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Staying connected and secure online during COVID-19

While technology presents wonderful opportunities for those (much needed and welcomed) feelings of connection, scammers are exploiting COVID-19 to commit fraud and cyber-crime. Here we offer some ways to stay connected and secure online.

The government continues to instruct us to stay home, order foods online, and keep in touch with loved ones in other households by phone or video calls where possible.

While technology presents wonderful opportunities for those (much needed and welcomed) feelings of connection, scammers are exploiting COVID-19 to commit fraud and cyber-crime. So, it’s important to be cautious!

Video calls
Being in touch with friends and family helps us all to stay connected and feel less isolated. So, why not set up regular times to video call, or send messages, share photos and social media updates, to more elderly loved ones throughout the week?

The BBC has produced a handy online guide to using video calls (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom), including how to use from an Android, iPhone, iPad, iMac or desktop computer. More details at www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-51968122.

Remember, and remind others, that you should only click on an emailed or messaged video call link if you are expecting it. If not, always double-check with the person who it seems to be sent from.

Online scams
Alison from Home Instead Lewes District & Uckfield is a Friend Against Scams, a National Trading Standards Scams Team initiative. She has attended awareness sessions and has made a pledge to support the initiative.

Scams can look and sound very real, but the more you know about them, the easier they are to spot. Here are some types of online scams that are currently circulating:

• Email scams that trick people into opening malicious attachments, which put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details at risk. Some of these emails have lured people to click on attachments by offering information about people in the local area who are affected by coronavirus.

• Fake online resources – such as false Coronavirus Maps – that deliver malware such as AZORult Trojan, an information stealing program which can infiltrate a variety of sensitive data. A prominent example that has deployed malware is ‘corona-virus-map[dot]com’.

People affected by dementia are also more likely to be vulnerable to scams. More information on this specifically from the Alzheimer’s Society at www.alzheimers.org.uk. Here are some things to be aware of generally to be more secure online:

• A website that is secure will have ‘https://’ in the website’s address. It also sometimes has a locked padlock icon in the browser address bar which means anything you input will be encrypted (sent securely using a secret code).

• Don’t click on links to download anything from emails you receive from companies with a strange email address. These downloads often infect your computer with a virus, so make sure your antivirus software is up to date. And don’t respond to requests for money/payment.

• You can also search for registered companies on the GOV.UK website. If buying something on a website you haven’t used before, first check it has a ‘terms and conditions’ page. The company’s address should also have a street name, not just a post office box.

Be aware that people affected by dementia are also more likely to be vulnerable to scams. More information on this specifically from the Alzheimer’s Society at www.alzheimers.org.uk.

For further advice or any questions around keeping your elderly loved ones safe, please contact Alison at alison.scutt@homeinstead.co.uk or 01825 605030.