insight into how language is used by fraudsters in short, one-off messages, and constitutes an important contribution to a better understanding of things. people should be careful when they receive unsolicited messages.

“By highlighting the communication strategies, words and phrases used by fraudsters, we hope people will be able to more easily spot the language of fraud as it stands today, ultimately helping them protect.”

Mandy Lamb, Managing Director, UK and Ireland at Visa, added: “As we all spend more time online, it’s good to know what we can do to keep ourselves safe.

“Our new research demonstrates how difficult it can be to spot the signs of fraud in emails, texts and messages, which is why we’re raising awareness of the ‘fraudulent’ and sharing our top tips for spotting the signs, so that everyone has the necessary tools to avoid becoming a victim.

Visa’s top tips for spotting potential fraud

Spell check messages

Inconsistencies in the language used in a message, such as grammar and spelling errors, or discrepancies between the sender’s name and the URL link provided, may indicate fraud.

If you receive a message from a business or individual out of the blue, be vigilant in checking for these errors.

Beware of urgent actions

Language encouraging you to take urgent action is a common tactic used in fake communications.

Pay attention to phrases such as “send (…) here” or “click (…) below”, or undated deadlines such as “within 48 hours” or “by tomorrow morning”.

Always take the time to determine if the message is genuine. If you think it is fake, it is important not to click on any links to avoid compromising your personal information.

Beware of suspicious requests

Fraudsters often lure you by highlighting a problem, such as asking you to rearrange a delivery or making a tempting offer.

Think about your recent dealings with this organization or person – if you don’t recognize the problem you’re being asked to solve or the offer they’re trying to get you to respond to, it could be fraud.

If you are unsure, do not click on any links or contact the sender in any way.

Validate sender identity

Fraudsters often work hard to convince you of their credibility, sometimes using words and phrases you might find in genuine communications.

It can be hard to tell the difference, so if you’re not sure, you can check using a different form of communication than they used to reach you. For example, if you receive a text message asking for banking information, try emailing or chatting directly with the company to verify if this is a genuine request.

Verify the message with someone you trust

People can be good at understanding language and communicating in social contexts. It may seem obvious, but if you’re not sure whether a message is legitimate, it may be worth discussing it with someone you trust. They may also have received a similar message and might be able to advise you on the best course of action. Sharing your experience could also save someone else from being a victim.

As a network working to protect payments, Visa says it’s committed to fighting fraud to help everyone pay with confidence.



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In the unfortunate event something goes wrong, Visa’s Zero Liability Policy means you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized or fraudulent charges made with your account, so you can shop with confidence knowing your payments line are protected.

If you are targeted by a fraudster, to help others avoid falling victim to it, you can report it to Cifas, Action Fraud or Police Scotland via 101.

If you think you have been the victim of fraud, contact your bank as soon as possible.

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