Lessons on internet fraud

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Last week I read about one of the country’s foremost criminal psychologists who was tricked out of £18,000 by a gang of fraudsters, writes Caroline Green of Wetherby U3a.

According to The Times newspaper, ‘He is the director of the International Research Centre for Investigative Psychology, but even his recent study of email scams was not enough to help him spot the sophisticated fraud before it was too late’.

He said he had believed the highly plausible ‘voice’ on the end of the phone, been duped by his own stupidity, got into a panic and the resulting actions by the fraudsters had robbed him. He said he knew a little about computers, but not enough to know that what the voice was telling him was spurious.

One thinks that if someone like him can be coaxed into handing over thousands of pounds by a nice voice on the phone, it can happen to anyone. Well, it can and it does, every day.

U3A’ers by their very nature and age, come from a generation who have grown up in a different era. Trusting others, believing in what they’re told and sold, perhaps a little naïve in the world of computers, tweeting and the ‘web’. Online, telephone and doorstep crimes may be reported to the Police, who then refer callers on to the Action Fraud website, but many of the fraudsters get away with their actions and our money.

What options are open to us in this world of fraud and fraudsters? U3A members in Wetherby and District have a number of computer groups to help users and would-be users of the ‘net’. It’s acknowledged that learning new skills as we get older is more difficult, however, keeping ourselves safe on-line is as important as locking your front door.

Lesley Titchmarsh and Sue Adinall, who run the iPad and iPhone classes for the Wetherby & District U3A decided to run the popular classes, in four-week, stints, around four times a year. They were friends who had worked together on personal computers and data bases and kept getting asked by various people if they could help them learn computing. Their pupils have varied knowledge, no knowledge but mainly lack confidence when it comes to engaging with a computer. More often than not the iPad they have has been given by a family member, so they can keep in touch with grandchildren by email, browse the internet or maybe take a photo or two and upload them.

The classes, which are held in Lesley’s home, are of no more than three people, which means that it’s nearly one to one tutoring for up to two hours.

The advantage of holding them at her home, Lesley told me, is that the Wi-Fi signal can be guaranteed. They both stressed the fact that when someone signs up for the four week courses, it is most beneficial to attend all four sessions.Email providers are discussed and recommended, likewise, approaches to online security, along with email, uploading photographs and browsing the internet.

Mike Green also runs individual classes to provide help for anyone using a computer. Quite by chance I discovered at the Wetherby & District U3A AGM this month that our incoming Chairman, Brian Taylor, has also written about online fraud for the monthly U3A Newsletter.It must be at the top of our collective agenda.

There are two points that Brian, Sue, Lesley and Mike all made which may be useful for all our members. Firstly, if someone is trying to sell you something, on the phone, through an email or at the door - ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’. Secondly, ‘If you don’t recognise it, don’t answer it’. If however, your natural curiosity gets the better of you, and you find you’ve opened the email, never click on a link within the message.‘

If you’d like to know more about Wetherby & District U3A please log on to our website www.wetherbyu3a.org.uk for further information.